Pandit Shambhu Maharaj was a celebrated Guru of the Lucknow Gharana (school) of the Indian classical dance form, Kathak.
Shambhu Maharaj was born in Lucknow(1910) as Shambhunath Mishra. He was the youngest son of Kalka Prasad Maharaj who was at the court of the last Mughal ruler, the Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah. Kalka Prasad’s father was Thakur Prasad was known to have taught the intricacies of Kathak to the Nawab. While reporting Shambhu’s death in 1970, The Indian Express wrote, “The Kathak, as we know it today, can be wholly traced to this dilettante’s patronage and the body of work written at his court court for this mode of dance.” Shambhu received his training from his father, uncle Bindadin Maharaj and his eldest brother Achchan Maharaj. Dancer Lacchu Maharaj was also another his older brothers. He learned Hindustani classical music from Ustad Rahimuddin Khan.
In 1952, he joined the Bharatiya Kala Kendra (later, Kathak Kendra), New Delhi. He became the head of the Dance (Kathak) department. He was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1967 and the Padmashri in 1956.
Kathak and its history would be incomplete, if not poorer, were it not for its foremost proponent, Shambhu Maharaj. This scion of the Lucknow gharana of Kathak has left an indelible mark which no amount of chakras or tatkars can obliterate. The great Kathak master is said to have been born in 1912, as per Padma Award and Sangeet Natak Award citations and brochures. However, from Kathak Kendra celebrating his centenary in 2004, one would infer that he must have been born in 1904 and his nephew Guru Munnalal Shukla confirms the same. We do have a clear record of his first public and professional performance. This took place in 1926 at the All India Music Conference in Lucknow and he must have been in his prime of youth to be featured on such a prestigious stage, and would not have been just 16.(Ambika Panikar)
He had two sons, Krishnamohan and Rammohan and a daughter, Rameshwari. Amongst his pupils, the most noted exponents of Kathak are his nephew Birju Maharaj, Kumudini Lakhia, Damayanti Joshi, Maya Rao, Bharati Gupta, Uma Sharma and Rina Singha. His son Rammohan was also his disciple and continues to perform his style. Shambhu was treated for throat cancer at the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for three months before he died on 4 November 1970 there.