Google’s Tribute to Pt Ravi Shankar – The Beatles’ Sitar Man

Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar turns 96 today.

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Entertainment
3 min read
Pandit Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. (Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/BeatlesArc/status/715109074535206914">Twitter/@BeatlesArc</a>)

He introduced the sitar to the world, even to The Beatles. Google rings in the 96th birthday of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar through a doodle dedicated to him. The illustration done by artist Kevin Laughlin features the kind of sitar Pandit Ravi Shankar usually played.

Screengrab of the Google Doodle which is celebrating sitarist Ravi Shankar’s birthday.
Screengrab of the Google Doodle which is celebrating sitarist Ravi Shankar’s birthday.

Apart from India, internet browsers in Indonesia, Japan, USA, Britain, Sweden and several other European countries can view this doodle.

Other High Points:

  • Pandit Ravi Shankar made his film debut when he was only 26 for Chetan Anand’s first film as director, Neecha Nagar (1946).
  • During his stint at the All India Radio, he founded the Indian National Orchestra
  • The rendition of Saare Jahan Se Achha that we hear today was given by him
  • He composed music for Satyajit Ray’s debut film Pather Panchali (1955)
Meeting of the two giants: Satyajit Ray and Pandit Ravi Shankar. (Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/kaushikcbasu/status/642453449737637888">Twitter/@kaushikcbasu</a>)
Meeting of the two giants: Satyajit Ray and Pandit Ravi Shankar. (Photo: Twitter/@kaushikcbasu)

Born in Benares as Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, Ravi Shankar was taught the nuances of classical music under the guidance of sharod and multi-instrumentalist Ustad Allauddin Khan. He eventually married Khan’s daughter, another sitar exponent Annapurna Devi.

Ravi Shankar’s association with The Beatles began when its lead guitarist George Harrison started learning Sitar from the former’s disciple Shambhu Das.

However, once Harrison visited India it catapulted Ravi Shankar to a celebrity status which the sitarist did not clearly approve of.

Then what happened was that I became a pop star all of a sudden. All young people, bearded, long hair, wearing beads and not normal would behave like Naga sanyasis [cannabis-smoking holy men] if they were permitted. And I was not happy at all. I would tell George, ‘What have you done?”
Pandit Ravi Shankar, Sitar Maestro
Ravi Shankar. (Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/EshwarGole/status/706875288655777792">Twitter/‏@EshwarGole</a>)
Ravi Shankar. (Photo: Twitter/‏@EshwarGole)

Ravi Shankar eventually distanced himself from the hippie culture (of which he never was a part of anyway) but his friendship with Harrison continued.

Pandit Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar featured in the Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. (Photo: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=543iBANCwmg">YouTube</a>)
Pandit Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar featured in the Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. (Photo: YouTube)

On the personal front, the maestro had a rather colourful life – two wives, one companion and three children through those – daughters Anoushka Shankar, Norah Jones and son Subhendra Shankar (who died prematurely in 1992 of bronchial pneumonia).

Musician Ravi Shankar (R) and daughter Anoushka Shankar
arrive for a screening of <i>Concert for George</i>, a new documentary
film celebrating the music of George Harrison. (Photo: Reuters)
Musician Ravi Shankar (R) and daughter Anoushka Shankar arrive for a screening of Concert for George, a new documentary film celebrating the music of George Harrison. (Photo: Reuters)

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