With Pt. Ravi Shankar’s death, passes an era of Hindustani classical music - an era which saw musical form going global. Ravi Shankar, born as Robindro Shounkor Chowdhury in a Bengali Brahmin family in Varanasi in 1920, was the last of the surviving ambassadors of that movement.
Ravi Shankar's exposure to Indian culture was through his elder brother, the dancer Uday Shankar. He started touring with the troupe when he was just 10n and became an integral part of the group quickly. Ravi Shankar took to playing various musical instruments. However, his life-altering experience came in 1934 when he first heard Ustad Allauddin Khan, known as 'Baba' (Father in Bengali) among his disciples and the man who completely reshaped the Maihar gharana of Indian classical music and gave the world its biggest ambassadors of Indian classical music.
Baba toured with the troupe for a while and trained Ravi Shankar to play the sitar but it was sporadic. He told Ravi Shankar to stay with him at his Maihar home for full-fledged training. Tours to Europe dwindled and in 1938, at the age of 18, Ravi Shankar reached Baba's Maihar home.
There he underwent the most rigorous training. From his first public performance in 1939 in a jugalbandi with Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar moved to Mumbai in 1944 upon completion of training. A brief association with IPTA and a 7-year stint with the All India Radio finally ended in 1956 when he found his final calling - touring the west and popularising Indian classical music. A collaboration with violinist Yehudi Mehunin won Pandit Ravi Shankar a Grammy.
Connoisseurs differ as to whether he was the greatest sitarist India produced in the 20th century. But there is no denying that barring Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, no other Indian musician had such an impact on popularising Hindustani classical music globally.
If his musical journey was one of rare vivacity and colour, his personal life ran quite parallel. After divorcing Anna Purna, his first wife, he had an affair with concert producer Sue Jones, leading to the birth of their daughter Norah Jones, an accomplished musician and 8-time Grammy winner. Ravi Shankar separated from Kamala Shastri in 1981 and lived with Sue Jones till 1986. He married Sukanya Rajan in 1989, who gave birth to their daughter and sitarist Anoushka Shankar in 1981.