Ravi Shankar Biography

Pandit Ravi Shankar, often referred to as the godfather of world music and ambassador of Indian music, was a highly influential and prolific music maestro of the 20th century. With numerous awards and honors to his name, he seamlessly blended eastern and western musical styles, captivating audiences with his unique compositions. Hailing from the banks of the Ganges, Shankar’s musical journey began with divine providence and extensive training from esteemed music masters. As a performer, teacher, and composer, he became the foremost messenger of Indian music worldwide. Credited with fusing western and Indian classical music, Shankar ushered in a new era in the world of music. His life continues to inspire aspiring musicians globally, earning him the highest civilian award in India, the Bharat Ratna. Explore the remarkable life of Pt. Ravi Shankar below.

Quick Facts

  • Indian Celebrities Born In April
  • Died At Age: 92
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Annapurna Devi (m. 1941–1961), Sukanya Rajan (m. 1989–2012)
    • Father: Shyam Shankar
    • Mother: Hemangini Devi
    • Siblings: Uday Shankar
    • Children: Anoushka Shankar, Norah Jones, Shubhendra Shankar
  • Musicians
  • Indian Men
  • Died on: December 11, 2012
  • Place of death: San Diego, California, United States
  • City: Varanasi, India

Early Years

Pandit Ravi Shankar, born as Robindro Shankar Chowdhury in Varanasi, was the son of Shyam Shankar and Hemangini Devi. His father, a Middle Temple barrister and Sanskrit scholar, was a lawyer in England and only saw his son after he turned eight. At the age of ten, Ravi Shankar visited Paris with his brother Uday Shankar and his dance group. He became a member of the group and mastered the art of dancing while also learning to play various musical instruments.

Training & Career In India

Under the tutelage of Allauddin Khan, Ravi Shankar flourished as a musician. He abandoned his brother’s group and joined Khan in Maihar, where he immersed himself in music and attained virtuosity in Indian musical instruments. He performed publicly for the first time in 1939 and received great applause. In 1944, his training under Allauddin Khan was complete and he went to Mumbai seeking employment. He worked as a composer of music for ballet at the Indian People’s Theatre Association and also started recording for HMV India. He joined the All India Radio as a music director and gained international recognition for his composition in Satyajit Ray’s movie, ‘Appu Trilogy’.

International Career

In 1955, Yehudi Menuhin invited Ravi Shankar to perform Indian classical music in New York City, but he had to decline due to personal problems. Ali Akbar Khan performed in his place and received immense applause, which influenced Ravi Shankar to resign from AIR in 1956 and go on a musical tour to the United Kingdom, Germany, and the USA. He recorded his first LP album ‘Three Ragas’ in London in 1956 and performed at the tenth anniversary celebrations of the United Nations and UNESCO music festival in Paris. He toured extensively and became the first Indian to compose music for non-Indian films. He established his Kinnara School of Music in Mumbai in 1962.

Major Works

One of Ravi Shankar’s most brilliant works was the ‘Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra’, which he composed in 1970. He also composed music for the Hollywood movie ‘Gandhi’ in 1982, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Some of his most acclaimed albums include ‘Concert for Bangladesh’, ‘West Meets East’, and ‘Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000’.

Awards & Achievements

Ravi Shankar won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 1957 Berlin International Film Festival. He received four Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award posthumously in 2013. He was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and was awarded the highest civilian honor of France, the ‘Knight of the Legion of Honor’.

Personal Life & Legacy

Ravi Shankar got married to Annapurna Devi, the daughter of his mentor Allauddin Khan, in 1941. They had a son, Shubhendra Shankar, but got separated in the 1940s. He had a daughter, Norah, with Sue Jones and another daughter, Anoushka, with Sukanya Rajan. He passed away in 2012 after experiencing severe breathing problems.


Ravi Shankar recomposed the music for the popular Indian patriotic song “Sare Jahan Se Achcha”. He derived the melodic theme from the name Gandhi, using three ‘sargam’ notes. He was a lifelong vegetarian and came from a Hindu Brahmin family.

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