Today is the 98th birth anniversary of the world-renowned sitar player of the Sub-continent Pandit Ravi Shankar. Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury-widely known as Ravi Shankar, was born to a Bengali family in Benares on 7 April 1920.
His father, Shyam Shankar Chowdhury, was a Middle Temple barrister and scholar from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and mother Hemangini Devi was a house wife. Though Ravi Shankar`s ancestral home was in Kaliya Upazila of Narail, Bangladesh, he was born and raised up in Benares in Uttar Pradesh, India. Youngest of four brothers, Shankar passed his childhood without his father as his father was in London then. His elder brother Uday Shankar was a famous Indian classical dancer. Ravi Shankar joined his elder brother in Paris in 1930 with his mother and taught there in school for eight years. Ravi Shankar became the singer and sitar player of his elder brother`s troop since the age of 12.
Shankar spent his youth touring India and Europe with the dance group of Uday Shankar. But his passion on music forced him to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan and pursue a career on music. Shankar worked with Satyajit Ray on Apu Trilogy and was the music director of ‘All India Radio’ for eight years.
Ravi Shankar increased the popularity of Indian classical music in the western countries through his teaching, performance and persistence. His association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and guitarist George Harrison helped popularize the use of Indian instruments in pop music.
During the great Bangladesh liberation war, Ravi Shankar along with George Harrison organized the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ at the Madison Square Garden, New York to attract the attention of the world in support of Bangladesh to stop genocide by Pakistan in Bangladesh and raised funds for the depreciated Bangladeshi civilians.
For his vast knowledge on classical music his name has always preceded by the title ‘Pandit’. Pandit Ravi Shankar was awarded various awards including India’s highest civilian honor, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ for his life time contribution in Indian classical music.
Ravi Shankar died on 11 December 2012 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California at the age of 92 after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery. Pandit Ravi Shankar lends his kind hand to Bangladeshi people at a time of great distress. We remember him with respect on his birth anniversary.