In Brief

Who is Ravi Shankar and why is he Google's Doodle?

Search engine commemorates pioneering Indian musician who introduced a new sound to The Beatles

Today's Google Doodle marks what would have been the 96th birthday of Ravi Shankar, the Indian musician famous for his mastery of the sitar. 

Shankar was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury in Varanasi, India, the youngest of seven brothers.

He grew up in the poor surroundings of West Bengal before, having shortened his name to Ravi, meaning "the sun", he followed his father and brother to Europe at the age of ten. He moved to Paris, to be a dancer in his brother Uday's musical troupe, but became a serious touring musician in his teens and apprenticed himself to the lead soloist of the group, Allauddin Khan, who was affectionately known as Baba.

Under Khan's tutelage, Shankar became one of India's most proficient sitar players, but the relationship between the pair was not without its problems. Khan was known for his violent temper and once, after a performance from his pupil that he deemed sub-standard, ordered Shankar to "buy some bangles and wear them like a girl". Ravi was so offended, says The Independent, that he almost never returned, but Khan learnt from his behaviour and the relationship was salvaged.

In 1956, Shankar began touring Europe and the Americas on his own, playing Indian classical music and increasing the genre's global popularity. It was on one such tour that he was introduced to Beatles' guitarist George Harrison and the pair quickly struck up a friendship - it was Shankar who introduced the band to the sitar, which they most notably used in their song Norwegian Wood. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"93187","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

"Many people, especially young people, have started listening to sitar since George Harrison, one of the Beatles, became my disciple… It is now the 'in' thing," Shankar said in an interview in 1967.

The musician was internationally recognised with five Grammy awards, as well as the Bharat Ratna in 1999, the highest civilian award the Indian government can bestow. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his work on the 1982 movie Gandhi, but lost out to John Williams for ET.

Shankar died in 2012, aged 92. To this day his name is often preceded by the honorary title "Pandit", which means "scholar" or "teacher", particularly one who has mastered the Vedic scriptures of Hindu rituals, law, religion and music under a guru.

Recommended

Was attempted FBI break-in linked to Trump raid?
FBI director Christopher Wray
Speed Reads

Was attempted FBI break-in linked to Trump raid?

How the UK’s droughts compare with the rest of the world
Low water levels at Baitings Reservoir in West Yorkshire
Global lens

How the UK’s droughts compare with the rest of the world

Quiz of The Week
Woman worries over bills
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week

Russian visas, Arab fattism and quiet quitting
Landing plane
Podcasts

Russian visas, Arab fattism and quiet quitting

Popular articles

Why The Satanic Verses is still controversial
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses
Getting to grips with . . .

Why The Satanic Verses is still controversial

Is World War Three on the cards?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Is World War Three on the cards?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 August 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 August 2022

The Week Footer Banner