San Diego, Dec 12 (IBNS) Legendary Indian musician and sitar exponent Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away at age 92 at a San Diego hospital in United States on Tuesday, leaving behind countless mourners from every walks of life and a musical legacy that he built over a lifetime of dedication to the plucked string instrument and international collaborations, including the Beatles.
The musical legend was ailing for quite some years and on Dec 6 he was admitted at the Scripps Memorial Hospital here.
"It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11th, 2012," said his wife Sukanya and daughter and musician Anoushka Shankar in a statement. Famous singer Norah Jones is his another daughter.
"As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery," Sukanya and Anoushka said.
"We were at his side when he passed away. We know that you all feel our loss with us, and we thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes through this difficult time. Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music," they said.
"Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. He will live forever in our hearts and in his music," the family of the musician said in a statement.
Panditji was admitted to hospital after he complained of breathing problems.
Pandit Ravi Shankar was born in Varanasi on April 7, 1920 and spent his youth touring Europe and India with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar.
But he chose sitar and he took his lessons under his illustrious guru Baba Allaudin Khan, whose daughter Annapurna was his first wife and with whom he had a son, Shubhendra Shankar who died in 1992. Allaudin Khan was the founder of the "Senia Maihar Gharana" or "Senia Maihar School" of Hindustani classical music.
But it was at the age of ten that Ravi Shankar went to Paris with the dance group of his brother, choreographer Uday Shankar. By the age of 13 he had become a key member of the group and learned to dance and play various Indian instruments. He toured Europe and America with Uday Shankar's dance troupe in the early to mid-1930s. It was this time that Shankar learned French, discovered Western classical music, jazz, and cinema.
From working with Satyajit Ray, All India Radio to collaborating famously with the Beatles, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, Pandit Ravi Shankar was a legendary musician and the unofficial brand ambassador of Indian music.
The Concert for Bangladesh, which was the name for two benefit concerts organised by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, on Aug 1, 1971 to raise funds for the relief of Bangladesh war victims, had drawn 40,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
His musical composition for Tapan Sinha's Kabuliwala won him the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 1957 Berlin International Film Festival.
Besides the 1967 Monterey Festival, Shankar was also famously associated with The Woodstock Festival. He performed at the Woodstock Festival in Aug 1969. However, in the 1970s Shankar distanced himself from the hippie movement.
He was conferred the highest civilian honour of India, Bharat Ratna in 1999.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an immediate reaction said: "An era has passed away with Pt. Ravi Shankar. The nation joins me to pay tributes to his unsurpassable genius, his art and his humility."
The Prime Minister called him "a national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage."
Reactions poured in from all quarters.
"He was a legend of legends," said Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Some of his family members in Kolkata also reacted with sadness.
An emotional 94-year-old sister-in-law Amala Shankar, with whom Ravi Shankar was in the dance troupe of his brother and famous dancer Uday Shankar during the 1930s, said: "He was like a friend and we had a sweet relationship. I remembered him when I was at Cannes walking the red carpet after 81 years this year."
Another family member and famous dancer Tanushree Shankar also remembered Ravi Shankar.
"He was my father-in-law in relations but he was very kind and affectionate. He would ask me to cook fish delicacies whenever he was in Kolkata," said Tanushree Shankar.
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt recalling the contribution of Ravi Shankar said: "He was the one who built the bridge between Indian classical music and the world. He was above awards and the many awards he received were actually enriched in stature by choosing him for the awards."
India's ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao tweeted: "Pandit Ravi Shankar: his last concert was particularly poignant. Anoushka and he played together in perfect unison. A torch was passed."
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was one of the politicians to react quickly.
"Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar was the legendary musician who gave new identity to Indian classical music. May his soul rest in peace," he posted on Twitter.