India loses its cultural ambassador
Political leaders and artistes across the spectrum today mourned the demise of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing him as a national treasure and a global ambassador of India's cultural heritage.
As news of 92-year-old Ravi Shankar breathing his last came in from California, US, messages started pouring in with melody queen Lata Mangeshkar and top musicians Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt condoling the death of the sitar legend.
"An era has passed away with Pandit Ravi Shankar. The nation joins me to pay tributes to his unsurpassable genius, his art and his humility," the Prime Minister said.
Singh said that Ravi Shankar was "a national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage."
Mourning the death, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said India has lost a distinguished son.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, "With the death of Panditji, an era in classical music has come to an end. He was truly a multi-faceted personality. Through his passion for music, he linked generations together and taught the world the role and relevance of music in our lives.
"Through the strings of his sitar he presented to the world, the richness of Indian classical tradition in music. His innovations gave us a perfect blend of jugalbandi of different musical traditions, he said.
Mangeshkar said, "He was a worshipper of Lord Krishna and was like the lord for us. We used to talk about everything. The classical sun of India has set and a darkness has come over. There is no artist who spread Indian music this rapidly across the world. He was unique and was a blessed soul."
Classical musician Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who was a disciple of Ravi Shankar, told PTI, "This is the saddest day of my life. I was one of his closest... he was a fatherly figure to me and took care of me. He was one musician with whom every artiste wanted to collaborate. He was so energetic and enthusiastic about life."
In his message to the sitar icon's wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka, who is also an accomplished sitarist, Santoor player Shivkumar Sharma said, "It's a loss for the whole world. He was a global musician. Musicians like him are rarely born. I am very fortunate that I know him from half a century."
"I met him in my home town Jammu, where he had come to perform. Those days I used to play tabla and I had accompanied him on it. From then onwards, a long association started. He was very fond of my santoor too. There are very few musician who could be called be as legends of Indian classical music," Sharma said.
Flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia remembered the times he performed with Shankar at concerts.
"I started crying when I heard the news. I am still learning music under Annapurna Devi, who was Shankar's first wife. I was also associated with Allauddin Khan, who taught Shankar as well.
"He and I used to work in the film industry and outside. We did 55 concerts together. I remember each and every moment spent with him. I learnt so much from him also. His hard work and love for Indian culture have made him a legendary musician," Chaurasia said.
Indian ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said on Twitter Ravi Shankar was the world's best known exponent of Indian music. "His last concert was particularly poignant. Anoushka and he played together in perfect unison."
Kathak exponent Pt Birju Maharaj said, "He was the king of tunes and rhythms. I am in Los Angeles and wanted to meet him, he said few days back that he was not well.
I'm really sad after hearing this. We have lost a big star. There are a lot of memories attached to him. I used to play tabla with him at his Feroze Shah house. His blessings were always with me."
Filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh tweeted, "This morning had an unearthly kind of beauty to it, perhaps a morning raga to celebrate the passing of Ravi Shankar. RIP."
"Pt Ravi Shankar Synonym of music is no more, he has made Sitar (Indian Instrument) international with dignity and Pride, God bless his soul," said Sufi singer Kailash Kher.
"RIP Pandit Ravi Shankar. Grateful for the music maestro," said actress Lisa Ray.
"Pt Ravi Shankar's Sitar played for our souls. His music helped us sooth our nerves. His smile was like his music- DIVINE. RIP," Anupam Kher posted on the micro-blogging site.
The sitar icon's health had been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery at the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California where he breathed his last.