With the death of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Varanasi lost the last of its three sons who brought it international fame in the world of music.
Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan had died in 2006 and legendary tabla player Kishan Maharaj had passed away in 2008. All three had been born and brought up in the city but only Ravi Shankar left it to settle abroad.
Family friend and sitar player Deobrat Mishra said Ravi Shankar was deeply hurt over the disrespect shown to local artistes by the authorities. “In his book, Panditji wrote it was hard to find a land like Varanasi, but he also said he would never return,” said Mishra.
Robindra Shankar Chowdhury was born to a Bengali family on April 7, 1920, at his ancestral home in Tilbhandeshwar. In 1930, he shifted to Paris to join his elder brother Uday Shankar’s ballet troupe. But it was Varanasi that gave him his calling.
In 1938, smitten by the sitar at a local music concert, he began a new journey under the tutelage of the doyen of Hindustani music, Baba Allauddin Khan. He married Allauddin’s daughter Annapurna Devi, but the marriage did not last.
In Varanasi, Ravi Shankar became part of a group of five -- all renowned musicians. The others were sarod player Jotin Bhattacharya, who was also a disciple of Allauddin, Kishan Maharaj, pakhawaj player late Amarnath Mishra and tabla player late Ashutosh Bhattacharya.
Varanasi also gave him the taste for Banarasi paan and thandai. And in 1965, he bought his first house at Tarna and called it ‘Hemangini’ after his mother.
Ravi Shankar had once pulled out of the Sankat Mochan Sangeet Mahotsav, an annual temple fest. “We always wanted him to perform at the sangeet samaroh. Now the wish will remain unfulfilled,” said Prof Vishambhar Nath Mishra, the temple mahant.