He was speaking at a ceremony here at which the first Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony
was posthumously conferred on Ravi Shankar, who passed away in December 2012.
The president gave the award of Rs.1 crore to Ravi Shankasr’s widow Sukanya.
With the conferment of the award , “we pay a tribute to late Pandit Ravi Shankar for his enormous contribution to cultural harmony”, the president said.
Speaking on the occassion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Indian classical music had travelled to all corners of the world borne on the strings of Ravi Shankar’s sitar.
The prime minister said: “Ravi Shankarji’s ‘Festival of India’ and ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ albums enthralled music lovers all over the world.”
“His association with The Beatles and his influence on their music is too well known for me to recount here. One of his greatest contemporaries and friends, Yehudi Menuhin, the violin virtuoso, while talking about his relationship with Ravi Shankar, had this to say about him and I quote, ‘As a teacher, I know of no better. His total commitment to his art goes far beyond pure music making. For Ravi, all human activity, eating, dancing, doing exercise, was imbued with a symbolic value beyond approach, and therefore it is all, in its own way, like some divine offering’,” the prime minister said.
He said the day was marked by a deep sadness on account of the fact that Ravi Shankar was no more.
“It is therefore in someway a bittersweet occasion as we recall and celebrate the life of a great son of our country,” Manmohan Singh said.
“He was also an outstanding cultural ambassador for India. He took the music of India to the world and brought a whole new world of music to our country. He personified ‘East meets West’ in musical terms and therefore I would go so far as to call him an ambassador of music itself,” the prime minister said.
When one goes over the many milestones in Ravi Shankar’s life, “it is striking to see his association with some of the most evocative aspects of Indian culture”, he said.
“Sometimes, it even appears as if his success was foretold. He was born in Banaras, one of the great cradles of Indian music. His early training took place under the watchful gaze of Allauddin Khan saheb, one of the doyens of Hindustani classical music. One of his earliest compositions was for the song, ‘Sare Jahan Se Acchha’, a song that
unfailingly brings a smile on the lips of Indians all across the world. His mastery of the sitar enabled Ravi Shankarji to embark on the challenging task of composing orchestral music for All India Radio, using an arrangement of Indian musical instruments. Iconic music and iconic film-making came together when Ravi Shankar later
composed music for a number of Satyajit Ray’s films,” the prime minister said.
“It is only fitting that the first Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony is being conferred on Ravi Shankar,” he added.
“The award was intended to recognize great men and women who through their works in any field of art have enriched the greatness of Indian culture and promoted values of universal brotherhood,” he said.