Shankar grew up in Varanasi until the age of 10. After which, he went to Parris with his elder brother Uday. Shankar was absorbing the musical traditions of the West and attending Parisian schools. This mixture of Indian and Western influences would be apparent in his later compositions and would help him cultivate the respect and appreciation from Westerners that he sought for Indian music.
At a music conference in 1934, Shankar met a guru and multi-instrumentalist Allaudin Khan, who became his mentor and musical guide for many years. Ravi Shankar went to Maihar, India to study sitar under Khan in 1938.
Ten years after meeting Khan and six years after beginning his music studies, Shankar's sitar training ended. Thereafter, he went to Mumbai, where he worked for the Indian People's Theatre Association, composing music for ballets until 1946. He went on to become music director of the New Delhi radio station All-India Radio, a position he held until 1956.
In 1954, Shankar gave a recital in the Soviet Union. In 1956, he debuted in the United States and Western Europe. Also helping his star rise was the score he wrote for famous Indian film director Satyajit Ray's The Apu Trilogy.
Already an ambassador of Indian music to the Western world, Shankar embraced this role even more fully in the 1960s. That decade saw Shankar's performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, as well as his set at Woodstock in 1969. Additionally, in 1966, George Harrison began studying sitar with Shankar and even played the instrument on the Beatles' track "Norwegian Wood."
From the 1970s to the early 21st century, Shankar's fame, recognition and achievement continued to grow steadily. In 1982, his score for Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi earned him an Oscar nomination. Shankar won many awards and honours throughout his career, including 14 honorary degrees, three Grammy Awards (he received two posthumous Grammys as well) and a membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.