Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar’s family recently gifted one of his four sitars made in 1961 to the British Museum in London. The gifted sitar was specially designed for the maestro by Kolkata-based instrument maker Nodu Mullick. The sitar has been placed in room 33 of the renovated Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia and has been displayed as one of its most valuable possessions from South Asia. The Sitar was gifted to the British Museum by Shankar’s widow Sukanya Shankar, his daughter Anoushka Shankar along with the Ravi Shankar Foundation that is based in New Delhi. The sitar gifted to the museum is considered “particularly special” by Richard Blurton who is the head of the museum’s South and Southeast Asia section.
The museum while talking about the sitar in a release said that the neck and sounding board are made of teak, while the bulbous resonator is a gourd (a second, smaller, removable gourd resonator is at the top of the neck). It adds that the metal strings of the sitar are tensioned across the neck and the belly, and are kept taut by pegs in the neck. The neck is decorated with stained and inlaid bone, and the belly with laid-on patterning in wood of vegetal scrolling.
Blurton on Wednesday while talking about the sitar said that it was the first one to be made by Nodu Mullick for the sitar maestro. He added that other examples of Indian musical instruments exist in the museum’s collection, though none are as beautifully decorated or so connected to a cultural figure of the stature of Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Shankar who passed away in the year 2012 at the age of 92 had performed in the United Kingdom several times and was best known in the country for his collaboration with The Beatles member George Harrison. His elder brother Uday Shankar was a well-known dancer who studied and performed in London. Uday is known to have visited the British Museum to study Indian medieval sculpture as part of his efforts to develop his new Indian dance. Blurton while talking about the connection of the museum to Shankar’s family said that the wonderful gift of the sitar is just the latest chapter in the history of connections between the Shankar family and the museum.
He added that the gift of the sitar to the Museum enables the telling of the human side of the story of Ravi Shankar’s life and work, both in the west and in India, but also to place him, and other cultural ambassadors, within the context of the discovery of the cultural achievements of the entire world.