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Ravi Shankar (b.1920)

Note: there are several people called 'Ravi Shankar', this page is about the sitar player.

photo right: Ravi and his younger daughter, Anoushka

Despite being a Hindu, and a Brahmin, Ravi Shankar was not fully vegetarian for at least his first 77 years, apart from a very brief period in 1986 following heart problems. This is made very clear in his autobiography 'Raga Mala' completed in 1997. This might seem odd in view of his close association with several western vegetarian musicians, such George Harrison, the Beatles guitarist; Yehudi Menuhin, the classical violinist, John Coltrane, jazz saxophonist, and Philip Glass, avant-garde classical composer.

However there seem to have been some changes in recent years as he has been actively involved with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) during the first years of the 21st century, along with his daughter Anouska. Though he appears to promoting animal welfare, rather than vegetarianism. His elder daughter, Norah Jones (below), the jazz singer and pianist, is reported as being vegetarian but this is unconfirmed.

Press releases from PETA India:

1 March 2005

Mumbai – Living legend Maestro Ravi Shankar has numerous music awards, including three Grammies, the Padma Bhushan and the PadmaVibhushan. He is also a nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. But his newest honour is not for his music but for his efforts to help animals. Maestro Shankar, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India since the group began five years ago, was today named a Patron of PETA India. He is the first to receive this honour.

Ravi Shankar’s work for animals includes breaking a lifelong personal ban on appearing in advertisements to appear in a PETA India print ad with daughter Anoushka, as well as a TV public service announcement (PSA), to urge the Indian government to improve laws to protect animals. In the TV PSA, Maestro Shankar exclaims, “Let’s bring harmony to animals’ lives”, and speaks about the need for the government to increase the penalty for cruelty to animals, which is currently only Rs 50, even for the most heinous crimes against animals.

Maestro Ravi Shankar also sent a written appeal to almost two lakh people on behalf of elephants across India. “They are poisoned in Kerala, captured and beaten in Karnataka and run down by trains in Uttar Pradesh, as forests are torn down. Most zoos keep elephants constantly in chains and deny them freedom even to walk or bathe, while circuses and roadside shows force them to perform silly tricks out of fear of being beaten with an iron rod or hook”, he wrote.

Ravi Shankar has also spoken out in support of PETA’s Supreme Court case against cruel treatment of animals during transport and slaughter throughout the country. As a result of this case, the Supreme Court pulled up the Animal Welfare Board of India for failing to conduct regular inspections of abattoirs as they are supposed to.

“Animal cruelty is completely out of tune”, said Ravi Shankar on hearing this news. “I will, of course, continue to speak out for the poor lion in the circus cage, the cows suffering in illegal transport and all those other animals who are abused and exploited daily, who cannot speak for themselves.”

6 September 2005:

Mumbai – Pandit Ravi Shankar, who was made honorary patron of PETA India this March, will be awarded PETA’s Humanitarian Award at a star-studded function in the United States. On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will be holding a celebrity-filled fundraising gala in California on 10 September. The gala will be hosted by Pamela Anderson and Fred Willard. PETA’s Humanitarian Awards honour those who have given their voice and time to actively promote the rights of animals through PETA campaigns.

The spectacular gala will bring together some of the most noted animal friends in the world, including Sir Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin and Gulshan Grover. The honourary committee for the gala boasts some of the most well-known Indian names who are dedicated to furthering animal rights in India. Besides celebrities such as Mahima Choudary, John Abraham, Raveena Tandon, Isha Koppikar, Sheetal Malhar, Yana Gupta, R. Madhavan, Amisha Patel, Rajneesh Duggal, Jackie Shroff and Aditi Govitrikar – who have already sparked off many awareness campaigns – steady PETA supporters include Ashok Salian, Pritish Nandy, Anju Mahendroo, Hemant Trivedi, Rahul Khanna, Raageshwari Loomba, Anupam Kher, Jawed Habib, Mahesh Bhatt and Rohit Bal.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, along with his daughter, the talented Anoushka Shankar, has urged the Government of India to amend the laws for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2004, Pt Ravi Shankar also supported PETA India’s initiative to file a case in the Supreme Court against the Union of India, each state-level government and the Animal Welfare Board of India for failure to alleviate the suffering of animals in the nation’s leather and meat industries. He is the second Indian to receive the prestigious award; model-turned-actor John Abraham was named Humanitarian of the Year in 2001. Actor Charlize Theron, musician Prince, actor Joaquin Phoenix and fashion designer Stella McCartney have all previously been named Humanitarians of the Year.

“This is a long-awaited honour for one of our oldest and loudest supporters”, says  Anuradha Sawhney, Chief Functionary of PETA India. “We and the animals have been indebted to Panditji, who has always drawn attention to where everyone else prefers to turn a blind eye.”

There have been similar reports from PETA in 2004, 2006 and 2007

For more information, please visit

Anoushka - February 2007

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