Google is celebrating the 96th birthday of Indian musician Pandit Ravi Shankar with a doodle of the instrument he used to mesmerise millions the world over – a sitar. The icon was hailed as a "national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage" and is widely credited with popularising Indian music in the 1960s.

Born on 7 April 1920 in West Bengal, Shankar would go on to compose a number of film scores including Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy and Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. He also introduced European and US audiences to Indian ragas after he began touring overseas in the 1950s.

In 1966 he met George Harrison, who was keen to learn to play the sitar, and the pair struck up what Shankar described as a "beautiful relationship." Describing their famous friendship, he said: "Guru and disciple and friend at the same time and father and son as well."

In a statement Google said: "Shankar evangelised the use of Indian instruments in Western music, introducing the atmospheric hum of the sitar to audiences worldwide. He performed frequently with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and composed a concerto with sitar for the London Symphony Orchestra.

"Shankar also taught George Harrison of the Beatles how to play the sitar, and widely influenced popular music in the 1960s and 70s." Harrison had famously described the sitar legend as "the godfather of world music".

The centerpiece of the doodle was created by artist Kevin Laughlin and resembles the type of sitar played by the musical maestro, including a second gourd-shape resonator at the top of the instrument's neck.

Shankar had three children, including Grammy award-winning singer Norah Jones, who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and her half-sister, Anoushka Shankar, who is also a sitar player and composer.