He was a major force in classical Hindustani music and hailed from the Etawah Gharana. He was one of India's best Sitarist and he was responsible for the introduction of new style of playing sitar that has been named after him as the Vilayatkhanibaaj. Although he mostly played in concerts and was attached to the All India Radio for a long period, he hac composed music for a lot of films.
Some of his most famous works include Satyajit Ray's Jalsagar and Ivory- Merchant's The Guru. He has been awarded several major national and international awards but he is famous for having refused the Padma Shri in 1964. He was given the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan in 2000. He was given the Aftab-e Sitar from the Indian President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad.