Chaurasia was born in Allahabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in 1938. He began his musical pursuit at the age of 15, learning classical vocal technique from Pandit Rajaram. Within a year, however, he had switched to flute playing, after hearing Pandit Bholanath, a noted flautist from Varanasi. He tutored under Pandit Bholanath for eight years. In 1957, barely out of his teens, he became regular staff artiste of All India Radio, Cuttack in Orissa, where he worked as performer as well as a composer.
Transferred by AIR (All India Radio) Cuttack to Mumbai in 1960, he received further guidance from Surbahar player Shrimati Annapurna Devi, daughter of late Ustad Allaudin Khan and sister of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Under her guidance his music acquired a new dimension and he left AIR to pursue his performing career.
Apart from classical music, he has made a mark as a music director for Indian films along with Shivkumar Sharma, forming a group called Shiv-Hari. He has collaborated with world musicians in experimental cross-cultural performances, including the fusion group Shakti.
He serves as the artistic director of the World Music Department at the Rotterdam Music Conservatory in the Netherlands. He was also the founder of the Vrindavan Gurukul in Mumbai (opened 2006) and Vrindavan Gurukul in Bhubaneshwar (opened 2010). Both of these institutes are schools dedicated to training students in Hindustani Bansuri in the Guru-shishya tradition.
He has collaborated with several western musicians, including John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek, and Ken Lauber, and has composed music for Indian films. He has performed throughout the world, winning acclaim from varied audiences and fellow musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and Jean-Pierre Rampal. Chaurasia also played on The Beatles’ 1968 B-side “The Inner Light”, which was written by George Harrison.
The 2013 documentary film Bansuri Guru features the life and legacy of Chaurasia and was directed by the musician’s son Rajeev Chaurasia and produced by the Films Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.