Within You Without You – Across The Universe

John Lennon and George Harrison – the two members of Beatles – arrived in India on February 16, 1968. Lennon’s wife Cynthia and Harrison’s spouse Pattie Boyd were also with them. They spent quality time in Rishikesh, the northern Indian city in the Himalayan foothills renowned as a centre for studying yoga and meditation. Later, other members of the English rock band joined them. They learnt to play Sitar (a plucked stringed Indian instrument) and also performed yoga at the ‘Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’ Ashram (centre for spiritual studies) in Rishikesh. Now, the ashram is popularly known as the ‘Beatles Ashram’. That’s the beginning of Beatles’ love story with India.

The Beatles Ashram

To mark the 50th anniversary of Beatles’ trip to the South Asian country, The Beatles Story – a museum in Liverpool about the Beatles and their history – is organising an exhibition, titled ‘Beatles in India’. The event brings an opportunity for visitors to see souvenirs, pictures, personal documents and details of their Rishikesh visit which were not displayed in the past. The museum has collected those documents from people who were part of that trip.
Diane Glover, the Marketing Manager of The Beatles Story, has thanked the Ravi Shankar Foundation for sending the Sitar, used by the Indian maestro at that time, to Liverpool on the occasion. Harrison considered Pundit Ravi Shankar as his ‘mentor’. It is said that because of the influence of Pundit Ravi Shankar, the use of Indian musical instruments became very popular in the Western pop music.

Harrison with Pdt Ravi Shankar

Among other things, there are some great pictures of the Beatles – clicked by Canadian National Film Board’s sound engineer Paul Saltzman at that time – are being exhibited in Liverpool. This year, George Harrison (b. February 25, 1943) would have been 75. His Beatles ‘brothers’ celebrated Harrison’s 25th birthday in Rishikesh.
Pattie Boyd, who visited the museum on Wednesday, recalled that they had arrived in New Delhi in February 1968 and then went straight to Rishikesh by car. The 73-year-old former model said that Lennon, Harrison, McCartney and Ringo Starr used to entertain other members of the Ashram in the evening. While in Rishikesh, they created 48 songs for their seminal ‘White Album’, which featured songs, like Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Dear Prudence and Happiness Is A Warm Gun. Perhaps, that was last time I found four people enjoying together, stressed Pattie Boyd. According to her, they were like a joint family.

Beatles in India

However, the joint family didn’t last long. The dissolution of the band was formalised on December 29, 1974, with Lennon signing the paperwork terminating the partnership with three other Beatles members. Glover, who visited the Indian city in April 2017, said that Rishikesh (as well as India) still remembers the Beatles.

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