The Beatles in India – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: February 24, 2015 at 11:51 pm


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In February 1968, the Beatles travelled to Rishikesh, in northern India, to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) training session at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Amid widespread media attention, their visit was one of the band's most productive periods. Their interest in the Maharishi changed Western attitudes about Indian spirituality and encouraged the study of Transcendental Meditation. They first met the Maharishi in London in August 1967 and then attended a seminar in Bangor, Wales. The Beatles had planned to attend the entire ten-day session, but their stay was cut short by the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Wanting to learn more, they kept in contact with the Maharishi and made arrangements to spend time with him at his teaching centre located near Rishikesh, in "the Valley of the Saints" in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Along with their wives, girlfriends, assistants and numerous reporters, the Beatles arrived in India in February 1968, and joined the group of 60 people who were training to be TM teachers, including musicians Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and flautist Paul Horn. While there, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison wrote many songs and Ringo Starr finished writing his first. Eighteen of those songs were recorded for The Beatles (the White Album), two songs appeared on the Abbey Road album, and others were used for various solo projects.

Starr and his wife left on 1 March, after a ten-day stay; the McCartneys left after one month due to other commitments; while John Lennon and George Harrison stayed about six weeks and left abruptly following financial disagreements and rumours of inappropriate behaviour by the Maharishi. Harrison later apologised for the way he and Lennon had treated the Maharishi and in 1992 gave a benefit concert for the Maharishi-associated Natural Law Party. In 2009, McCartney and Starr performed at a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation, which raises funds for the teaching of Transcendental Meditation to at-risk students.

In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture, after using drugs in an effort to expand their consciousness[4] and in 1966 Harrison visited India for six weeks and took sitar lessons from Ravi Shankar.Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas, a friend of the Beatles and head of Apple Electronics, had heard a lecture by the Maharishi in Athens, Greece and Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, attended a lecture by the Maharishi in London and they encouraged the Beatles to hear the Maharishi speak.

At Boyd's suggestion, the Beatles attended the Maharishi's lecture at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 24 August 1967. The Maharishi had announced his intention to retire, so this was expected to be his last public lecture in the West. Some band members had seen him on a Granada TV program years earlier. The Beatles were given front row seats and were invited to meet the Maharishi in his hotel suite after the lecture. During the ninety-minute meeting, he invited them to be his guests at a training retreat in Wales.

Two days later, on 26 August, the Beatles travelled by train to the college campus in Bangor, Wales. It was perhaps the first time the band had travelled without their tour managers and they had not even thought to bring money. The station was mobbed because of a bank holiday and Cynthia Lennon, mistaken for a fan, was held back. She ran after the train but missed it and arrived later by car. The group, along with Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Cilla Black, Harrison's sister-in-law Jenny Boyd, and around 300 others, learned the basics of Transcendental Meditation,[18] and were given their mantras. The group "hesitated only slightly" when asked to donate the customary week's wages, a large sum for a Beatle, to learn.[20][21] While there, they announced at a press conference that they were giving up drugs (apparently referring to psychedelics, but not marijuana). This was a choice "in keeping with the Maharishi's teachings" but one made prior to meeting the Maharishi. The Maharishi did advise them privately to avoid involvement with the "Ban the Bomb" movement and to support the elected government of the day.[26] Their intention was to attend the entire ten-day seminar but their stay was cut short by the death of their manager, Epstein, in London on 27 August. The Maharishi consoled them by saying that Epstein's spirit was still with them and their good thoughts would help him "to have an easy passage" and journey to his "next evolution". According to McCartney, the Maharishi "was great to us when Brian died" and Cynthia Lennon wrote "it was as though, with Brian gone, the four needed someone new to give them direction and the Maharishi was in the right place at the right time."

Curious to learn more, the Beatles made plans to spend time at the "Maharishi's training center" in India in late October.[26] However, the trip was postponed due to commitments related to the Magical Mystery Tour film and the soundtrack album.[32] Harrison and Lennon appeared twice on David Frost's programme in autumn 1967 to talk about their involvement with TM when, according to Lennon's wife, John was "evangelical in his enthusiasm for Maharishi". Now publicised as "The Beatles' Guru", the Maharishi went on his eighth world tour, giving lectures in Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Canada, and California.[34] At that time, Lennon said that, thanks to his meditation, "I'm a better person and I wasn't bad before."[35] When the Maharishi spoke to 3,600 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City, in January 1968, the Beatles sent a large flower arrangement to his suite at the Plaza Hotel.[36]

Harrison flew to Bombay in January 1968 to work on the Wonderwall Music soundtrack, expecting the rest of the group to follow shortly. When they were delayed he flew back to London, where the group spent a week in the studio. Before leaving for India, the band recorded the instrumental tracks for "Across the Universe", whose refrain, "Jai Guru Dev",[38] was a standard greeting within the Maharishi's Spiritual Regeneration Movement. Also in January, the Maharishi, Mia Farrow, Prudence Farrow and their brother, flew from the US to London and on to India.

Lennon, his wife Cynthia, the Harrisons and Jenny Boyd arrived in Delhi on 15 February, where they were met by Mal Evans, their advance man, who had arranged the 150-mile (240km), six-hour taxi drive to Rishikesh. McCartney, his girlfriend Jane Asher, Starr and his wife Maureen arrived four days later. The group arrived three weeks after the session, due to end 25 April, had already begun.[43] They were accompanied by a small retinue of reporters and photographers who were mostly kept out of the fenced and gated compound.[44][45] Entourage members Evans, Brown and Neil Aspinall were there for all or part of the time and Mardas arrived four weeks later.

As soon as Starr arrived in Delhi he asked Evans to take him to a doctor because of a reaction to an inoculation: "When we arrived at the local hospital, I tried to get immediate treatment for him [Starr], to be told curtly by the Indian doctor, 'He is not a special case and will have to wait his turn.' So off we go to pay a private doctor ten rupees for the privilege of hearing him say it will be all right".[47] Also there at the same time were Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence and brother John, Donovan, Gyp "Gypsy Dave" Mills, Mike Love, jazz flautist Paul Horn, journalist Lewis H. Lapham, film-maker Paul Saltzman, socialite Nancy Cooke de Herrera, actors Tom Simcox and Jerry Stovin,[51] and dozens of others, all Europeans or Americans.[43] Despite speculation, Shirley MacLaine did not attend[34] and Lennon, who had thought of bringing Yoko Ono, decided against it.

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The Beatles in India - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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February 24th, 2015 at 11:51 pm

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