A Magical Mystery Tour of The Beatles' relationship with India

A Magical Mystery Tour of The Beatles' relationship with India

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Jaipur Literature Festival
Jaipur, Jan 25 (IANS) A riveting session on The Beatles at the opening day of the 11th edition of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival here took the audience on a rocking 50-year-old Magical Mystery Tour through the iconic band's relationship with India.Philip Norman, the band's biographer, and Indian journalist Ajoy Bose,who has researched on The Beatles' years in India during the 1960s, engaged in an hour-long discussion that left the audience asking for more.The panellists explained that when the Beatles first arrived in India, they were already a sensation. Bose admitted that he himself had been "in love with them as teen rebel in Kolkata". He related an anecdote about an Indian woman who was standing outside a hotel in Mumbai in 1966 when John Lennon drove past her and blew her a kiss. She fell to the ground and termed her injury, "the important wound in her life."During the research for his book, "Across The Universe", a retrospective of The Beatles' trip to India, Bose described the "eerie hand of destiny" that seemed to be at work in bringing the group to India. Whilst filming the comedy-adventure film "Help!" in the Bahamas, The Beatles came across an Indian yogi who gave them a book on yoga.Then, George Harrison happened to pick up a sitar that had caught his eye. After this, he bought a cheap sitar, and was playing "Norwegian Wood" on it when the strings broke. A music store put them in touch with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who went on to become Harrison's sitar teacher and spiritual guru for the rest of his life.Next, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi happened to be in London at the time of the tragic death of The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, described by Norman, as "more of a father figure" than a manager to the band. His loss was huge for them, and the Maharishi spoke crucial words of comfort about the "unimportance of death" at a time they needed to hear that. He went on to become an important figure in their lives.At the time, The Beatles were already looking for ways to "take a break from being The Beatles," and rediscover and reinvent themselves beyond their music. They had tasted riches, fame and world adulation, and had the strangest sensation that it was not enough. Their quest for something greater than "smoking pot, wearing shirts, and going to Carnaby Street" brought them to the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh.However, after the first few weeks, The Beatles found themselves in a divided state of mind. Doubtful of the food in India, Ringo Starr had brought out a bagful of canned beans with him, and "left after it ended." John Lennon was receiving letters from his wife, Yoko Ono, with only one or two words, and this kept him occupied mentally. He had also come to the ashram with the expectation that the guru would reveal "the meaning of life" to him in less than 14 hours, and was disappointed that he didn't.With politics heating up between group members, and rumours growing about the Maharishi's sexual adventures, the band left the ashram in dramatic fashion. Bose posed the question whether the band's time in Rishikesh had been the catalyst for the subsequent unraveling of The Beatles. Norman was quick to dismiss this: "No, actually I think it delayed it," pointing out that the band wrote over thirty songs during the course of their ashram stay, which went on to comprise a bulk of their ninth album, the White Album.The power of their music still commands praise from their Indian audience decades after their visit to India. The Maharishi Yogesh Yogi ashram has since been renamed The Beatles Ashram.--IANSss/vm

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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