Beatles in 1967, around the time they met up with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

The Beatles studied meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh. Lennon said that the song "Dear Prudence" was about a nutty girl he met in India. Interest in meditation, yoga and Indian religion has also drawn people to Indian music. George Harrison formed a friendship with Ravi Shankar. The sitar was featured on the Beatles songs “Norwegian Wood” on Rubber Soul, “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Revolver and “Within You Without You” on Sgt. Peppers (See Below).

Indian sitar music also influenced groups like the Rolling Stones. Brian Jones played one on “Paint It Black”. Jeff Beck and the Yardbirds were imitating one on their hit “Heart Full of Soul”. Other groups that used sitars included Traffic and The Move. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart studied with Ravi Shankar’s tabla player Alla Rakha. Miles Davis used tablas and other India instruments on “Bitches Brew”. John Coltrane and John Cage also dabbled with Indian music. Jazz guitarist John McLaughlin was deeply involved in Indian music with his groups Mahavishnu orchestra and Shakti. Freddie Mercury was born a Zoroastrian Parsi in Zanzibar and attended primary and secondary school in Bombay (See Below).

The lyrics for the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir" were written In Morocco not India. They were written by Plant in 1973 immediately after Led Zeppelin's 1973 US Tour, in an area he called "the waste lands" of Southern Morocco, while driving from Goulimine to Tantan in the Sahara Desert. Plant told rock journalist Cameron Crowe: “The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on. It was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. 'Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams...' It's one of my favourites...that, 'All My Love' and 'In the Light' and two or three others really were the finest moments. But 'Kashmir' in particular. It was so positive, lyrically.” Jimmy Page told writer William S. Burroughs in 1975 that at the time the song was composed, none of the band members had ever been to Kashmir. [Source: Wikipedia]

Mid-1990s trance and groups like Kula Shakar were influenced by Indian music. “Qawwali” and sitar music were feature in the film "Dead Man Walking." Madonna appeared as Shiva at the 1998 MTV awards. The World Vaishnava Association were upset by her suggestive dancing while wearing make-up that represented purity and devotion. Madonna did a Hindu yoga chant (Shanti/ Ashtangi) on her album “Ray of Light” and appeared in concert with henna-stained hands.

DJ Rekha is a pioneering New York DJ who introduced “basement bhangra” parties to the world. She helped spawn the “Asian underground” movement—fast dance music with sitars and tablas. Jay-Z and Britney Spears have incorporated Indian sound into their music

Western Music in India and Anglo Indian Musicians

The singer Engelbert Humperdinck is Anglo-Indian. Classical music conductor Zubin Mehta is Parsi orginially from Bombay. Western music influences India have included Elvis rip-offs in the 1960s, disco in the 70s and 80s. Big raves are sometimes held on the beaches of Goa. The full-moon parties there are also famous. Goa was a breeding ground for trance electronic music.

Many traditionalist in India find Western music and culture offensive. Hindu nationalists demonstrated against a Michael Jackson concert in Bombay and showed photographers the toilet that Michael Jackson used during a concert appearance in Bombay. An Indian classical dancer asked the government to ban the Spice Girls plan to perform at the temples in Khajuraho, famous for their erotic sculptures.

The American light pop singer Nora Jones is the daughter of Ravi Shankaar and Sue Jones, an American dancer, producer and concert promoter .The two of them had a nine-year relationship. Ravi had little to do with Nora’s upbringing. The two had no contact between the time Nora was 8 and 18. Ravi calls Nora by her middle name, Getali, which means “musical bee.” Nora Jones’s debut album “Come Away with Me”, a kind of poppy, easy-listening jazz record, sold 8 million copies. She won five out the eight Grammys she was nominated for in 2003. Some deejays find her style of music so laid back they call her Snorah.

The Beatles and Indian Music

The Beatles studied meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh in the late 1960s. Lennon said that the song "Dear Prudence" was about a nutty girl (Mia Farrow’s sister) he met in India. George Harrison was friends with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar. The sitar was featured on the Beatles songs “Norwegian Wood” on Rubber Soul, “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Revolver and “Within You Without You” on Sgt. Peppers.

Of the four, George was really the only one who kept up his interest in Indian spiritualism. For the Beatles it was more of a passing fad. Lennon later called the maharishi a fraud and accused him of being a “lecherous womanizer” and wrote Sexy Sadie to put him in his place. The Beatle association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi helped introduce Indian religion to the West and bring attention, to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who made hundred of millions of dollars from transcendental meditation.

According to the Beatles Bible website: The music and philosophy of India had a key effect on The Beatles' music, particularly between 1965 and 1968. They tentatively began using traditional Indian instruments in 1965. Between 1966 and 1968 the group wrote three songs written by George Harrison in the Indian style. Of The Beatles, only George Harrison kept a significant spiritual connection with India. He visited the country a number of times subsequently, consolidating his interest in Indian spirituality and music. He retained a keen interest in Indian music and philosophy throughout his life. [Source: George Harrison Billboard, December 1992 ]

The Beatles First Exposure to Indian Music

many of the songs on the White Album were written in Rishikesh

The Beatles' exposure to Indian music occurred while they were making Help!, their second film. On 5 and 6 April 1965 they shot the 'Rajahama' Indian restaurant scenes at Twickenham Film Studios.

George Harrison told Billboard, “We were waiting to shoot the scene in the restaurant when the guy gets thrown in the soup and there were a few Indian musicians playing in the background. I remember picking up the sitar and trying to hold it and thinking, 'This is a funny sound.' It was an incidental thing, but somewhere down the line I began to hear Ravi Shankar's name. The third time I heard it, I thought, 'This is an odd coincidence.' And then I talked with David Crosby of The Byrds and he mentioned the name. I went and bought a Ravi record; I put it on and it hit a certain spot in me that I can't explain, but it seemed very familiar to me. The only way I could describe it was: my intellect didn't know what was going on and yet this other part of me identified with it. It just called on me ... a few months elapsed and then I met this guy from the Asian Music Circle organisation who said, 'Oh, Ravi Shankar's gonna come to my house for dinner. Do you want to come too?' [Source: George Harrison Billboard, December 1992 ^]

John Lennon said: “The first time that we were aware of anything Indian was when we were making Help!. There was an odd thing about an Indian and that Eastern sect that had the ring and the sacrifice; and on the set in one place they had sitars and things - they were the Indian band playing in the background, and George was looking at them. We recorded that bit in London, in a restaurant. And then we were in the Bahamas filming a section and a little yogi runs over to us. We didn't know what they were in those days, and this little Indian guy comes legging over and gives us a book each, signed to us, on yoga. We didn't look at it, we just stuck it along with all the other things people would give us. [Source: John Lennon, 1972, Anthology ^]

“Then, about two years later, George had started getting into hatha yoga. He'd got involved in Indian music from looking at the instruments in the set. All from that crazy movie. Years later he met this yogi who gave us each that book; I've forgotten what his name was because they all have that 'Baram Baram Badoolabam', and all that jazz. All of the Indian involvement came out of the film Help!.” ^

Indian Music Songs on Beatles Albums

George Harrison first played a sitar on the Rubber Soul song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), recorded in October 1965. He said: “I went and bought a sitar from a little shop at the top of Oxford Street called Indiacraft - it stocked little carvings, and incense. It was a real crummy-quality one, actually, but I bought it and mucked about with it a bit. Anyway, we were at the point where we'd recorded the Norwegian Wood backing track and it needed something. We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up - it was just lying around; I hadn't really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked. [Source: George Harrison, Anthology, ^] According to The Beatle Bible website: “However, Norwegian Wood wasn't the first Beatles release to feature a sitar. The North American version of the Help! album featured an instrumental, called Another Hard Day's Night; a medley of A Hard Day's Night, Can't Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better performed on a sitar, tablas, flute and finger cymbals. Although The Beatles didn't perform on it, Another Hard Day's Night soundtracked the film's Rajahama restaurant scene. The music was written by Ken Thorne. The US Help! album was issued in August 1965, four months prior to Rubber Soul. ^

“George Harrison recorded three songs with The Beatles which were influenced by the Indian classical style. “Love You” To was recorded for Revolver in 1966. The following year the second side of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band opened with “Within You Without You.” Harrison's Indian trilogy was completed by “The Inner Light,” the b-side of the Lady Madonna single. Its lyrics were based on the Taoist holy book Tao Te Ching. The song's backing track was recorded with Indian musicians in January 1968 in Bombay, where Harrison was producing the soundtrack to the film Wonderwall.

The Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Under the urging of George, the Beatles as a group went to India in early 1968 to study transcendental meditation in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Mia Farrow, her sister, Donovan and Mike Love of the Beach Boys accompanied them. Ringo brought along an entire suitcase filled with beans because he was worried about the food.

According to The Beatle Bible website: “ The Beatles' association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began on 24 August 1967, when they attended a lecture by him at the London Hilton on Park Lane. At the end of the lecture they had a private audience with the Indian master of Transcendental Meditation. Suitably inspired, they agreed to travel the following day to Bangor, Wales, to attend a 10-day series of seminars. Their stay in north Wales was cut short following the death of Brian Epstein. A planned trip to Rishikesh, India, was also postponed while The Beatles agreed to press on with the Magical Mystery Tour film and soundtrack. [Source: ^]

“John and George, plus their wives Cynthia and Pattie, arrived in Delhi on 16 February 1968, and took the 150-mile journey by taxi to Rishikesh. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, with Jane Asher and Maureen Starkey, arrived four days later. Paul McCartney later said: “ John and George were going to Rishikesh with the idea that this might be some huge spiritual lift-off and they might never come back if Maharishi told them some really amazing thing. Well, being a little bit pragmatic, I thought in my own mind, I'll give it a month, then if I really really like it, I'll come back and organise to go out there for good, but I won't go on this 'I may never come back' thing, I won't burn my bridges. That's very me, to not want to do that. I just see it as being practical, and I think it is. [Source: “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, Holt Paperbacks, 1998 ^]

The Beatles at the Rishikesh Ashram

Rishikesh is where the Beatles went to learn about yoga and eastern religion. Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganges, it is filled with holy men, temples, dharamsalas (religious institutions honoring saints and sages) and ashrams (lodging houses for pilgrims who come to study yoga and other disciplines). Named after a holy man named Rishi Rainhya who was said to have had an audience with God after serving many years of penance.

Rishikesh is not far from where the Ganges breaks out the mountains and enters the Ganges Plain. Rishikesh is also a starting point for pilgrimages to the Himalayan shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Barinanth. Rishikesh was the home of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s retreat. Many tourists come today to pay tribute to the Beatles. People from all over the world come to study yoga and meditation in Rishikesh.

According to The Beatle Bible website: “ The Maharishi's Academy of Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh was situated in a guarded compound in the foothills of the Himalayas, 150 feet above the River Ganges, and was surrounded by mountainous jungles on the other three sides. The compound was reached by a suspension bridge which featured a sign declaring 'No camels or elephants', though a ferryboat was the common way of crossing the river. Although The Beatles' presence was much publicised by the world's media, they were part of a much bigger group of fellow meditation students. [Source: ^]

Pattie Boyd wrote in her autobiography “Wonderful Today”: “There were probably about sixty of us at the ashram, an interesting collection of people from across the world - Sweden, Britain, America, Germany, Denmark - and everyone was so nice. Despite that, we felt cut off from the rest of the world so it was always exciting when letters came in the post - my mother wrote regularly with news of home - or when others joined us. One of the newcomers was Donovan, with his manager, 'Gipsy Dave'. We had known Donovan for some years. He and the Beatles had recorded together, and he'd contributed to the Yellow Submarine album [sic]. He had fallen in love with Jenny [Boyd] - for whom he wrote Jennifer Juniper. Mike Love, lead singer of the Beach Boys, also turned up, as did the actress Mia Farrow, with her brother Johnny and sister Prudence.” [Source: “Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd”, Headline Review, 2007 ^]

Life for The Beatles and Their Entourage at the Rishikesh Ashram

Pattie Boyd wrote in “Wonderful Today”: “A handful of photo opportunities were held for reporters eager to document The Beatles' stay, but for the most part they were allowed to remain beyond the compound's wire fence away from outsiders. Every so often a tailor would appear and we would get him to make clothes for us. We all wore pyjama trousers and big baggy shirts, and the boys grew beards. It was baking hot during the day so you had to wear loose, flowing Indian clothes. After four in the afternoon it could get quite cold, and when it rained there was no hot water. One evening Maharishi organised boats to take everyone on a trip down the river while two holy men chanted. Then George and Donovan started to sing, and we all joined in with a mixture of English and German songs. It was so beautiful, with mountains on three sides of us. In the setting sun the one to the west turned a deep, deep pink.” [Source: “Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd”, Headline Review, 2007, ^]

Cynthia Lennon said: “The ashram had six simple stone bungalows, each containing five self-contained rooms with two four-poster beds. There were modern sanitary facilities, although the water supply occasionally broke down during their stay. The cottages were set along an unsurfaced road, with a path led down towards the Ganges. Our arrival at Delhi went very much unheralded. We were bundled unmolested and travel-weary into three battered, ancient Indian taxis without all the usual fuss and frantic rush. It was wonderfully refreshing and stress free. After alighting from the taxis, we were shown to our living quarters. They consisted of a number of stone-built bungalows, set in groups along a rough road. Flowers and shrubs surrounded them and were carefully tended by an Indian gardener whose work speed was dead slow, and stop. ^

“The ashram had around 40 members of staff, including a construction crew, printing works, cooks, cleaners and a masseuse. A swimming pool was being built next to the main lecture building, and a heated dining room was situated near to the kitchens. Breakfast was held between 7am and 11am, and consisted of porridge, puffed wheat or cornflakes, fruit juices, tea, coffee, and toast. This was followed by meditation practice, which had no rules. Lunch and dinner both had the same menu: soup followed by a vegetarian main course, and tomato and lettuce salad, turnips, carrots, rice and potatoes. Most meals were held in an open-roofed, glass-walled dining room, in which The Beatles were often joined by monkeys who attempted to steal their food. The Maharishi always ate alone in his bungalow. ^

“At the time Lennon and Harrison were both vegetarians, but Starr found the spicy food disagreed with his stomach - the legacy of a childhood bout of peritonitis - so Mal Evans arranged eggs which were fried, boiled, scrambled or poached. Starr had also brought along a suitcase of baked beans. In the evenings we got together, occasionally breaking the no-alcohol rule with a glass of hooch, smuggled in by Alex from the village across the river and tasting remarkably like petrol. Giggling like naughty schoolchildren, we'd pass round the bottle each taking a swig, then conorting as it scorched its way down our throats.” ^

Beatles Learn Mediation at the Rishikesh Ashram

Pattie Boyd wrote in “Wonderful Today”: “The Beatles were enrolled on a Transcendental Meditation teachers' course, which consisted of 90-minute lectures from 3.30pm and 8.30pm, with the students describing their meditative experiences and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi answering their questions. Much of the time, however, was spent in a series of meditation sessions which became progressively longer. The two who were most engrossed in Maharishi's teachings were John and George. They would meditate for hours, and George was very focused. I loved meditating, but I can't sustain that sort of intensity for long. Sometimes I would leave George meditating and make a foray to Mussoorie and Dheradun, Tibetan trading posts. At that time China was slowly taking over Tibet, whose people were being pushed out of their country as their culture was destroyed. [Source: “Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd”, Headline Review, 2007, ^] Paul McCartney said: “ Ever keen to put his faith in others, John Lennon proved particularly eager to learn from Maharishi. One day Maharishi needed to get to New Delhi and back for something, so someone suggested a helicopter. When it arrived we all trooped down, a bouncing line of devotees, coming down a narrow dusty track to the Ganges, singing, being delightful. Very like the Hare Krishnas, marvellous, chatting away. We got down ot the Ganges, the helicopter landed and then they asked, 'Does anyone want a quick go before Maharishi takes off?' John jumped up. 'Yea, yea, yeah, yeah!' John got there first, and there was only room for one. So later I asked John, 'Why were you so keen? You really wanted to get in that helicopter.' 'Yeah,' he said, 'I thought he might slip me the answer!' Which is very revealing about John. I suppose everyone is always looking for the Holy Grail. I think John thought he might find it. I think it shows an innocence really, a naivety. It's quite touching really. [Source: “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, Holt Paperbacks, 1998 ^]

“The Beatles' group was three weeks behind the other students, so they received extra tuition and lectures every afternoon. These were mostly held in the open air, sometimes on the roof of Maharishi's own bungalow, or inside if the weather was cooler. The meditation sessions were increasingly long, they were as long as you could handle. It was a very sensible thing. He basically said, 'Your mind is confused with day-to-day stress so I want you to try and do twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening.' That's what they start you on. Twenty minutes in the morning is not going to hurt anyone. You sit still, I suppose you regulate your breathing and, if nothing else, you rest your muscles for twenty minutes. It's like a lie-in. That's pretty good. The meditation helps your productivity that day. And then twenty minutes in the evening; I used to liken it to sitting in front of a nice coal fire that's just sort of glowing. That sort of feeling, that very relaxed feeling, a twilight feeling which I quite like. Are you dreaming or are you awake? There's a nice little state that they recognise halfway between it... ^

“After one of those sessions, I remember having a great meditation, one of the best I ever had. It was a pleasant afternoon, in the shade of these big tropical trees on the flat roof of this bungalow. It appeared to me that I was like a feather over a hot-air pipe, a warm-air pipe. I was just suspended by this hot air, which was something to do with the meditation. And it was a very very blissful feeling. It took you back to childhood when you were a baby, some of the secure moments when you've just been fed or you were having your nap. It reminded me of those nice, secure feelings. And I thought, Well, hell, that's great, I couldn't buy that anywhere. That was the most pleasant, the most relaxed I ever got, for a few minutes I really felt so light, so floating, so complete.

“The difficulty, of course, is keeping your mind clear, because the minute you clear it, a thought comes in and says, 'What are we gonna do about our next record?' 'Go away!' Meditate, mantra mantra mantra. 'I still want to know what we're doing on this next record.' 'Please go away, I'm meditating, can't you see?' There's inevitably all sorts of little conversations you can't help getting into.”

Songs Written by The Beatles in India

Many of the songs on the “White Album” and “Abbey Road” were written in India. John wrote the song Dear Prudence about a girl who attended a "meditation course in Rishikesh, India...Who we knew sooner or later would go completely berserk under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?"

According to The Beatle Bible website: “The Beatles' stay in India resulted in one of their most productive periods as songwriters. When they returned to England in March and April they had more songs than could fit on a single album, and the subsequent recordings resulted in the eponymously-titled double album commonly known as the White Album, plus a number of songs which appeared on Abbey Road in 1969. Some of the songs were directly inspired by Maharishi's lectures. John Lennon wrote the unreleased Child Of Nature, later reworked as Jealous Guy, and Paul McCartney's Mother Nature's Son explored similar themes. Other songs were connected to the people who were also at the ashram. Mia Farrow's 19-year-old sister Prudence chose to spend lengthy periods meditating in a semi-catatonic state in her room, against the advice of Maharishi. Lennon and George Harrison were asked to try and coax her out, and Lennon wrote Dear Prudence for her. [Source: ^]

Another White Album song, The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, was inspired by one of the fellow students at the ashram. John Lennon told David Sheff: “Oh, that was written about a guy in Maharishi's meditation camp who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It's a sort of teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke. [Source: “All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono” St. Martin's Griffin, 2000]

Paul McCartney wrote many songs in India, including Back In The USSR, Wild Honey Pie and Rocky Raccoon. Several had little to do with Maharishi's teachings or their surroundings. Paul McCartney told Barry Miles: “We went down to the village one evening when they were showing a film; the travelling cinema came around with a lorry and put up a screen. It was a very pleasant Indian evening so Maharishi came, everyone came, and we all walked down as a procession. And it was very very pleasant; walking along in the dust slightly downhill through a path in the jungle from the meditation camp with my guitar and singing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da, which I was writing, accompanying the procession on the way. Of course Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da has got no connection with meditation except 'Life goes on...', it's a little story about Desmond and Molly. In actual fact, I think they quite enjoyed it. Maharishi quite liked someone strolling along singing. [Source: “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles, Holt Paperbacks, 1998 ^]

According to The Beatle Bible website: “ Donovan taught John Lennon a method of fingerpicking his guitar, which Lennon then passed on to Harrison. The style was used on Dear Prudence and Julia. Lennon also wrote songs including Mean Mr Mustard, Cry Baby Cry, Polythene Pam and Yer Blues. I'm So Tired, meanwhile, was written during the beginning of The Beatles' stay, when Lennon - free of drugs for the first time since 1964 - found himself unable to sleep.” Lennon told David Sheff: “I'm So Tired was me, in India again. I couldn't sleep, I'm meditating all day and couldn't sleep at night. The story is that. One of my favorite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well. [Source: ^]

John Blows Off Cynthia in India

Lennon told Cynthia that the trip to India would bring them closer together. But that was not the case. Instead he became increasingly distant. Cynthia Lennon said: “I was not having the second honeymoon I'd hoped for. John was becoming increasingly cold and aloof toward me. He would get up early and leave our room. He spoke to me very little, and after a week or two he announced that he wanted to move into a separate room to give himself more space. From then on he virtually ignored me, both in private and in public. If the others noticed they didn't say so. [Source: ^]

“I did my best to understand, begging him to explain what was wrong. He fobbed me off, telling me that it was just the effect of the meditation. 'I can't feel normal doing all this stuff,' he said. 'I'm trying to get myself together. It's nothing to do with you. Give me a break.' What I didn't know was that each morning he rushed down to the post office to see if he had a letter from Yoko. She was writing to him almost daily. When I learned this later I felt very hurt. There was I, trying to give John the space and understanding he asked for, with no idea that Yoko was drawing him away from me and further into her orbit.” ^

The Beatles Leave India

Pattie Boyd wrote in “Wonderful Today”: “The first of the party to leave Rishikesh were Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen, who lasted until 1 March 1968, less than a fortnight after their arrival in India. The couple missed their children, and Maureen couldn't stand the insects which were seemingly a constant presence. Additionally, Ringo found the spicy food disagreed with him - an intolerance caused by a childhood bout of peritonitis. He had brought a consignment of baked beans with him, and feasted on especially-prepared eggs while in Rishikesh, but found it not enough to entice him to stay. [Source: “Wonderful Today: The Autobiography of Pattie Boyd”, Headline Review, 2007, ^]

“Paul McCartney and Jane Asher also left early, on 26 March. Paul was keen to get back to London and Apple, the business the Beatles were about to launch. The Apple shop had opened just before we left but there was an office to find and a new manager to replace Brian. He had always been more interested in business than the others and I guess a month of meditating was enough for him ^.

The last of The Beatles to leave Rishikesh were John Lennon and George Harrison, who exited the compound on 12 April. With them were Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Harrison, and 'Magic' Alex Mardas. George and Pattie Harrison visited Ravi Shankar in Madras, where they remained until 21 April 1968.

Cynthia Lennon said: “A couple of weeks before we were due to leave, Magic Alex accused the Maharishi of behaving improperly with a young American girl, who was a fellow student. Without allowing the Maharishi an opportunity to defend himself, John and George chose to believe Alex and decided we must all leave. I was upset. I had seen Alex with the girl, who was young and impressionable, and I wondered whether he - whom I had never once seen meditating - was being rather mischievous. I was surprised that John and George had both chosen to believe him. It was only when John and I talked later that he told me he had begun to feel disenchanted with the Maharishi's behavior. He felt that, for a spiritual man, the Maharishi had too much interest in public recognition, celebrities and money. ^

Sexie Sadie and Accusations of Sexual Misconduct Against the Maharishi

John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine: “Mardas arranged taxis to take the party to the airport in Delhi. They planned to stay the night there, but managed to catch an overnight flight back to London. There was a big hullabaloo about [Maharishi] trying to rape Mia Farrow or trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that. And we went down to him and we'd stayed up all night discussing, was it true or not true. And when George started thinking it might be true, I thought, 'Well it must be true, 'cause if George is doubting it, there must be something in it.' So we went to see Maharishi, the whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. And I was the spokesman - as usual, when the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader, whatever the scene was, when it came to the nitty gritty I had to do the speaking. And I said, 'We're leaving.' [Source: Lennon Remembers: The Full Rolling Stone Interviews from 1970" by Jann S Wenner, Verso Publishing, 2000 ^]

'Why?' Hee-hee, all that shit. And I said, 'Well if you're so cosmic, you'll know why. He was always intimating, and there were all his right hand men intimating that he did miracles. He said, 'I don't know why, you must tell me.' And I just kept saying, 'You know why' - and he gave me a look like, 'I'll kill you, bastard.' He gave me such a look, and I knew then when he looked at me, because I'd called his bluff. And I was a bit rough to him. ^

As they waited to leave, Lennon began writing the song that would become Sexy Sadie. Lennon said: “That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: 'They're deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can't escape from this madman's camp.' And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, 'It's black magic, black magic. They're gonna keep you here forever.' I must have got away because I'm here. [Source: John Lennon, 1974, Anthology ^]

Lennon began singing the song as he and George Harrison travelled to Delhi. George Harrison said: “John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: 'Maharishi, what have you done?' and I said, 'You can't say that, it's ridiculous.' I came up with the title of Sexy Sadie and John changed 'Maharishi' to 'Sexy Sadie'. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the south of India and spent another few weeks there. [Source: George Harrison, Anthology ^]

Freddy Mercury and India

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991), the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Queen. was born Farrokh Bulsara, a Gujarati name, on September 5, 1946 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, then a British protectorate. Mercury was a Parsi and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens. [Source: Wikipedia +]

His parents, Bomi (1908-2003) and Jer Bulsara (1922-), were Parsis from the Gujarat region of India. The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (also known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat. As Parsis, Mercury and his family practised the Zoroastrian religion. The Bulsara family had moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office. He had a younger sister, Kashmira.

Mercury spent most of his childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school for boys, in Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. One of his formative musical influences at the time was Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar. At the age of 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered rock and roll artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. A friend from the time recalls that he had "an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano." It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie", and in February 1963 he moved back to Zanzibar where he joined his parents at their flat.

At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. The family moved into a small house in Feltham, Middlesex, England. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London where he studied art. He ultimately earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College (now the Ealing campus of University of West London). A British citizen at birth, Mercury remained so for the rest of his life.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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