The Beatles is still a powerful religion worldwide, and Uttarakhand hopes to turn Rajaji National Park in Rishikesh into a pilgrimage site of sorts for the band's followers.
The park in the foothills of the Himalayas houses Chaurasi Kutia or 84 igloo-shaped huts where the Fab Four stayed with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in his ashram in the late sixties. The Uttarakhand Wildlife Board on Wednesday decided to develop the run-down Chaurasi Kutia area to woo the band's followers, a sales trick to stand out in the crowd of tourism hawkers trying hard sell at travel marts.
Chief minister Harish Rawat, who presided over the meeting, hoped that tourists from around the 'globe will be able to rediscover Beatles' visit in Rishikesh'.
When the Beatles' fever ran high in the 60s, the members of the band--Ringo Star, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon--flew down to Rishikesh in February 1968 to learn transcendental meditation from its developer and spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They stayed at the ashram for nearly two months, penned some 48 songs.
Maharishi had taken the place on a 20-year lease from the Uttar Pradesh forest department to set up the ashram. After the lease expired, Maharishi shifted base to Holland. In 1983, the area was declared a national park that prevented any activity inside the area.
There are still many people in Dehradun who remember The Beatles.
Septuagenarian Ajit Singh runs a music store in Dehradun. Singh played Vichitra Veena, a stringed instrument, at Rishikesh on the occasion of the 25th birthday of George Harrison on February 25, 1968. He told HT the Beatles wrote several songs in Rishikesh which figured in The White Album and Yellow Submarine. George Harrison also composed a song Dehradun Dehradun. It was not released but is available online, he said.
"Beatles' fans from various parts of the world visit Rishikesh. No doubt, they (the Beatles) gave a new identity to Rishikesh," says Dinesh Kathait, who operates a rafting company in Rishikesh.
A hotel in England's Liverpool, named Hard Days Night, has a separate section showcasing the 1968 visit by the Beatles to Rishikesh.