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British exhibition traces Indian links of The Beatles

The Beatles in India exhibition explores the band’s stay at a Rishikesh ashram, a “relatively secretive episode” in their story.

world Updated: Feb 14, 2018 20:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Paul Saltzman, who photographed the iconic group photo of The Beatles.
Paul Saltzman, who photographed the iconic group photo of The Beatles.(HT Photo)

On February 15, 1968, The Beatles visited India at the invitation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Fifty years on, an exhibition on the band at a Liverpool museum explores their association with India, seeking to recreate the colours, sounds and smells of the Rishikesh ashram where four Beatles stayed.

Called Beatles in India, the exhibition at Albert Dock explores this “relatively secretive episode” in the band’s story. It includes imagery and personal accounts of the band’s associates, some of whom had also travelled to Rishikesh. The exhibition is part of the permanent display in The Beatles Story museum, which is part of the popular Beatles circuit visited by thousands of fans from all over the world.

Among the exhibits is the “Shyama” sitar used by Ravi Shankar, sourced from Rikhi Ram, a popular New Delhi-based store of music instruments. It has been loaned to The Beatles Story by the Ravi Shankar Foundation.

Ravi Shankar had taught guitarist George Harrison how to play the sitar, and the Beatle helped popularise the use of Indian instruments in pop music of the 1960s. Harrison, who believed he had a spiritual connection with India, had donated land for a major Hindu temple in Hertfordshire in 1973.

Pattie Boyd, Harrison’s former wife, recounted the 1968 visit to a group of visiting journalists on Tuesday as a “special, magical time” and said that at that time, it was not apparent that the band would break up after leaving India.

Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s former wife , recalls their visit to Rishikesh. (HT Photo)

“They (the four Beatles) were all together. They welcomed me in their group. It really was a magical time— forming many memories and of course an abundance of great Beatles music. I look forward to sharing thoughts and memories as part of the exhibition,” she said.

Jenny Boyd, her sister who had given up modelling after discovering meditation during the visit, also shared her memories.

Also present at the press preview was Canadian sound engineer Paul Saltzman, who was at the ashram and photographed the four Beatles and their associates at various moments. A life-size image of his famous group photograph with Mahesh Yogi has been installed at the exhibition.

“I was 24 then and was there to nurse a broken heart through meditation. The Beatles welcomed me in their group. The meditation technique I learned there changed my life — I still meditate,” he said.

Diane Glover of The Beatles Story, who visited Rishikesh in 2017, said: “The 1968 visit was an important time of reflection for The Beatles as their manager, Brian Epstein, had sadly passed away in the summer of 1967, and they escaped from their fans and media in search of spirituality.”