Monday, February 2, 2009

The Beatles in India

Among Beatles facts about the band, the Beatles' trip to Rishikesh, India to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi looms large in the band's history. In The Beatles Anthology TV series, the group (including Lennon on tape) described the trip as a vacation of sorts that allowed them to rest for a while and get away from the grind of being a Beatle. George Harrison, of course, took Hinduism very seriously and remained a follower of Eastern mysticism until his death.

The Beatles were accompanied to India by their spouses, as well as by other singers and celebrities, such as Prudence and Mia Farrow, pop singer Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, roadie Mal Evans, and many others. The Indian retreat was located at the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganges River flows onto the Indian plain.

McCartney and Starr grew weary of the meditation sessions after only two weeks and returned to England. (Starr had a particular distaste for the food, packing canned chili before he even left). Lennon and McCartney said that they wrote many songs while in India, several of which ended up on The White Album. "Dear Prudence" was about the younger Farrow's shyness at the retreat.

Harrison and Lennon stayed on but left after being told by Lennon's friend, "Magic" Alex Mardas, that the Maharishi had made a sexual pass at Mia Farrow. Lennon would go on to write a song about the Maharishi, disguising the title and his sentiments in "Sexy Sadie." Cynthia Lennon was of the opinion that Mardas fabricated the story to diminish the influence of the Maharishi on the Beatles. Years later George agreed and is said to have apologized to the Maharishi, saying that all that ever really existed was a rumor. (Farrow said little about the experience except that she was startled by an embrace the Maharishi gave her while in a cave.) Donovan corroborated George's sentiment and added that he respected the Maharishi very much.

The Maharishi died on February 5, 2008, prompting Sir Paul McCartney to proclaim that he had fond, happy memories of the Maharishi. Ringo Starr echoed this sentiment, calling the Beatles' former guru a "wise man."


  1. Paul McCartney Donovan, Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow, Paul Horn, Moby and will perform a global benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 4, 2009, in support of the David Lynch Foundation’s international initiative to teach one million children Transcendental Meditation. Sir Paul is doing this concert because of his respect for Maharishi and the positive effects that the practice of Transcendental Meditation has had on his life. Contrary to years of misinformation about the Beatles episode with Maharishi in Rishikesh, Sir Paul is finally setting the record straight. By performing in this concert, his actions speak tons louder than the misinformation that has been spreading in the media for the past 40 years. Thank you for your wonderful article helping to correct this inaccuracy.

  2. I'd like to echo the previous blogger's sentiment. Sir Paul, George, Donovan, Prudence, and even Mia herself all have publicly acknowledged that the whole sad story was entirely fabricated. It's heartening to see the truth being published. And oh man, that concert at Radio City Music Hall -- what a treat! By the way, here is more info about Transcendental Meditation for anyone interested: See you in April in NY :D

  3. Damru and Isabella--thanks very much for your feedback! It is indeed fortunate that many have come forward to set the record straight.