Beatles fest to mark Rishikesh visit

Lucknow: The Uttarakhand government will celebrate 50 years of The Beatles' visit to Rishikesh in March at a yoga festival it organises on the remains of the ashram that had spawned one of the most productive periods of the British rock band's song-writing.

The three-day The Beatles Festival from March 5 will be held at Chaurasi Kutiya, once the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and now turned into a tourist spot by the government. Rock bands and other musicians are expected to perform at the festival.

It has been decided that the entry fee at the International Yoga Festival, the annual event of the state government from March 1 to 7, will be reduced to Rs 300 from Rs 600 for foreigners and to Rs 100 from Rs 150 for Indians during the three days of The Beatles event.

Satpal Maharaj, the BJP-ruled hill state's tourism minister, told reporters that the forest department, which owns Chaurasi Kutiya, had agreed to the proposals.

"The International Yoga Festival will be held as usual at the Kutiya (literally meaning hut) from March 1 to 7. We have earmarked the last three days of the festival to celebrate 50 years of The Beatles' visit to Rishikesh," Maharaj said.

In February 1968, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison had arrived at Mahesh Yogi's ashram along with their wives, girlfriends and assistants and a big media entourage to learn advanced transcendental meditation.

They did not, however, stay for the scheduled three months and left in batches in the aftermath of rumours of Mahesh Yogi's inappropriate behaviour towards his female students. Beatles' biographers have also cited financial disagreements with the him.

During their stay at the ashram, The Beatles had penned many of their immortal songs - 30 by one count and "48 songs in seven weeks" by others.

Lennon had said: "We wrote about 30 new songs between us. Paul must have done about a dozen. George says he's got six, and I wrote 15."

Many of the songs became part of the album The Beatles, aka The White Album, while others appeared in Abbey Road and solo records. Several of the songs had eastern musical influences.

A Beatles historian of Uttarakhand who didn't wish to be identified, said: "Although the government lacks seriousness in exploring the days of the rock band in the temple town of Rishikesh, we are happy that it is ready to organise The Beatles Festival. I am told that some Indian musicians and singers will perform there."

According to the historian, "some surviving members of the group and some veteran Hollywood stars who were somehow related to them or the Maharishi could visit the ashram in their personal capacity" during the festival.

He said The Beatles Story, a museum in Liverpool, had planned to display some items the band members used at Mahesh Yogi's ashram.

"It (the exhibition) will be inaugurated at The Beatles Story in the second week of February and a yearlong festival will start there. I believe many people would like to visit Rishikesh in March after seeing those items at the Liverpool museum," the historian said.

The ashram, spread over 15 acres, borders Rishikesh in Dehradun, Yamkeshwar in Pauri and Narendra Nagar in Tehri.

Mahesh Yogi had taken the forestland on a lease of 20 years in 1961, but the agreement was not renewed. However, the ashram remained in the possession of his disciples till 2003, when the forest department took it over.


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