Magical Mystery Tour : The Beatles in India

With critically acclaimed biographies of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, Elton John and
Mick Jagger, Philip Norman can probably be called the Shakespeare of the music industry. It was a
beautiful morning with Meeta Pandit’s music and a vibrant inauguration of the ZEE Jaipur Literature
Festival; it got even better as Norman unfolded the hidden treasures of the Beatles’ tour to India, about
fifty years ago.

Ajay Bose recalled a teenage Indian girl fainting when John Lennon blew a kiss to her; “it was THE
BEATLES who introduced rock music in India while the government saw the band as a bunch of CIA
spies.” However, the band changed its position in the eyes of the government, as was seen in a video of
the Indian ministers singing songs by the Beatles.
Philip Norman further added “They had an impact all over the world, Rolling Stones were asked to cut
their hair short just like The Beatles while the band imitated Paul McCartney’s style by meditating,
smoking pot, wearing shirts and growing moustaches like him whereas McCartney grew the moustache to
cover a wound on his upper lip which he got when he fell off a scooter.”
Apart from their growing influence on the world, India influenced them and their relationship with India
changed because of Pandit Ravi Shankar and their Maharishi. They travelled all over India from
Rishikesh (where they visited the Maharishi’s Ashram), Srinath, Ajankya, Elora to Benaras. It was
George Harrison ‘the quiet Beatle’ or the underdog whose growing friendship with his guru Pandit Ravi
Shankar brought the band, in search for themselves and the meaning of life, to India; Pandit Ravi
Shankar, was the virtuoso sitar maestro who introduced Indian classical music to the world and inspired
the Sixties “psychedelic”; sound through his collaboration with the Beatles.
“Visiting Rishikesh was not just a vacation for them but a way of finding themselves, spirituality and
breaking the shackles of stardom. Rishikesh delayed the breaking of the band rather than acting as a
catalyst to it as opposed to what most people think; it was the Maharishi who heard through them and
recognized that John wrote Help!(1965) indicating his suicidal thoughts.” said Norman.
He further added “During their India tour, their car kept breaking down and they had to take lifts in the
countryside while they thought to themselves it was the Maharishi’s black magic.”
While The Beatles kept spreading their magic across generations with their music, India left a deep mark
on the rock band as they travelled through the country in search for the magical mystery that entailed.



By Anushka Yadav.

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