George Harrison flies to India for sitar lessons
On September 14th, 1966, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd flew to India for a six week visit. George wanted to get sitar lessons from legendary Indian musician Ravi Shankar, and also study yoga. Harrison first met Shankar back in June of 1966, when the sitar virtuoso visited London.
The Beatles had just finished their North American tour on August 29th at Candlestick Park, freeing them up to pursue other artistic and philosophical endeavors of their own.
John Lennon was busy filming How I Won the War in Germany and Spain and Paul and Ringo were doing their own thing.
Harrison had infused Indian sounds into The Beatles' music in 1965 with the opening of Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown), and wanted to further his command of the complex Indian instrument.
Pattie and George stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay under the unassuming names Mr and Mrs Sam Wells. Shankar gave George lessons on the sitar, but because of the seating position and posture used while playing the sitar George complained of sore hips. Ravi called in a Yoga teacher to instruct George on some exercises to help with this.
"It was a fantastic time. I would go out and look at temples and go shopping. We travelled all over and eventually went up to Kashmir and stayed on a houseboat in the middle of the Himalayas. It was incredible. I'd wake up in the morning and a little Kashmiri fellow, Mr Butt, would bring us tea and biscuits and I could hear Ravi in the next room, practising...
It was the first feeling I'd ever had of being liberated from being a Beatle or a number. It comes back to The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan: 'I am not a number.' In our society we tend, in a subtle way, to number ourselves and each other, and the government does so, too. 'What's your Social Security number?' is one of the first things they ask you in America. To suddenly find yourself in a place where it feels like 5000 BC is wonderful." - George Harrison