The Beatles in India
On February 15th 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison flew to India with Patti and Cynthia, along with Pattie's sister Jenny. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jane Asher and Maureen Starr followed them over on February 19th. The band had been invited by the Indian spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to study transcendental meditation. Beatles friend and roadie Mal Evans had travelled to India a few days prior with the band's luggage to arrange their transport and accommodation.
"Our arrival at Delhi went very much unheralded. We were bundled unmolested and travel-weary into three battered, ancient Indian taxis without all the usual fuss and frantic rush. It was wonderfully refreshing and stress free. After alighting from the taxis, we were shown to our living quarters. They consisted of a number of stone-built bungalows, set in groups along a rough road. Flowers and shrubs surrounded them and were carefully tended by an Indian gardener whose work speed was dead slow, and stop." - Cynthia Lennon
During their flight Paul and Ringo decided to become vegetarians. Ringo, slightly wary of foreign food, packed an entire suitcase of Heinz beans tins which he brought to India.
"On the flight over, we, Paul and I, decided to go the whole way, and become vegetarians. I shall still eat eggs, but that's it. That's about all in that line. I suppose it would be better to call us 'fruit-atarians' than anything else. We all think it is a lot healthier than eating meat, anyway." - Ringo Starr
After meeting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967, The Beatles became interested in learning more about transcendental meditation. They had planned to visit India in 1967, but after the death of Brian Epstein that was put on hold; instead they delayed the trip to work on Magical Mystery Tour. While in India, The Beatles stayed at Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh until April 22nd, when they became disillusioned with the spiritual leader.
It was an extremely creative and fertile period for the band. They wrote the bulk of the songs that would later appear on The White Album during their time in India. The Beatles were also joined by Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Donovan, plus Mia and Prudence Farrow.
On April 12th 1968, having been convinced Maharishi was seeking sexual favour from some of the female members of the camp, John Lennon and George Harrison decided to leave, along with Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd.
"A couple of weeks before we were due to leave, Magic Alex accused the Maharishi of behaving improperly with a young American girl, who was a fellow student. Without allowing the Maharishi an opportunity to defend himself, John and George chose to believe Alex and decided we must all leave.
I was upset. I had seen Alex with the girl, who was young and impressionable, and I wondered whether he - whom I had never once seen meditating - was being rather mischievous. I was surprised that John and George had both chosen to believe him. It was only when John and I talked later that he told me he had begun to feel disenchanted with the Maharishi's behaviour. He felt that, for a spiritual man, the Maharishi had too much interest in public recognition, celebrities and money." - Cynthia Lennon
"There was a big hullabaloo about [Maharishi] trying to rape Mia Farrow or trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that. And we went down to him and we'd stayed up all night discussing, was it true or not true. And when George started thinking it might be true, I thought, 'Well it must be true, 'cause if George is doubting it, there must be something in it.' So we went to see Maharishi, the whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. And I was the spokesman - as usual, when the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader, whatever the scene was, when it came to the nitty gritty I had to do the speaking. And I said, 'We're leaving.'
'Why?' Hee-hee, all that shit. And I said, 'Well if you're so cosmic, you'll know why. He was always intimating, and there were all his right hand men intimating that he did miracles. He said, 'I don't know why, you must tell me.' And I just kept saying, 'You know why' - and he gave me a look like, 'I'll kill you, bastard.' He gave me such a look, and I knew then when he looked at me, because I'd called his bluff. And I was a bit rough to him." - John Lennon
While they were waiting to leave John Lennon began to sing and write Sexy Sadie; a direct attack on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song would later appear on The Beatles' White Album, along with most of the content written during their stay in India.
"That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: 'They're deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can't escape from this madman's camp.' And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, 'It's black magic, black magic. They're gonna keep you here forever.' I must have got away because I'm here." - John Lennon
"John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: 'Maharishi, what have you done?' and I said, 'You can't say that, it's ridiculous.' I came up with the title of Sexy Sadie and John changed 'Maharishi' to 'Sexy Sadie'. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the south of India and spent another few weeks there." - George Harrison