Harrison's Family Head for India to Immerse Ashes

Reuters/December 3, 2001

Varanasi, India -- George Harrison's family plan to immerse the ashes of the Beatle guitarist who died last week in the sacred Ganges river following a private ceremony, a spokesman for the Hare Krishna movement said on Monday.

But the spokesman Mahamantra Das said Harrison's widow, Olivia and son Dhani wished to make the visit to India and the ceremony at the holy city of Varanasi "very private."

"They don't want disclose their identities," he told Reuters in New Delhi, adding that Harrison's family was accompanied by two members of the Hare Krishna movement.

He said Hare Krishna members around the world had been praying "for the soul" of the musician who became a Hare Krishna follower and believed in reincarnation.

"Harrison was our dear devotee," said the spokesman for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement.

According to the tenets of Hare Krishna, which is a Hindu sect, the immersion of the ashes is symbolic of the soul's journey toward eternal consciousness.

The guitarist, who died at the age of 58 last week in Los Angeles, was cremated in a cardboard coffin.

Das said the movement had been told by its London office that Harrison's family was flying to India for the immersion of his ashes in Varanasi.

Some of Harrison's ashes would also to be immersed at two other holy sites in Allahabad and Brindavan in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Das said.

British newspapers reported that Harrison's family planned to travel by a private plane from Los Angeles where Harrison died last Thursday after a long battle with cancer.

Harrison died at a private residence in Los Angeles with his wife and Dhani, 24, at his side.

British newspapers said on Sunday that Harrison spent his last moments chanting "Hare Krishna" and told his friends and family it helped him "see God."

Died with Hindu Gods Near His Bed

Two devotees from the Hare Krishna movement were also nearby as he died and the pictures of the Hindu gods Rama and Krishna were near his bed, the newspapers said.

Through his friendships with Indian musician Ravi Shankar and controversial guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Harrison developed an interest in Eastern culture. He learned to play the sitar, a 21-string guitar-like instrument.

Shankar spent the day before Harrison died with the musician.

Harrison's Indian connections left a deep mark on the music of the Beatles and his solo career, which evolved in range and innovation over the years.

The guitarist used the sitar in Beatles' hits like "Norwegian wood" and "Rain."

"Within you, without you," a lesser known song from the landmark album, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band," is close to orthodox north Indian classical music.

In a solo career later, Harrison sang "My Sweet Lord," a prayerful tribute to Lord Krishna, the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god of protection.

The song, featuring the "Hare Krishna" chant, is a symbol of the Bhakti -- devotion -- movement according to which the chanting of the mantra purifies a soul and takes it closer to God.

Note: George Harrison ultimately left nothing to the Krishna organization ISKCON.

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