George Harrison's ashes to be scattered in holy river in India


Tuesday, December 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



VARANASI, India (AP) _ Hare Krishna followers in India on Tuesday awaited the arrival of the ashes of former Beatle George Harrison, a fellow devotee whose family reportedly planned to scatter his remains in the holy Ganges River.

Officials of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness told The Associated Press that Harrison's widow, Olivia, and their 23-year-old son, Dhani were to arrive in India on Tuesday. By evening Tuesday, the Harrisons had not been spotted.

``There is a lot of secrecy,'' B.N. Das, a spokesman for the Krishna society in New Delhi, said Tuesday. ``They are expected today. The ceremony will held today or tomorrow in Varanasi.''

The family would not confirm any aspect of the reports, spokesman Gavin de Becker said in Los Angeles on Monday.

Harrison, 58, died of cancer in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Hours after his death, he was cremated at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park, a cemetery worker said. Harrison's body was dressed in traditional Indian robes and two of his closest friends, both Hare Krishnas, chanted quietly at his side, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

In Harrison's hometown of Liverpool, England, more than 1,000 people attended a vigil in his memory, standing silent for a minute on Monday night as requested by Olivia Harrison.

``George was a truly gifted musician. But he was much more than that. His ideals and his love of peace inspired countless thousands,'' said Liverpool mayor Gerry Scott. ``His loss will be deeply felt but his vision will live on.''

In a tradition dating back more than 3,500 years, Hindus are cremated on riversides and their ashes immersed in holy waters. Hindus believe this ritual releases the soul from the body for its journey toward Heaven, and frees it from the cycle of reincarnation.

Ram Shankar Tripathi, the chief priest of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, said Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar once brought Harrison to his home.

``Harrison had a loving personality and ardent curiosity about the sacred city of Varanasi and India's cultural heritage,'' Tripathi said. ``He appreciated our religion. His ashes will be scattered in the holy river and he will achieve salvation.''

Harrison, known as the ``quiet Beatle,'' had a long, intimate relationship with Indian music, religion and culture.

London-based Hare Krishna devotee Mukunda Goswami introduced Harrison to the movement's founder, Srila Prabhupada. Harrison later donated one of his studios to the Hare Krishnas. In one of his most popular songs, ``My Sweet Lord,'' Harrison chants ``Hare Krishna.''

Krishna is one of the most popular Hindu gods. His views on the immortality of the soul were compiled in one of Hinduism's holiest books, the Bhagwad Gita.

In 1966, after the Beatles had stopped touring, Harrison came to India to study the sitar with Ravi Shankar. Shankar, whom Harrison helped make famous during the Beatles visits to India, was present during Harrison's final hours in California.

In 1967, Harrison introduced the other Beatles to the teaching of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and all four took up transcendental meditation in Rishikesh, another holy city in northern India.