Published in the Diwali Issue of Gujarat Samachar/ Asian Voice, 2021.

The Beatles in India.
After two devastating World Wars Britain entered an optimistic era in the 1960’s. The wartime hardships were coming to an end. Food rationing had been phased out and compulsory conscription to the army came to an end. A new generation of young adults were eager to taste the fruits of freedom. Young people began to stand up for their beliefs, feminism became a powerful force spearheading women’s rights. Music was the driving force that gave release to the young people longing for a life of fun and carefree existence. The stage was set for the appearance of the most famous Rock Band the Beatles to appear on the stage. Four young men namely John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star and George Harrison formed the Band in Liverpool in 1960 and became the most famous Musicians in History with 600 million records sold. An era of free love, drugs and counterculture spread like wildfire. Songs like, ‘All you need is Love'(1967) and ‘Give Peace a Chance'(1969) articulated the feelings of millions of young people. John and Yoko Lennon’s, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ became a national anthem for those opposing America’s war with Vietnam.
To add to this extraordinary times there arrived a spiritual Guru from India by the name of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi was giving a talk at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane on 24 August 1967. Encouraged by Pattie Boyd, the spouse of George Harrison, all four Beatles went to listen to the Maharishi. According to Pattie they were spellbound by the talk. Maharishi invited the Beatles to a retreat he had organised in Bangor, Wales. They attended the retreat for a weekend. In 1968 at the height of their worldwide fame George Harrison persuaded John, Paul and Ringo to go to India and visit the Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges. Also present at the Ashram were actress Mia Farrow who had just had a divorce from Frank Sinatra, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and folk singer Donovan. The Beatles spent their time in Rishikesh eating vegetarian food, learning Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation as well as writing and composing songs around forty of them. From the time he started preaching in 1959 Maharishi had talked about the Vedic derived TM which could bring about a peaceful world. He claimed that world peace would come if as little as 1% of the world population practiced TM. In 1975 the results of the first scientific research on TM were announced. There was a statistically significant reduction in crime rates in 12 American cities when the threshold of 1% of each city’s population practicing the TM technique was reached. According to Paul McCartney TM helped wean the Beatles from LSD and inspired them to write new songs. In 2009 Paul commented that TM was a gift the Beatles had received from the Maharishi at a time they were looking for something to stabilise them, At another time Paul had said that it was great to be famous and rich, but what was it all for. Paul has been a passionate campaigner of vegetarianism and along with a vegetarian diet he does his favourite Yoga posture of Headstand to keep healthy. Amongst the very famous people practicing TM are Oprah Winfrey and Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dallas.
The arrival of another spiritual giant from India.
On Sunday September 19, 1965 at the age of 69 Abhay Charan Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada arrived in New York with the aim of bringing the whole of India’s spiritual and cultural heritage to Americans and to all of the world. After years of struggle Srila Prabhupada’s Sankirtan movement gathered pace and he instructed some of his devotees to go to London and start a preaching Centre. In 1968 three American married couples, Gurudas and Yamuna Devi Dasi, Syamsundara Dasa and Malati Devi Dasi(along with their baby daughter Sarasvati) and Mukund Dasa and Janaki Devi arrived in London to fulfil the wishes of their spiritual master. Syamsundara was able to make contact with George Harrison and he invited the devotees to record the Hare Krishna Mantra in his studio. The Mantra became a big hit and was featured in the then very famous programme, ‘ Top of the Pops’. Hare Krishna’s became a household name in the UK! George Harrison asked Dhananjay Das, who happens to be my friend, to find a big place on the outskirts of London so as to start a big Centre for the growing movement. A 17 acre Manor House was bought in 1973 Hertfordshire. George Harrison gifted the Manor to the Hare Krishna movement. At one time George Harrison chanted non-stop while driving from France to Portugal. Before his death Swami Prabhpada gave his finger ring to George Harrison in recognition of his great service to the movement.
The Fight to Save the Manor
Beginning from 1981 the local Hertsmere Council began to put restrictions on the Manor which accelerated to the point that they wanted the Manor shut down. I was privileged to be on the first committee formed to save the Manor under the leadership of the then president of the temple Akhandadhi Das. Frank Ward, a Hertsmere Councillor who was also on the committee became one of the most outspoken supporters of the campaign.
The immediate concern was to raise funds to fight the campaign. I suggested a charity walk which would serve three purposes. It would mobilize the Hindu community, it would bring awareness of the issue to many more people and raise funds. A very successful walk took place and a substantial amount of money was raised.
At times it looked like the campaign to save the temple will not succeed and the devotees were dejected. On one such occasion the devotees went to meet C.B Patel, publisher of the Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar. CB said giving up cannot be an option for followers of Krishna and gave them his full backing and the publications took up the cause which brought life back to the campaign and galvanized the community. Devotees still remember CB for his unflinching support. A huge number of other people helped the campaign whom I am not mentioning here as the topic is different except Pranabandhu Das and other devotees who fasted for days outside the headquarters of the Liberal Party and the 38,000 people who took part in a demonstration to save the Manor. Many of the brave devotees courted arrest In 1996 the Manor won the campaign to save the temple and a road was built to bypass the village of Aldenham which was the center of contention for the local villagers. The Hare Krishna movement has now spread all over the world and the devotees are eager to bring the chanting of the holy names to every village, town and city as desired by Swami Prabhpada. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi also wanted the Transcendental Meditation to be practiced in every village, town and city and his disciples are also working at it.
Nitin Mehta
13 October 2021.
www.nitinmehta.co.uk .

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