No sign of Beatle Harrison's ashes in Indian city

By | December 5, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Indian officials on Wednesday played down reports Beatles guitarist George Harrison’s ashes were to be immersed in India’s holy Ganges river.

“I think the whole story is a creation of the media,” Varanasi city police Inspector-General Vikram Singh told Reuters.

“You are running a wild goose chase.”

Harrison’s last rites have been shrouded in secrecy since a Hare Krishna official said on Monday the musician’s family was expected to visit the holy city of Varanasi for the ritual symbolizing the journey of his soul to eternal consciousness.

“As far as the administration is concerned, I don’t think there’s anything happening because normally any important people would seek official assistance even for a private ritual,” Singh said.

He added the local administration and air traffic control had received no communication about the arrival of any special flights nor were the family booked on any scheduled flights from Delhi or Bombay.

Harrison, a long-time devotee of the Hindu sect, died last week in Los Angeles at the age of 58 after battling cancer. He was cremated in a cardboard coffin hours after his death, in keeping with his adopted Eastern faith.

Hare Krishna official Arajit Das said he was unaware of plans to hold any ceremony.

“Whatever I can tell you is on the basis of newspaper reports because there’s no communication either from our ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) offices in Delhi or London who are equally clueless about any plans to bring Harrison’s ashes to Varanasi for immersion,” he said.

Das had previously told reporters Harrison’s family would be arriving to conduct the ceremony at dawn on Tuesday, but then later said he had been misinformed.

But the suggestion Harrison’s ashes might be scattered on the Ganges has sparked a media flurry in India, with local and foreign journalists flocking to Varanasi and surrounding areas.

On Tuesday, government official in Uttar Pradesh, the state in which Varanasi lies, had said the rites for the youngest of the Beatles quartet who revolutionized pop music in the 1960s may already have happened.

Varanasi has at least 80 “ghats” or steps leading down an embankment to the Ganges where the devout take sin-cleansing dips, make sacred offerings, cremate bodies and immerse the ashes.

Relatives normally sprinkle the ashes on the river’s surface before lowering the urn containing them gently into the water.

Harrison, who became a vegetarian and believed in reincarnation, was a member of the Hare Krishna movement.

He spent his last moments chanting “Hare Krishna” with his family next to him and pictures of the Hindu gods Rama and Krishna near his bed, British newspapers said.

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