Many of the pictures we have of The Beatles in India were taken by a gentleman named Paul Saltzman, a (then) young Canadian who just happened to find himself in Rishikesh at the same time as the Fab Four. (That’s him above with one of his photos of John and Paul.) An amateur photographer (and later a filmmaker), he befriended The Beatles and took numerous shots of them, the negatives of which sat in a box in his closet until the late 90s.

But today they are in pretty wide circulation, and he has published several iterations of a coffee-table book called The Beatles in Rishikesh and then The Beatles in India. You can get it for as little as $22.48 or pay $875 for the ultra-super-mega-deluxe edition including a DVD and CD and “encased in a 18.5″ × 14″ clamshell box wrapped in Japanese Asahi silk.” If you’re at all interested I encourage you to check it out; he is an evocative writer as well as a skilled (and lucky) photographer.

This excerpt is from the version that I have, a 2000 printing of The Beatles in Rishikesh:

The Beatles and their group ate at the table by the cliff, shaded by a flat thatched roof covered with vines and held up by white wooden poles. Breakfasts were cereal, toast, juice, tea, and coffee. Lunch and dinners were soup, plain basmati rice, and bland but nutritious vegetarian dishes with almost no spices.

And let me just jump in here to say that this casts some doubt on the idea that overly spicy food was one of the factors that caused Ringo to leave. OK, back to Saltzman:

Sometimes I ate with them. Crows settled in the trees nearby, and monkeys gathered on the flat roof of the nearby kitchen, both waiting for an opportunity to grab a scrap of food someone might leave behind. Occasionally, a vulture circled lazily overhead, hanging in the updraft, pausing on its way back across the river to the nonvegetarian side of the Ganges, beyond Rishikesh.

One afternoon, Donovan, Mal, John, George, Cynthia, Jane, Pattie, Pattie’s sister Jenny, and I…

And yeah, he’s doing a little name-dropping here; but then wouldn’t you?

…were sitting around chatting, talking about India, the Maharishi’s teachings, and the beautiful ashram surroundings. Some were relieved to be in the lovely warmth, glad to be missing “the usual British winter.” We talked briefly about meditation, in general agreeing that more than one voice would play in one’s thoughts and the key was to simply go back to one’s mantra. John said, “Not so easy, really. I often have music playing in me head.”


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