When Pandit Ravi Shankar taught a Beatle on a houseboat

When Pandit Ravi Shankar taught a Beatle on a houseboat

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Srinagar The Dal Lake in Srinagar was the perfect setting for one of music history's more famous lessons, where the guru was a legend of Indian classical music and his student a rock star.

The story begins in July 1966 when the Beatles first arrive in India. Already in love with Pandit Ravi Shankar's music, George Harrison heads straight to Rikki Ram's, a music shop in Delhi's Connaught Place to buy himself a sitar. Later that year, Harrison returns to India with his wife to seek sitar lessons from Panditji.

Mobbed by fans in Delhi and Bombay,Harrison and Pandit Ravi Shankar fly to Srinagar and find the peace and anonymity they are looking for in a houseboat on  the tranquil waters of the Dal.

In the months after, Harrison would often speak of his sitar lessons in Srinagar, sending hundreds of  die-hard Beatles fans backpacking to Kashmir, in search of the houseboat that he had stayed in.  

The original no longer exists but its owners, who run Clermont Houseboats, have now recreated  it, complete with the Visitors' Book which had been signed by both Panditji and Harrison.

Deeply saddened by the news of Ravi Shankar's death, GM Bhatt, the owner of the Clermont , recalls the days the two musicians spent on his houseboat:   'I remember there would be music heard from that houseboat from the crack of dawn, right through the day. We organised shikara rides for both of them. I knew Panditji was an eminent classical musician but I only realised how famous George Harrison was much later when people would come looking for the houseboat he stayed in."

It's widely believed that it was his time in Sringar, watching the stunning  sunsets on the Dal,  that inspired Harrison to compose these lines: "And the time will come when you see we're all one/ And life flows on within you and without you."  They would become part of the iconic song 'Within You Without You' from the album 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band',  released shortly after the Beatles' visit to India - an album which was also a tribute to  Harrison's guru, Pandit Ravi Shankar

Story First Published: December 13, 2012 14:59 IST

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