Harrison's widow, Olivia, and his 23-year-old son, Dhani, were to be accompanied by two Hare Krishna devotees who performed Hindu rites on Harrison's ashes with the family in London, said Maha Mantra Das, a New Delhi spokesman for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
The society said its representatives in London had been in contact with Harrison's family. The family would not discuss any details or confirm any aspect of the reports, spokesman Gavin de Becker said in Los Angeles. Harrison, 58, died of cancer in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Britain's Press Association news agency reported that he was cremated hours after his death, and that his widow and son left for India with his ashes. 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 heavenward journey, and frees it from the cycle of reincarnation. "It is a great loss to us," said Vrijendra Nandan, a spokesman for the New Delhi chapter of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. "When he was leaving his body, our devotees were chanting songs of Krishna by his bedside. We give him all the credit for spreading our thoughts in Europe and the USA."
Arijit Das, another spokesman for the Hare Krishnas, said the Harrisons were expected to arrive before dawn Tuesday to scatter some of Harrison's ashes in the Ganges in the northern city of Varanasi. He said an urn would be kept at the Krishna temple for the public to offer their last respects before the ashes were immersed in the Ganges River at the Dashaswamedh ritual bathing area.
Hare Krishna officials said the ashes would also be sprinkled off Allahabad, where the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers converge - and according to Hindu tradition are joined by a third holy river, the mythical Saraswati.
Olivia Harrison has asked fans for a minute of meditation as a tribute to the musician. The Press Association reported his family was to scatter his ashes in India to coincide with that minute, which would take place at 3 a.m. Tuesday in India (4:30 p.m. EST). Subigra Das, the head of the Baluaghat Krishna temple in Allahabad, told The Associated Press that Harrison's widow and son would begin the Hindu rites at the temple, then walk six miles to the rivers. "We will take out a procession and the rituals will be completed in Sangam," said Das, referring to the site of the confluence of the three rivers.
Harrison, known as the "quiet Beatle," had a long, intensely intimate relationship with Indian mysticism and music. London-based Hare Krishna devotee Mukund Goswami introduced Harrison to the movement's founder, Srila Prabhupada. Harrison later donated one of his studios, spread over 14 acres in London, 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. Hindu mythology describes him as a mischievous character born into a cow herder's family. He was seen as a shrewd manipulator who plotted to kill exploiting rulers and mobilized farmers to defend their rights. Krishna's views on the immortality of the soul were compiled in one of India's holiest books of scriptures, 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. "We spent the day before with him, and even then he looked so peaceful, surrounded by love," Shankar said in a statement Friday.
In 1967, Harrison introduced the other Beatles to the teaching of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and all four took up transcendental meditation. Harrison and John Lennon traveled to Rishikesh, a holy city in northern India, to study with the Maharishi. "George's music was wild before he met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi," said Swami Shyam, a holy man drinking tea along the Ganges River in Rishikesh, who said he met Harrison at the Maharishi's ashram. "Some peace was infused into his music after he came to the ashram," Shyam said. "Bliss came much later, after he was associated with the Hare Krishna movement."