The Beatles in Rishikesh -- through Saltzman's eyes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Forty years ago, Paul Saltzman arrived at the gates of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh hoping to find solace for a broken heart.

Members of The Beatles pose with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in Rishikesh, India in this February 1968 photograph. REUTERS/Handout

But he wasn’t allowed in -- The Beatles were staying over.

Undeterred, the 24-year-old traveller from Canada camped outside for eight days, till the pop group heard of Saltzman’s plight and let him enter the ashram.

Saltzman’s accidental brush with The Beatles -- Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr -- in February 1968 was captured in a series of photographs he took at the ashram.

The images, on exhibit at New York’s Morrison Hotel gallery this month, depict the Fab Four enjoying time away from the public eye and months of intense touring and recording.

“They are a reflection of their calm and peacefulness while I was with them,” Saltzman told Reuters. “They took me into their group on a personal basis and I didn’t want anything from them. I don’t have any photos of me with them. I simply didn’t think of asking.”

The documentary filmmaker forgot about the rare photos till the turn of the century, when they were published in a book “Beatles in Rishikesh”.

Saltzman says the photos, taken by an unprofessional eye, portray The Beatles during what are arguably their most creative moments -- “writing 48 songs in seven weeks”.

He recalls his conversations with his favourite Beatle, Harrison, who had been “profoundly impacted by India, Indian culture and meditation.”

“...I kept him company while he practised the sitar and talked of life and meditation. He said much but the two things that impacted me the most were ‘I get higher meditating than I ever did on drugs.”

“He said to me ‘like we’re The Beatles after all, aren’t we? We have all the money you could ever dream of. We have all the fame you could ever wish for but it isn’t love, it isn’t health, it isn’t peace inside, is it?’”

Six of Saltzman’s photographs on show in New York are being shown at an exhibition for the first time.

But his personal favourite is the one he took of Lennon.

“If I had to pick only one it would be ...John with a finger to his ear. To me the look of calm in his eyes both present and very far away at the same time is remarkable.”