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A Very Private Moment

Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of the family of the late Beatle George Harrison on Tuesday, as Hare Krishna devotees backed away from earlier claims that they would spread his ashes in India's holy Ganges River.

Harrison, long a devotee of Hinduism, was due to make his final return to India for an ancient ritual that Hindus believe would allow Harrison's soul to begin its approach to heaven.

Officials of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness told the AP and other media Monday that Harrison's widow and son were to arrive in India before dawn on Tuesday.

Britain's Press Association also reported that the spreading of Harrison's ashes would coincide with Monday's one minute of meditation - 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, 9:30 p.m. London time - that Harrison's family suggested fans around the world observe in his memory.

Arijit Das, vice president of the society in the northern holy city of Varanasi, told the AP on Tuesday there had been a "miscommunication" on the timing of the Harrisons' arrival.

"I got some prank calls about the timings and there was a miscommunication which I passed on to a section of the media," Das said. "I don't have any idea about the timings, but I do have information that his ashes are coming to Varanasi."

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, Maha Mantra Das, a New Delhi spokesman for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, said Monday.

The society said that 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.

The president of the New Delhi chapter of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the formal title of the Hare Krishnas, told the AP on Tuesday that the Harrison family was asking for privacy while in India.

"The family wants it to be a private affair. It is the saddest moment of their life," said Kartu Das at the Hare Krishna temple, where devotees held prayers in honor of Harrison and chanted before his portrait.

Harrison, 58, died of cancer in Los Angeles on Thursday.

He was cremated hours after his death at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park, a cemetery worker said. He was dressed in traditional Indian robes and two of his closest friends, both Hare Krishnas, chanted quietly at his side, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

In Harrison's hometown of Liverpool, England, more than 1,000 people attended a vigil in his memory, standing silent for a minute on Monday night, as requested by Olivia Harrison.

"George was a truly gifted musician. But he was much more than that. His ideals and his love of peace inspired countless thousands," said Liverpool mayor Gerry Scott. "His loss will be deeply felt but his vision will live on."

In New York, aout three hundred people stood in silence Monday afternoon, meditating for a minute at Strawberry Fields, the area of Central Park which is a memorial to John Lennon but has attracted Harrison fans since his passing.

"His music made people look for truth on their own path, like he did," said Alfred Abad, who came from Elizabethtown, N.J., to attend the moment of silence in Central Park. "He was looking for real peace, and he found it in his music."

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.

Das had said Monday that the Harrisons were expected to arrive Tuesday to scatter some of his ashes in the Ganges in Varanasi. 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.

Harrison, known as the "quiet Beatle," had a long, intensely intimate relationship with Indian music, religion and culture.

London-based Hare Krishna devotee Mukunda 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 the mischievous son of a cow herder. He was seen as a shrewd manipulator who stood up to exploiting rulers and mobilized farmers to defend their rights.

Krishna's views on the immortality of the soul were compiled in one of Hinduism's holiest books, 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.

In 1967, Harrison introduced the other Beatles to the teaching of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and all four took up transcendental meditation in Rishikesh, another holy city in northern India, to study with the Maharishi.

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