Hare Krishna officials insist the ashes of the late Beatle are still destined for the holy Ganges River which flows by this north Indian city. But they now concede they don't know when.
The last of the paparazzi, foreign tourists and Harrison fans were packing up Tuesday. Orthodox Hindus believe that ashes must be sprinkled in one of India's holy rivers within 13 days of death. Wednesday marks the 13th day after Harrison's death.
Harrison, who died of cancer on Nov. 29, was a follower of the Hare Krishna, a sect of Hinduism. Two of his closest friends, both Hare Krishnas, were at his bedside chanting the day he died.
Harrison made many visits to India to study the sitar under Ravi Shankar and transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh.
The day after his death and cremation, the Krishna society announced that the Beatle's late lead guitarist wished to have his ashes immersed in the Ganges, Hindu's holiest river. Hindus believe this rite breaks the cycle of reincarnation and allows the soul to begin its final journey toward heaven.
Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New Delhi and Varanasi told journalists to prepare for his ashes, insisting they were arriving any hour.
Media and fans from around the world flocked to Varanasi, Allahabad, Rishikesh and other holy cities.
On Tuesday, a senior official of the International Society for Hare Krishna said the ashes were not on their way, just yet.
"The program has been postponed," he told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They will come with ashes and scatter them in the sacred Ganges River, secretly."
The official said the next date was Jan. 14, an auspicious day in Hinduism. Moderate Hindus believe that ashes may be sprinkled in one of India's holy rivers within a year of death.
"They will come secretly to avoid the media blitz, probably during the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti," he said.
The Sunday Times in London reported that Harrison's widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, had obtained an export license in Los Angeles for Harrison's ashes. The license named Lugano, Switzerland, as the destination, the Sunday Times reported.
The paper explained that the musician had moved into a 14-room villa in Lugano this summer. It is close to a clinic where Harrison had reportedly sought radiotherapy treatment for cancer.
Many still look to Varanasi, to which Harrison had made a quiet trip three months ago and pledged $1 million for a new Hare Krishna temple. Life is getting back to normal here, though some are disappointed Harrison's ashes are not yet among them.
"The ashes of important and famous people re-establishes our faith in the religion and tradition," said Internet cafe owner Brijesh Pathak, whose business had been booming. "That is why we all had been eagerly waiting for the event."
By Prajnan Bhattacharya
© MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed