Jerry Garcia's Ashes Reportedly Sprinkled Into The Ganges
Apr. 08, 1996
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ In India's holy city of Rishikesh, where Hindu sages and pilgrims travel for salvation, Jerry Garcia's widow reportedly sprinkled the ashes of the Grateful Dead leader into the Ganges River following a lunar eclipse.
Deborah Garcia and Bob Weir, a member of the legendary American band, waded into the swirling waters of India's holy river and released the ashes as dawn broke Thursday, London's The Independent newspaper reported today.
During the ceremony, Weir _ Jerry Garcia's best friend _ prayed that he would ``travel to the stars,'' the report said.
The ceremony was held secretly near Rishikesh on the upper Ganges because Mrs. Garcia feared that if word leaked out, thousands of ``Deadhead'' fans in the United States and Europe might have flocked to India and spoiled the private occasion, the Independent said.
``This must have been a very secret visit because even we, the police, were not aware of it,'' Rishikesh police officer Ranbir Singh said in a telephone interview today.
Earlier news reports had said that Jerry Garcia's ashes were likely to be scattered at sea off Marin County, Calif.
The Ganges, or the ``Ganga'' as Indians call it, flows from the Himalayas through northern India and into its plains. In India, where many Hindus worship the cow, people call the glacier where the river begins ``Gomukh,'' or cow's mouth.
For centuries, millions of Hindu pilgrims have traveled to Rishikesh to pray in its temples and ashrams, or to immerse the ashes of their dead relatives into the Ganges. Many believe that will free them from the endless cycle of reincarnation.
Rishikesh became internationally famous in the 1960s when the Beatles traveled there with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Marijuana still grows wildly along many trails through the wooded region.
Today, thousands of Western tourists travel to Rishikesh to race down the rapids of the Ganges in rubber boats and kayaks.
Mrs. Garcia and Weir reportedly conducted the ceremony on the upper Ganges about 155 miles north of New Delhi.
The Independent said other Grateful Dead members who stayed behind in California had written farewell messages to Jerry.
It quoted witnesses as saying that Weir and Mrs. Garcia _ the guitarist's fourth wife _ poured some of Garcia's ashes on each message before setting it adrift in the currents. Mr. Weir's own paper was blank when he sprinkled on his best friend's ashes.
The newspaper said Weir's bare chest was garlanded with marigolds as he stood waist deep in the Ganges and uttered the words: ``May you have peace, Jerry, and travel to the stars.''
Earlier, during the eclipse, Weir had picked up a guitar and begun strumming ``Friend of the Devil'' but was overcome by grief and could not finish the song, the newspaper said.
In New Delhi, India's capital, Mrs. Garcia and Weir stayed in the five-star Taj Palace Hotel, where they had arrived March 31. She checked out Wednesday night, Weir on Sunday night, and both were believed to have left India by today.
``They were just like any other guests, they did not give any special instruction, and many of us even did not know who they were,'' said hotel spokeswoman Ritika Gupta.
Garcia died on Aug. 9 of a heart attack at age 53 at a northern California drug rehabilitation center.
The Grateful Dead grew out of an acoustic jug band that Garcia, Weir and others formed in 1965. For three decades, it was one of rock 'n' roll's top-drawing acts. It combined rock, bluegrass and folk influences in its songs, which included ``Truckin','' ``Casey Jones,'' ``Sugar Magnolia'' and ``Friend of the Devil.''
Deadheads idolized the Grateful Dead and followed the band from concert to concert like pilgrims, often taking illegal drugs.