The Beatles Ashram
One hot day after enjoying our own ashram experience we set out on an adventure to find where the Beatles spent their time in Rishikesh. After a few wrong turns under the Indian sun we found ourselves in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, more commonly known as The Beatles Ashram.
The Beatles in Rishikesh
In February 1968, the Fab Four, their partners and a host of other celebrities travelled to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh to learn Transcendental Meditation from the guru himself. Just over a month later they had all left, apparently disillusioned by him. Rumours of his inappropriate sexual behaviour and financial disagreements abounded. But in later years George Harrison apologised for the way they had treated the Maharishi.
Though The Beatles time in India was short lived, it was rather productive. They wrote most of the White Album whilst at the ashram. Their visit transformed what was a small town on the banks of the Ganges in to an international tourist destination packed with yogis.
The Beatles Ashram
The site of the ashram has been derelict for years. For quite a long time the only way of entering used to be to bribe the gatekeeper or climb over the walls. Happily, it is now open to the public but at the time of our visit they had done little to guide you to its doors.
What was once a place of serenity now gives off an air of eerie abandonment. Derelict structures are slowly being consumed by the forest.
The ominous atmosphere filled us all with a sense of trepidation. But we had heard there was some pretty amazing graffiti to be found. We braved the rather creepy environment and begun exploring the derelict shells of the many buildings and meditation cells.
A stone path took us past dozens of circular stone meditation pods with living quarters beneath.
Inside the meditation pods we found psychedelic homages to The Beatles era.
We past decaying dormitories and a cavernous hall, the walls cover with a sprawling collage of Beatles lyrics, slogans, psychedelia and portraits of spiritual leaders.
The Beatles Cathedral
And then we found “The Beatles Cathedral”. It was once a large lecture hall and now showcases some incredible graphic art on its crumbling walls. The Beatles Cathedral Gallery was a community art project led by a group of traveling artists in 2012. From there the art just got better and better.
Hello to the Queen Project
Just before our visit another art project had breathed new life into the ashram. “Hello to the Queen” art walk is a stunning series of murals by YouOnlyAlways, Miles Toland and others. It was with a sense of excitement that we hunted these beautiful artworks. I don’t think we found them all.
By Indian standards the foreigner entry fee (around $10) is pretty steep. Being fans of The Beatles and graffiti art, we delved into our wallets.
Totally worth it!