The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh

Rishikesh was a little known village on the bank of the Ganges River in India’s north until early 1968 when a visit by The Beatles propelled Rishikesh into the western limelight. While in Rishikesh The Beatles stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s ashram and undertook a course of transcendental meditation. The Beatles wrote over 40 compositions at the ashram, many of which went onto be released on The White Album later that year.

The ashram closed in 1997 and has since fallen into a state of disrepair but that hasn’t stopped it being a major drawcard for tourists even if entry is illegal and punishable by a 5000 rupee ($100) fine. The ashram is surrounded by a stone wall that holds signs warning you of the potential fine but abandoned buildings with such a history just hold too much temptation for the signs to be taken seriously so off we went looking for a low point in the wall to jump over.

The entrance to The Beatles ashram

The entrance to The Beatles Ashram

The second I got inside I felt as though I’d been taken back in time, the complex was huge and slowly being reclaimed by the jungle. The glass windows had been smashed and graffiti marked some of the buildings. Despite the damage it was very surreal to be inside this huge complex. I let my imagination wander as we entered the different rooms and meditation pods, it was easy to picture The Beatles walking around in between meditations or John and Paul writing tracks together in the now over-grown gardens. We excitedly speculated over which Beatle would have stayed where and later found out that Lennon’s room and meditation cell was rumoured to be building No.9 (one of the buildings pictured below) and supposedly where he got the inspiration for the repetition of the number in Revolution 9.
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The main meditation pods are housed in a huge building with over 100 separate rooms, most of them had their walls and ceilings covered in the river rock and they seemed like beautiful places for meditation.

The entry to the meditation pods

The entry to the meditation pods

The real highlight of the ashram is the meeting hall which has become a guerrilla art installation – The Beatles Cathedral Gallery. Every wall and most of the floor of the huge room was covered in murals, lyrics, quotes and poems as a tribute to The Beatles and other spiritual teachers. Perhaps it was the mixture of spirituality expressed in modern day art in a derelict building with a history of housing the greatest musical talents of all time that gave this place its electric atmosphere.

The Beatles Cathedral Gallery

The Beatles Cathedral Gallery

The Beatles Cathedral Gallery

The Beatles Cathedral Gallery

It was a truly amazing experience that I won’t be able to do justice with my writing or photo’s. The fact that it’s all a big secret and we weren’t really meant to be there definitely added to the allure of this place. Get here and see it before the nature and time completely reclaim it.

theboywander

 

17 Thoughts on “The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh

  1. I’ll never forget awakening to thunder and lightening in the middle of the night there, then opening the door to my room. I looked down at the gorgeous Ganges being lit up by lightening over and over. It was quite an awesomely spontaneous sight.
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  2. I wonder why the ashram closed… seems like with the history they could charge for visitors. On the other hand, it looks like you got it all to yourself!
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    • I have no idea Katie, it’s in a beautiful location and looked as though it would have been a first-class facility in its day. I thought it was also strange that they hadn’t taken advantage of it as a tourist attraction even if they didn’t run it as an ashram. Some beautiful buildings going to waste.
      theboywander recently posted…The Beatles Ashram in RishikeshMy Profile

  3. Looks like a special place to visit. My fence jumping abilities are so bad I’d have probably missed out though! I once got caught by police climbing over the gate of a park in London after getting locked in. I was stuck at the top of the railing and they thought I was trying to break in!!
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  4. Haha sorry Arianwen but I laughed at that, out loud, in a cafe. Now people are looking at me.
    theboywander recently posted…The Beatles Ashram in RishikeshMy Profile

  5. What a fascinating place! And that explains a lot about their incredible music. I also wonder why it closed if it’s still such a tourist draw… but the fact that it’s empty made this even that much more of an interesting post. :)

  6. Nick Proud on June 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm said:

    A most amazing place, visited in Nov 2013. Got chased out on two occasions. Just have to pick the right date. Would love to go back again if the Indian government can realise what it is they have there!

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  8. Those meditation pods are gorgeous little dome structures!
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  9. How is this not a world class tourist draw … somebody from the Indian Tourism Ministry needs to wake up!
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  10. That would be such an unreal place to visit!
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