In February 1968, The Beatles embarked on a trip to Rishikesh to engage in a Transcendental Meditation training session. Nestled among the majestic mountains of Uttarakhand in northern India, Rishikesh served as the ideal environment for their creative spirit. Indeed, 18 of the songs on The Beatles’ White Album are attributed to their time here.
The Beatles stayed in an ashram owned by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. An ashram can be thought of as a studio or dojo for Indian cultural activities, including yoga, religious instruction, meditation, and other types of studies.
Now dilapidated, it is possible to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for the relatively expensive entry fee of 600 Rupees. For comparison, entry to the Taj Mahal is 1000. Although, it would surprise me if The Beatles of the late-60’s wouldn’t have supported sneaking in through the side path, which a visitor might happen to come across.
Getting to the Ashram
Visitors to Rishikesh will likely start out either at the train or bus station in the center of town. Getting to the riverside won’t pose the slightest challenge as rickshaw and taxi drivers will practically climb over each other to give you a ride. Ask to get to Ram Jhula, one of the foot bridges which stretches across the Ganga River. The approximately 10 minute ride should cost between 50 to 150 Rupees for two people. It’s worth negotiating if quoted higher than 200.
After crossing to the other side of Ram Jhula, take a right and follow the store-lined road which runs parallel to the Ganga River.
Keeping the river on your right, you will eventually pass Parmarth Niketan Ashram, famous for its nightly aarti, or river ceremony. Continue until reaching Last Chance Cafe Guest House, upon where the road essentially turns to packed mud before ending at the edge of a small drop. On the other side is what seems to be a small community of vagabonds living in the remains of some old buildings.
From this point the path you take will depend on your sense of morality.
Keeping to the left brings you to the official entry gate. Here a man might come out of one of the houses and ask for 600 Rupees per person in exchange for entry to the ashram.
Those who instead stick close to the river on the right will come up on a steep, potentially slippery, and densely overgrown path disappearing up the side of the hill. Were a traveler to hypothetically ignore the clearly marked “No Entry” signs, he or she would reach the ashram by the opposite side.
The remains of the scenic and isolated “Beatles Ashram” coexist in quiet, peaceful harmony with the nature around it. It is intriguing to imagine the insight and art which flourished in this environment.
Click on an image above to view a larger version.