When I met The Beatles at the Beatles Ashram

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Beatles in India
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Jammin'
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With the Maharishi
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Caught in the act?
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You may say he's dreaming
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Yes, those hair can be hard to manage

I wanted them all to “come together, right now, over me” quite literally. Oh yes, it was that orgasmic. I have been following a piece of news with a lot of interest since July this year – the resurrection of the “Beatles Ashram” in Uttarakhand.

It was all planned by me during my Rishikesh trip with my family, but alas nothing had been planned by the Indian Govt. to do something regarding a strong connect with the most popular music bad in the world to ever exist. The music aficionados of the world, irrespective of which country they come from, would unanimously swear by the music & legacy of the Beatles. But my Goodness me, how on earth could our indigenous Tourism Department do nothing (even tap its commercial potential) about the impression The Beatles made on our country!?

I decided to write this memoir last week as soon as I read the story on how Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram (or the “Beatles Ashram” as it is known outside Rishikesh) is going to be open to general public from now on as a museum of sorts.

The Beatles Ashram

It’s a bitter sweet realization, at the most honest. On one hand, I actually want as many music lovers as I can to go and visit this place which inspired The Beatles to write the White Album, in 1968. But, on the other hand, I need it remain concealed from mass viewing for the fear of its losing its sanctity due to over-consumption by the pseudo-retro era of our nation. There will be pictures, there will be Instagram/Facebook updates, there will be generation of revenue, but there will mostly be no genuine appreciation. And that will make me cringe from within.

When I had made a detour in July in order to specially visit this Ashram, I was stranded on most occasions for three reasons: 1. The locals did not address the Ashram as the “Beatles Ashram.”

2. The Ashram had been completely non-functional for more than two decades.

3. I had gone by car.

The reason of the third point above is that the route is amazingly longer via the car route. The Ashram is actually quite close to Lakshman Jhoola (Rishikesh’s major tourist attraction) if you decide to walk down. Which I did on my second visit in the same trip.

It’s a fairly easy trek and the feel of the surroundings changes gradually but definitely while you are on your way to this place erstwhile hidden from general public. You are suddenly transported from a hardcore religious settlement to a hippie environment with quietly nestled guests houses and cafes along the way from where you can easily hear the lazy strumming of the acoustic guitar. Once you actually reach the Ashram situated by the Ganges, the sounds around are substituted by the chirping of the birds and the cackle of the langurs that are surprised to see humans among them. Alas, that will not be the case anymore. Anyway, I was greeted by a young gatekeeper who was just chilling on a mat with a beedi in his hand. An identity proof and a 100-rupee note is all it took me to sneak into the sprawling ashram which seems absolutely haunted. With trees and weeds growing everywhere giving it a desolate look, it was hard to imagine that was once inhabited by great yogis and musicians. Shivling temples, labyrinthine alleys, umbrella roofs and hostels designed as mansions cover the major part of this green haven in a mofussil part.

But, obviously the most interesting part of my entire visit was a large hall supposedly used for mass meditation sessions. The walls are adorned by graffiti of various kind all alluding to freedom of expression that the Yoga and The Beatles’ music collectively stand for. Beatles’ portraits, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi painted in a meditative stance, gay women entangled in an intercourse, “Maa” written in Hindi, the all-seeing eye of the Illuminati, were just among a thousand things the walls expressed in that hall and even beyond. I wonder if the purity of this free art will be maintained after the commercialization of the place.

My sincere advice to you will be to visit the place as soon as you can in the near future before the news breaks out and the Uttarakhand State Govt. constructs a proper passage to the entry of the Ashram (or the “museum” soon enough). Experience the Beatles Ashram the till it’s still relatively pristine.