I didn’t really know what to expect when we visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, often called The Beatles Ashram, in Rishikesh. Maybe something way more kitsch, but it in reality it was well designed and laid out, and it must have really been something special in it’s heyday. Yes, the Beatles had been there but that almost felt incidental. I was genuinely moved by the sense of peace that pervades the place. The sound of the Ganga from Maharishi Mahesh’s house, specially positioned so he could always hear the river to all the little stone meditation pods linked like massive bee’s had place them terraced all the way up the hill. A great deal of thought had been put into this place even if it was somewhat tainted by questions around Maharishi Mahesh’s personal conduct with some of the followers. Clearly a lot pf people put love into this place. Perhaps it’s a combination of the vibration of all the meditation performed there plus of course the magic of Rishikesh itself, where billions more hours of meditation has been performed and continues to be performed!
There was also another very special moment when our dear friend, Nicky, explained guru shakti and the advantages of learning spiritual practices from an experienced teacher, to my Mark, in a way that made sense to him. Yoga and spirituality have never been his thing, but supported by Nicky’s insights we have agreed to both learn Vedic Meditation (essentially TM) from our friend Liz, a trained teacher, when we get home. 🙂
The other wonderful surprise was all the fabulous graffiti that adorns the place. I normally dislike graffiti but it almost seems appropriate here.
The ashram was established by the Maharishi in 1961, and it quickly became a magnet for spiritual seekers from around the world. It was located in a secluded spot in the foothills of the Himalayas, overlooking the holy river Ganges. The ashram was like a small village, with its own gardens, meditation halls, and living quarters. The Maharishi had a simple philosophy: that meditation could bring peace and harmony to the world.
The Beatles first learned about the Maharishi and his teachings while they were in London in 1967. They were intrigued by the idea of meditation and decided to travel to India to learn more. In early 1968, the band members, along with their wives and other guests, arrived at the ashram, where they planned to spend several weeks in meditation and reflection.
The Beatles were not the only famous people to visit the ashram. Other celebrities who came to study with the Maharishi included Mia Farrow, Donovan, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys. However, it was the Beatles who brought the most attention to the ashram, and their stay there has become a part of music and cultural history.
During their time at the ashram, the Beatles spent most of their days practicing meditation and attending lectures by the Maharishi. However, they also found time to write and record music. They had brought their instruments with them from England, and they set up a makeshift recording studio in one of the huts on the ashram grounds.
The artwork at the ashram is an interesting blend of Eastern and Western styles. Some of the pieces are abstract, with swirling patterns and bright colors that recall Indian folk art. Other pieces are more figurative, with images of animals, flowers, and human figures. Many of the pieces feature messages of peace and love, such as the famous message “All You Need Is Love” that was painted on one of the buildings.
Today, the Beatles ashram, rebranded as a Tiger Sanctuary, is a fascinating place to visit. The ashram was abandoned in the 1981 when the government lease for the site ran out and the buildings and the artwork beginning to show real signs of decay.
We read online that there’s been various plans to refurbish it and turn it it a an eco-retreat but clearly that doesn’t appear to currently be anyone’s priority.