If you are travelling to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, locally known as Beatles Ashram, is a must visit a place to enjoy solitude in nature and to relish a graffiti art museum in ruins, says Kumar Manish.
I chanced upon this place while going through my Twitter feed on #Rishikesh. The visually appealing graffiti hooked me and I decided to visit the place. I asked the twitter user for location and he happily obliged.
The Ashram has a special significance in the pop music culture. The pop band stars Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles visited the Ashram in the year February 1968 to learn Transcendental Meditation(TM), a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness propagated by Mahesh Yogi. During this time period, the band is said to have written 48 songs, many of which made it to the band’s famous White Album and Abbey Road. There is the plaque at the ashram, which prominently highlights it.
The best way to know the place, its people, and the culture, is undoubtedly by walking. I reached Ram Jhula and searched on Google map for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. It showed 2.1 km and a 30 minutes walk to reach there.
The abandoned ashram is lying in ruins but, nevertheless, gives a glimpse of its bygone majestic presence. The ashram is widely spread out with individual meditation huts shaped in shivaling form, mediation halls and residential quarters.
Go to the top and enjoy a picturesque view of Rishikesh from the top of it with river Ganga flowing silently behind it. The growing urban sprawls of the city and abundance of nature in the vicinity is visible once you reach the top.
While walking towards the Ashram, you will encounter this beautiful graffiti art on the sidewalls of the street in Rishikesh breaking the mundane street life rhythm. Despite the Google map, I do trust humans on the street in finding a place and to strike a conversation. However, a majority of them have no clue about The Beatles Ashram!
In year 2015, the Uttarakhand Forest Department reclaimed the Ashram under Rajaji National Park and developed it as an eco-tourism destination. The national park is home to a number of wild elephants and tigers.
Finally, I reached Rajaji National Park. It is located on a hillock that houses the Ashram. The place is absolutely serene; I hardly saw any soul as I started climbing it.
For Indian visitors, they charge Rs. 150 ($2) and for foreigners, it is Rs. 600 ($8).
Tip: Please do carry a bottle of water and some eatables, as you will find hardly any shops close by. You can also take a local guide who can explain you all about the ashram.
As you reach the top, on the left side you will see small meditation huts shaped in shivaling and the Cave number 9, where The Beatles stayed. It is now known as Beatles Cave. The inside walls of it are all decorated with flamboyant graffiti art (see picture).
The ashram has nature trails. You can follow them to see different spots, or take the staircase of an abandoned building to climb on a top a building in Swarg Ashram. From there you can get a view of the vast expanse of the ashram and nature. It is also quite an apt place to get you clicked in the backdrop of giant yogis drawn on the water tanks. However, keep your eyes and ears open to notice any movements. It is like jungle with abandoned buildings.
The place is an evolving graffiti art museum; artists have embellished the torn and decayed walls through their imagination. The paintings in prayer halls will strike your immediate attention with black and white images of spiritual guru Dalai Lama, Ramana Maharishi among others. The yogis holding a skull with closed eyes and the famous the Beatles band graffiti.
The best way to enjoy the Ashram is to find a spot overlooking the River Ganga sit there and listen nature talking to you. The place has its own vibes that will reverberate with your soul. It is no doubt a must-visit place in Rishikesh.