Morning Walk Inside the Abandoned Beatles’ Ashram in Rishikesh | India

 

I woke up to the cold January weather of Rishikesh caught in between wanting to stay snuggled under my blanket or start my exploration early. Half-dazed, I forced myself to saunter across the room feeling the iciness of the bathroom floor hurrying to find comfort from a hot shower. 


Marky Ramone Go

Fully awake, and since I forgot to avail of a Rishikesh tour package, I plotted my day thinking about a myriad of things do: try a new dish, go temple hopping, feed some monkeys, hang out by the Ganges, find a charming a café or rent a motorbike. However, the lure of laying eyes on a place that has caught my fascination since I started reading about the Beatles, reigned more on me.


Anne Gumiran

First things first, I told myself. Imma kick-start my almost weeklong stay in Rishikesh by visiting what remains of the ashram that embellished Paul, John, Ringo and George—with a little help from their friends—mystical motivation to achieve creative high penning staggering 48 songs, most of which ended up on their double album "White Album".


All Things Must Pass


None of life's strings can last. None can be truer than the state of the Beatles’ ashram today. Known then as the International Academy of Meditation founded by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the ashram today is a picture of scattered ruins of mural-painted walls overrun by overgrown bush.


Marky Ramone Go

Maharishi, who first met the Beatles in 1967 and later became their spiritual advisor, invited the group in the winter of ‘68 to study his devised Transcendental Meditation technique. The Beatles joined by their respective wives, along with Scottish singer Donovan, actress Mia Farrow, her sister and Beach Boys' Mike Love, studied the guru's meditation method from February until a falling out with Maharishi (which includes allegations of Maharishi's sexual impropriety towards Mia Farrow) among the circle culminated in the group’s series of departures from India in April—with John Lennon and George Harrison being the two last to leave.


Charisse Vilchez

The band's brief stay at the ashram provided the group with a creative rejuvenation delivering them their most productive period of songwriting. Lennon credited his experience in Rishikesh for writing some of his most miserable and best songs. "We wrote about thirty new songs between us," Lennon said. "Paul must have done about a dozen. George says he's got six, and I wrote fifteen. And look what meditation did for Ringo – after all this time he wrote his first song."


Marky Ramone Go

As fleeting as it was the Beatles’ time in Rishikesh, it remains as one of the most talked-about and integral part of the band’s story analogous to their foremost overseas trip to Hamburg, Germany in 1960 and their first visit to America in 1964.

  

Muffet Sta Maria

The trip to India and the band’s episode in Rishikesh is also seen as a symbolic curtain drop on the group’s monumental history as this was the last time the fabulous four musicians traveled together. After the Maharishi stopped operating the ashram in the 1970's and the lease on the land expired in 1981, it undergone years of neglect letting mother nature took over. In 2015, the ashram was reopened to the public as part of Rishikesh heritage structures trail.


The Beatles’ Ashram Today


Dressed-up aptly for a 14 °C beautiful morning, I stepped out the into the streets of Rishikesh among yogis, backpackers like me, locals on motorcycles and tuk-tuks, sadhus adorned in saffron robes, moseying cows and—upon crossing Lakshman Jhula bridge—mischievous monkeys.


Celine Murillo, Levy Amosin, Gretchen Filart

Walking over footpaths parallel to the sacred Ganges River, I consulted my Google Map and upon thinking that the ashram doesn't look too far away—a miscalculation that had me walking at least 11 kilometers—I decided to just keep on walking.


Ayi Del Rosario

I passed by temples filled with morning worshippers chanting and Ghats dotted with religious bathers as occasionally, a red and blue kayak filled with tourists on a river kayaking tour slices through the Ganges.


Audrey Trinidad

Through small alleys flanked by bazaar booths on both side, I resisted stopping on a quaint cafe or food joint serving thali meals as I really want to start my day in search of Zen inside the Beatles' ashram. Despite a slow walk, I reached the gates of the ashram half an hour before it opens. The guard tells me "You are too early my friend, you can sit first and wait for opening"


Cheekie Albay, Sophie Gianan, Koryn Iledan, Jomie Naynes

Today, the ashram is where you can find a riot of arresting street art dominating its peeled-off walls, that was part of mural essays created by street artists forming the 'Beatles Ashram Mural Project' which was founded in 2012. Aside from the mural paintings, lyrical lines such as "with every mistake we must surely be learning" from a George Harrison-penned song, can be read scribbled on random walls.


Marky Ramone Go

Spread over 14 acres of forested land now concealing a legacy of 1960s transcendental meditation and spiritual counterculture, the ashram reveals a once fabled place where a community once thrived all in search of nirvana on Earth.


Marky Ramone Go

When the gates finally opened, I was the first guest to be let inside. It would take another half an hour before I saw other guests trickled inside. By that time, I had made my way through the grounds of the ashram. After another hour with weary feet, I sat on the front steps of the Beatles’ old dormitory where George used to practice his sitar every morning. Sensing hunger but with my a sense of wonder satisfied, I hummed aloud to myself, “And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be