Across the Universe: ‘Beatles Ashram’ in Rishiskesh is now open for public as a tourist spot

The Beatles' sojourn to India is an event the band's Indian fans swear by. When the popular band visited the country in 1968, they headed to an ashram in Rishikesh where they spent time meditating and writing songs under the guidance of their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The weeks spent at the Ashram not only produced some great music, with many of the songs written there being included in the band's popular 'White Album', many say that it was the Beatles' visit that helped bring the concept of meditation and Indian spirituality to the international audience, thanks to the media attention they enjoyed.

Now, the 'Beatles Ashram', as it is popularly known, is all set to become a recognised tourist spot with the Uttarakhand government refurbishing and opening the iconic retreat location for the public on Tuesday.

The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Getty Images

The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Getty Images

Coincidentally, the opening of the Ashram on 8 December also marks the 35th death anniversary of Beatles member John Lennon.

Uttarakhand’s Forest Department has converted the ashram into an eco-friendly tourist destination, offering bird walks and nature trails, reports The Indian Express.  The tickets for the ashram are prices at Rs 600 for foreigners and RS 150 for Indians.

"We have cleaned up the place and lined the pathways with flowers. We are making some gardens and putting some benches for visitors. We are introducing a nature trial and bird walk. We also plan to set up a cafeteria and a souvenir shop at some point. We want to retain the place's rustic look," Rajendra Nautiyal, a senior forestry official, told BBC.

The ashram already attracts hundred of fans, both Indian and foreign, and this reopening is meant to establish it as a heritage building for tourists.

“This is our state’s treasure and its opening is an important landmark for us. We plan to include a yoga learning centre and meditation classes at a later stage. Our aim is to ensure that visitors don’t simply come for the Beatles connection but to learn the magic of nature, meditation and yoga," Uttarakhand Forest Minister Dinesh Aggarwal , chief guest for the opening, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

Neena Grewal, director RTR, who took the initiative to spruce up the ashram, told The Times of India, "The ashram has been visited by Beatles fans ever since the band came here way back in 1968. We will revive the Beatles' association with the ashram and also restore their huts. New brochures and maps will soon be made available. The ruins will be maintained as heritage structures."

Apart from the Beatles' legacy, the ashram is also known for its graffiti walls in the meditation centres. The  The Indian Express reports that the art is the work of Canadian artist Pan Trinity Das who along with travelling artists painted portraits of the Beatles alongside those of spiritual teachers, including Yogi and the Dalai Lama along with lyrics of their songs.  Das referred to the hall as the 'Beatles Cathedral Gallery' and the name stuck.

The story goes that the Beatles had planned a three-month retreat in India for a session in advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) after meeting the Yogi in London at a seminar. The meditation impacted their music and Paul Saltzman, author of The Beatles in Rishikesh, says the band wrote some 48 songs during their stay. However, the four Beatles members left the ashram at different times, resulting in talks of discord. Incidentally, the band broke up two years after this retreat.

 


Published Date: Dec 09, 2015 01:36 pm | Updated Date: Dec 09, 2015 01:36 pm


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