Rishikesh is famous for several reasons: for yogis Rishikesh is the world capital of Yoga, for Shaivas it’s the location of a holy 12 km pilgrimage from the Ganges to a famous temple and for Beatles fans Rishikesh is where the Fab Four discovered transcendental meditation and wrote the BEST ALBUM EVER.
The Beatles stayed in Rishikesh for several months where they zenned out, wrote music and chowed down on pure veg food. Rumor has is that the Ringo hated the food and left early – he was probably as constipated as were are after a week of eating nothing but dal.
The other members of the band left after a falling out with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song Sexy Sadie, originally titled ‘Maharishi’, was inspired by the departure from the Ashram.
The Beatles put Rishikesh in the hippie guidebook but these days you will only find monkeys living on the property. Chaurasi Kutia Ashram has been closed since the mid-nineties and has receded back to the wild. There are huge signs across the front gate warning against trespassing. Rumors abound that the gate is guarded by a bribe-accepting official but we didn’t see anyone so we jumped the wall.
The path in front of us was overgrown with flowers and weeds, the air was still and it was 41 degrees. Although this might not seem like the setting to a ghost story, it sure felt like one. India is not a quiet country and the silence surrounded us. I was sure that we were soon to be accosted by a crazed Beatles-loving hippie, government employee or the ghost of John Lennon. It was creepy.
The entire Ashram is runover and crumbling. One story stone igloos that were once set amongst the woods have now become part of the forest. Larger residential buildings were crumbling, rooms were full of glass and naked electrical wires. Beatles graffiti decorated everything. Paths laced with spider webs and thorn bushes led to frustrating dead ends. We hiked the property for hours, not really sure what we were looking for or understanding what we we found.
On top of a large compound of buildings sat squat white cones structures with ladders leading the the very top. From this perch on top of the world you could see from the small clusters of igloos on the property all the way to the Ganges and beyond to the mountains in the distance.
We were just two of the millions of Beatles fans have trekked to Rishikesh to find the Maharishi Mahesh ashram and somehow it felt like we had discovered something new and exciting. Perhaps we felt this way because there are no directions to this place, as if it’s some hidden secret. We searched for hours trying to find a map, a guide or instructions on how to find this ashram before finding it just 500 meters from our room.
So here you go, here are the directions to the Beatles Ashram.
Walk across the foot bridge to the Swarg Ashram area of town. Continue along the water, passing Parmarth Niketan ashram and the bathing ghats. Walk beyond the Sri Ved Niketan ashram and keep going even when the road turns to dirt and the cows outnumber people.
From here you will see the sign pointing towards the Beatles Ashram (it’s about 1/2 mile from the foot bridge). When the road ends at the beach, turn left. Soon you will see the gates to the Beatles Ashram on your right. Enjoy!