Now open, to fans and pilgrims, the Beatles ashram
Dec 8, 2015
RISHIKESH: Love me do, they sang, but if reports coming out at that time, 1968, about the Fab Four were to be believed, there was very little brotherhood left in the band that the world would go on to recognise as one of the greatest ever. Those were tumultuous times for The Beatles. Yoko Ono had entered John Lennon's life and Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison had begun protesting her interference in the group's affairs. Arguments broke out regularly and Starr was thinking of leaving the band - which he did briefly in August that year.
The Beatles travelled with the Maharishi to Rishikesh in February 1968
They needed quiet and calm like never before and headed to Rishikesh to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram for an advanced course on transcendental meditation. The four of them during that stay for about three months went on to write 40 songs, 18 of which were recorded and went into 'The Beatles', an album that later was called 'The White Album'.
Thirty five years after Lennon's death, on the anniversary of his assassination by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980, the Uttarakhand government on Tuesday opened what the locals call the Beatles Ashram to the public, pricing tickets for foreigners at Rs 600, Indians at Rs 150.
The Beatles Ashram (Rishikesh, India)
The ashram, which was run by Mahesh Yogi till 2003 and had been off limits for tourists since then, flung open its doors for fans and pilgrims (that's what Beatles fans are) after a nod from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) - an approval that was required as it is situated on 18.75 acres of land in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR).
"We want musicians from all over the world to come here to learn meditation," forest minister Dinesh Aggarwal said, adding, "Chaurasi Kutia Ashram will be known the world over for its spiritualism. The place is blessed with rich biodiversity, sound-proof huts with natural cooling. There is no parallel to it."
Neena Grewal, director RTR, who took the initiative to bring alive the derelict ashram by clearing tall bushes and wild grass around it, has added attractive signages complete with details about forest trails. The ashram is now spruced up.
Front gate of “the Beatles Ashram,” Rishikesh
"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," Grewal said.
Explaining how Mahesh Yogi came to own the land, DVS Khati, chief wildlife warden, said the guru built it in 1961. "This forest land was leased to him for a period of 20 years. After the lease expired in 1981, Yogi left the ashram along with his followers in 2003. Since then it has been with the state forest department. There were complications related to getting approvals and funds, but all that's done now," he said.
The meditation didn't help the Beatles much though. They broke up two years later in 1970. But away from the influences of the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, and the psychedelic haze that clouded the music of the late 60s, The White Album, panned by critics for being too apolitical at a time of great churning in America, is today recognized by many as a masterpiece.