Beatles Ashram- a Spiritual Journey from Rishikesh to Britain
It was February 25th, Beatle George Harrison’s 80th birthday when I visited the Beatles Ashram at Chaurasi Kutiya in Rishikesh. For the rest of my life it shall remain the biggest co incidences of my life to be here without planning to do so!
I was on a Reverse trail of musician singer and guitarist Beatle George Harrison from Bhaktivedant Manor in Britain to Rishikesh India. The Bhaktivedant Manor is the earliest temple of ISKCON in Britain, a movement that George Harrison joined and donated the Manor to them! In the 1960’s celebrity Rock band group Beatles experienced mesmeric transcendental awakening when they visited the religious town of Rishikesh which led to their quest of spirituality!
Subsequently, we headed for a visit to the Chaurasi Kutiya ( 84 Huts) ashram spread over 7.5 hectares of forest land set up by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1961,often visited by famous personalities like Hollywood actors. We were in one of the most hauntingly beautiful regions abundant in natural beauty that is totally rundown yet the peaceful ruins are mesmerising. We had already seen the several dome-shaped-pebble meditation-cave like Huts built around us, personal Post office, Photo galleries, gathering information on Maharishi and Beatles- understanding their quest better!
What a significant complex it must have been to have its own Post office, Printing Press & Kitchen to feed 500 persons! Past a deserted Shivalaya, the Ved Bhavan used as a Satsang hall cum Lecture Hall by Maharishi for his students with mammoth spell binding wall Murals of the Beatles , now named Beatles Cathedral Gallery we headed for the Anand Bhavan and Siddhi bhavan.
Vibrant Rooftop Domes of the Anand Bhavan & Siddhi Bhavan
Up ahead lay the multi storey rundown Anand Bhavan and Siddhi Bhavan with unusual Meditation domes on the roof tops.
The buildings were used as residential accommodation of Transcendental Meditation teachers and those undergoing training courses.
The architecture was noticeable as in the front they were sloping like a stepped pyramids but with many multi-arch windows- a strange combination of the 60’s western buildings with Indian architecture! I stepped into the Time machine to visualise rooms occupied by generally westerners which some called luxurious and some called seedy!!
Rooftop Meditation Domes
Curious to have a closer look at the painted meditation domes we climbed up to the roof to look at the inverted oval-egg look vibrant colourful domes.
The Domes accommodated persons for meditation surrounded by silent, emerald valleys, forests, mountains and River Ganga in the far distance. The acme of the multi-coloured Domes are the bright artistic large paintings on them as well as the interesting slogans. I wondered when and by whom this was done.
These smooth exterior,painted domes are different from the rows of pebble stone meditation domes scattered in the overgrown grass- jungle land of the Chaurasi Kutiya. I recalled reading that back in 1968, initially 4 Ganga-pebble-stone dome cave meditation rooms were made for the 4 Beatles near the Ashram entrance we came in from, earlier that were accessible by ladder only!!
Maharishi’s Bungalow and Beatles Bungalow- that was
Beyond this area was the Herbal garden and Beatles bungalow that is marked on the dusty tin map but which is now not clearly traceable, though I did see photos on the internet later. One could imagine the publicity the Ashram received when they came here with families followed by reporters and photographers in 1968!
The words of Beatle George Harrison resonate in the memories of readers when he said ‘Rishikesh is an incredible place where Ganges flows out of the Himalayas into the plains’ and even mentions the Lakshman Jhula.
Beatles Bungalow in the Time Machine
Watching the derelict ruins it is hard to imagine that the Beatles bungalow was fitted with electric heaters, running water, toilets, and English furniture which was big news in the 60’s for a Rishikesh-ashram! I stepped into my Time machine to witness a local tailor stitching native clothes for Beatles in a beautiful bungalow decorated with mirrors, wall to wall carpeting and beds with foam mattresses!
Beatle George Harrison ordered some musical instruments from Delhi and he invited other students and proceeded to hold musical get-togethers on the rooftop.
Later even Rooftop concerts surrounded by the emerald mountains, kaleidoscopic sunset sky and shimmering ancient River Ganga were a feast to one’s eyes!
Most songs of the famous White-album by Beatles were composed in the peaceful environs of the Chaurasi Kutiya ashram as they say that creativity is at its peak in tranquil positivity! Beatles left the Ashram following some differences with the Maharishi but years later in 1991 Beatle George Harrison apologised to the Maharishi who fondly reciprocated by calling them ‘angels’. By then, George Harrison had joined the ISKCON, donated the Bhaktivedant manor temple and moved much ahead on his spiritual journey!!
The whereabouts of the Maharishi’s bungalow and Beatles Bungalow marked on the tin board are hard to decipher now! Far away we could figure out the iron wire fence around the ashram that kept the wild animals away especially the elephants that wandered in!!Was this the entrance to the Ashram then? It was hard to imagine the well-kept gardens filled with red hibiscus trees that existed once but beyond the fence the forests must still be full of Teak, Guava and many more trees. The lease was not renewed to the Maharishi and the beautiful Ashram was deserted, deteriorating into ruins, awaiting restoration till today! Driving back from the Beatles Ashram- the Chaurasi Kutiya of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the teacher of Transcendental Meditation one cannot help one’s mind to be filled with remorse at the derelict ruins of the hill ashram that can be preserved for the generations to come and be a gratifying fascinating tourist destination for Indians besides international Beatle fans!