This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

You Wouldn’t Believe What This ‘Beatles’ Fan Found In Rishikesh!

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Parul Doshi

As my friend and I landed at the Jolly Grant airport in the city of Dehradun around noon, it occurred to me that she presented the perfect picture of an Indian-American tourist; with her hat, sunglasses and backpack at the ready. When I first suggested this trip to her, I was sceptical of her response. Her travels in India had started and ended with the two Tajs – the hotel in Mumbai and the spectacular structure in Agra.

So when she finally agreed to come to India and “explore” the interiors with me, I was jubilant. It was easy booking tickets to Dehradun via Delhi. We exited the tiny airport and she quickly took out a small planner which had a list of things to do in Dehradun. As we left the airport vicinity, the crisp morning air greeted us. Fresh smells of magnolia and greenery soothed us after our days in hot summery Bombay. On our way from Dehradun to Rishikesh, tree-lined roads with thick deodar forests greeted us. The wind brought with it an earthy fragrance mingled with the scent of flowers.

Soon, we started climbing the hills of the Shivalik – a range in the Himalayas that boasts of bearing the Gangotri and the Yamnotri in its womb. Our car passed through clouds and the whole landscape resembled a Monet painting. Far away, we could see the flow of the Ganges. The river accompanied us – at times parallel and at other times, distant like a sulking bride.

The moment we entered Rishikesh, we could feel the tranquillity and quietness of the surroundings. As one experiences the sheer poetry of the Ganges, one feels it ricochet within.

We had decided to explore the untouched and offbeat parts of Rishikesh, besides taking a dip in the Ganges. The next day, as we walked around the small lanes and by-lanes of Rishikesh, we came to the Parmarth Niketan, a popular Hindu temple and ashram that hosts the famous Ganga aarti every day. Further down, the lanes were crowded with pilgrims wearing saffron and chanting loudly, some of them wet from the dip in the holy river, small children running helter-skelter and sadhus asking for bhiksha in their quiet way. It indeed was a colourful sight. Shops selling gemstones, sweet shops selling local sweets and vegetarian fare and heavily crowded bookshops selling books on religion and spirituality along with loud honking of the scooters lend these small lanes of Rishikesh a unique dimension. In a whim of fancy, I felt the need to explore the end of that lane assuming it to be the end of the whole city. Completely overpowered by the sensual influx, we finally reached the end of that lane, only to reach a small cafe named, The Last Chance Cafe. Ironically, it shared its boundary wall with a Hindu crematorium (Smashan Bhoomi)!

In our quest for exploration, we moved further down and found a group of sadhus sitting below a huge mango tree, playing cards and smoking bidis. Out of curiosity, I went and asked them if anything lay beyond this place for us to see. At first, they completely ignored us. When I pestered them again and asked, “Baba, is there anything ahead?” Irritated by my enquiries, one Sadhu without looking up replied nonchalantly, “Nothing except the Beatles Ashram.”

“The Beatles Ashram?” my friend and I simultaneously squealed, creating a dramatic effect. The sadhu looked up at us, not moved by our reaction and said lazily, moving his hand as if he were swatting a fly, “Those singers from Amrika.” (Maybe for them all the foreigners were from the U.S.A.) My curiosity knew no bounds. I started walking ahead and suddenly came across an entrance with three conical structures decorated with round pebbles from the Ganges and a huge board hanging on its gate with the sign, ‘This property belongs to Rajaji National Park. Entry is prohibited.’ I knew a little bit about the Beatles’ visit to India and Rishikesh and their stay with Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, who had established his ashram there.

Never in my wildest dreams, had I ever thought of encountering the ashram where Beatles spent their time in 1968. The Maharishi was already well-known among Britain’s hippie circles and had made numerous public appearances in the UK by the time he met the Beatles in London in 1967. It appears that in February 1968, highly fascinated by spirituality and Indian culture, the Beatles travelled to India to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) training session at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Amid widespread media attention and all the hype, their visit was one of the band’s most productive periods. Led by George Harrison’s commitment, their interest in the Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation changed Western attitudes about Indian spirituality and encouraged the study of Transcendental Meditation all over the world. As we all know, the Beatles already had a huge fan following. Their stay in Rishikesh became a huge incentive for a lot of foreigners and spiritual pursuers to visit the Ashram.

Feeling all excited, I asked the sadhus again if I could go inside and see the ashram. “Please go away. There is nothing to see. It is all over. The ashram is dilapidated with its glory gone. Please go away,” one of them, visibly annoyed, snapped. Disappointed, we came back to our hotel room. But somehow, the place struck a chord within me. I couldn’t forget that place and its solitude. I decided to visit again. The next day, I went alone – cautious yet determined. It was 11 a.m. and the sun brightly spread its halo over me, even as it played hide and seek with the clouds. When I reached the ashram, I found it quiet and lonely. No sadhus flocking under the mango tree to play cards. Taking a deep breath, I approached the gate – entry was prohibited. I could hear the rhythmic sound of the Ganges in the distance, enveloping my senses with its musicality.

Ten or fifteen minutes must have passed like this, when I suddenly saw an old sadhu with a long white, beard and a thick turban of tangled hair, wearing a white dhoti approaching the gate. I requested him to open the door and allow me to go inside. In a thick Garhwali accent, he asked me whether I was from the media. I said I was just a curious traveller and a huge fan of the Beatles. He said thickly, “OK beta, I can let you enter this place but promise me that you will come out within ten minutes.” I promised as requested and, with a spring in my feet, finally entered the Maharshi Mahesh Yogi ashram aka the Beatles ashram.

As soon as I went inside the creaky doors, everything exuded a sense of calm. Eerily quiet and completely secluded, this place must have seen better days for sure. As I started walking on my right, I could see single small cubicles scattered all over the place. They were conical shaped and the outer wall was decorated with pebbled stones from the Ganges just like the cubicles at the entrance. Upon enquiring, the gentle elderly sadhu – my guide – told me, “There are 84 such kutikas (cubicles) scattered all over the ashram. They were mainly used for an individual to meditate and dwell in.” He also said that the conical shape would transfer the energies in a concentrated form which would be helpful in increasing the vibrations of the person sitting within.

Climbing further through the winding stairs, we passed by a small house that belonged to the bank, where all financial transactions used to take place. A little ahead lay a community mess, cottages for the guests, cottages for the regular staff and a huge hall for meditators and practitioners. As I walked along, I could feel the whole tree-lined lane becoming quiet and heavy with thick air. I could hear my guide’s heavy breathing as we climbed up. I thought of the glorified past of this beautiful and tranquil place and the slice of heaven it must have been, back then.

Walking further down, we came to the huge meditation hall. At times, the Beatles used to host their concerts here with yogis sitting on the elevated altar. But the space was mainly used for quiet meditation and satsang, I was informed by the sadhu. Reaching the old dilapidated green moss-covered building, he pushed the creaky door slightly. To my surprise, a large hall with all the four sides painted with fancy texts and photos of the Beatles and also Mahesh Yogi opened up like a magic box! The paintings appeared well worn but still in their essence. The entrance to the hall was painted with colourful graffiti. One side had the Maharshi’s profile, and the opposite that of the Beatles. A few poetic sentences here and there along with scattered drawings and paintings amongst the tattered walls made for a unique sensory experience. I stood staring at it all in awe. On seeing my expression, my guide, by now a friend, said, “It’s all been done by the Beatles fans who come from all over the world.”

Suddenly, out of the blue, he said almost incoherently, “If you know their famous white album, it was all conceptualised and also played here. All on the land of this Ashram. The Beatles along with others used to meditate, give concerts, and ask questions to the Yogi.” I was completely captivated and in a state of trance, overwhelmed by the place.

Out of nowhere, the sadhu started humming a song I couldn’t decipher. I looked at him and with blank eyes, he looked at me saying, “Everything is over. The past has gone, the present is here. I don’t know where everybody else is. I miss those days, those moments, those people.”

This article was originally published here

You must be to comment.
  1. Ankit Jain

    The sadhu asked you if you were from media and you told, you were a curious traveller. The first thing you must do is refrain from posting it in a public forum. Just my view! Cheers.

  2. Karishma

    I share the amazement and the excitement of the author however I feel that her depiction of The Beatles' time in Rishikesh is rosy and half hearted for she fails to mention how they felt cheated and disillusioned after sometime at the ashram and the corrupt practices of the Maharishi. Sexy Sadie was in fact, written to mock the same Maharishi.

  3. Archana

    The Beatles Ashram has always been a very popular place in Rishikesh and tourists have been visiting it since ages. Somewhat I find the title and the content very misleading. Presenting a well-known place in such a manner as if it has been newly discovered. The writer should get the facts checked. Tonns of articles have already been written on the Beatles Ashram since 2010. A very disappointing article.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By varun pratap

By Love Matters India

By Kunal Jha

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below