“Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue. ‘Cause you know darling, I love only you…”- a song by Ringo Starr is one of the favourites for those who still revere ‘The Beatles’. The interesting thing to note here is that this song was the first solo composition by Ringo and it instantly became a hit. Well, others in the troupe were no less behind. 1968-69 was a blissful period for them and there was a reason behind it.
Roll-back to 1960, when, while visiting the area around the Ram Jhula (adjoining the Ganga river) in Rishikesh, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was left spellbound by this piece of land that was very close to the Ganga river (actually one can hear the sound of the river) on one side and a mountain (lush green/dense) on the other side. The place still has the same charm (in 2019) , indeed a pure bliss. The Yogi leased the area from the then UP govt. to set up his ashram here. Over the years , the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi , introduced and propagated a new form of meditation (the transcendental meditation technique). In the 1960s , this became very popular across the globe as the technique was simple and effortless.
During one of the Yogi’s preachings in Wales,England in 1967, ‘The Beatles’ group got an opportunity to listen to him and instantly became motivated by the maharishi and they decided to visit India in Feb’1968. This was indeed a life changing experience for them as what followed in Rishikesh completely transformed them in a lot many ways. ‘The Beatles’ became a global sensation with back to back hits. This inspired a global interest in meditation and yoga and Rishikesh soon became a popular destination.
Fast forward to August 2019, when I made my visit to this ashram to see what remains of this place that is still frequented by many tourists.
Location – It is at a walkable distance from the famous Ram Jhula. You can also drive down to this place. The place of the evening Ganga aarti ( Parmarth Niketan) is also located closely (900 mtrs from this place). You have 4G connectivity in this area so the Google guru should be able to bring you to this place. Nonetheless, everyone in this area know this place well so they will also be able to guide you in case of any confusion.
Entrance fees + timings – This area is part of the Rajaji National Park and hence managed by the national park people. The place is open from 10 AM to 5 PM every day. One must pay an entrance fee to get-in. The table below gives you the price (in INR)
Upto 18 years
Above 18 years
|Foreigners – 600|
It’s a pretty big area and truly justifies why Maharishi would have instantly fell in love with this place. Ganges river gushing nearby, mighty green mountains a perfect backdrop and the innocuous silence perhaps too much to ask for. You get a map / pamphlet of the entire area once you pay the fees. I think its quite handy to identify the places on your own without having to ask someone.
The place certainly that lost its sheen and its just an old dilapidated set-up that remains. 5-6 decades back this was certainly a thriving place for Yoga and meditation and was known globally. Perhaps hard to imagine but it is indeed true.
One of the abandoned buildings have great graffiti paintings on display. I am not sure who these people are, but my respect to them as the creativity and efforts are certainly worthy of appreciation.
Chaurasi Kutiya – This ashram is also known as the Chaurasi Kutiya or 84 caves. You can find these small caves which were built as a place where the sadhus could meditate. These are spread across the entire ashram. Made up of rocks from the nearby Ganga river.
Musueum – There’s a small museum ( 3 rooms with photographs from the Canadian producer – Paul Saltzman) . Interesting collection of photographs of the Beatles group along with the Maharishi in Rishikesh.
Canteen / Toilet – There’s a small canteen also in the room next to the museum. It serves you tea/ coffee/ water and some other basic things. There’s a washroom as well in the same premises.
Visit duration – I would say that with a decent walking speed and to cover the entire ashram (as per the map) should take about an hour.
Have a great visit to the ashram. Tchao !!
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