Travelogues

Beatles Ashram: Graffitis Across the Ganges

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

Rishikesh-25Beatles Ashram (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram) in Rishikesh is the place where the Beatles spent several months, composed many songs, and explored spirituality. It was later abandoned and forgotten for three decades. However, Beatlemaniac artists kept sneaking in and painting the walls. So, now it has been reopened for public and the main draw is a series of surrealistic graffitis created by artists all over the world. This monsoon, on a rainless, hot, and humid evening, we paid a visit to it. However, my first trip in Uttarakhand after more than two years din’t begin in a very enticing manner. I’d chosen the wrong moment, and did so hurriedly. Nevertheless, I realized soon that it was that time of the year when the “kanwariyas” visit the town to carry back sacred water of Ganges to their native places. So, the streets were overcrowded and the hotels were full too. As a member of the urban middleclass bourgeoisie, we were probably closer to the cold westerner of Twain rather than the true blue spiritual Indian. So, ths carnval tired us off soon. Rishikesh

It was evening but the roads were still packed like local trains of Mumbai. We wrestled though the crowd and left the town to enter a stretch covered with dense vegetation. This stretch would have been enticing otherwise, but during that period, even the jungles trails were full of people. We missed the entranced at first, as there was no real signage. Also, Google maps was somewhat misleading. The road it was showing never existed. Anyway, after some cofusions, we took a small trail through the jungle and finally arrived at the entrance with forest department signage and no mention of our favourite Band.

Actually these jungles are a part of Rajaji National Park. Not sure how the Guru managed such huge tracts of land inside the jungle but anyway now it is back with the forest department which is trying to turn the site into a tourist attraction. There is a ticket counter at the entrance and the prices seemed to be a bit higher than expected at INR 150 per head (even higher for foreigners).

Inside, the first thing we saw were a bunch of dilapidated, cave like, but man-made structures that looked more sutable for hobbits. These were places for meditation, now in a decaying state. But the view of the Ganga is great and one can imagne that the setting was good for meditation. There was a dlapidated house too, probably used for residental purposes.

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But so far there were no sign of graffits that we’d heard of. We let those meditation caves and started walking towards the other side. There were more dilapdated houses but finally we started noticing the graffities here and there. Although the place has been reopened, no real renovation has taken place here. Also, there were no other visitors at that time and so that eerie feeling was enjoyable but guess it will disappear soon as the renovation plans are executed.

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Finally we reached what is now called the Beatle’s Cathedral. It must have originally served as a prayer hall or auditorium. As of now, this is the primary venue for the graffities. There were the faces of Beatles themselves, faces of the various spiiritual gurus (not sure about ther identity), and varous other surreal patterns painted all over the walls, ceiling, and floor.

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Rishikesh-35We spent an hour soaking in all the art. It was not completely dark yet. We thought there was nothing more to see but we notced a multistoreyed building in a comparatively better shape. Ths had more of them on every floor. Rishikesh-40

Rishikesh-41Finally we reached the rooftop and were greeted with another magnificent piece of art against the excellent backdrop of Garhwal Himalayas and the pregnant sky. A couple of hornbills appeared from nowhere and rested on a nearby tree for a few seconds. However, they flew away before I could click pictures. But I was’t disappointed. We’d already seen enough for a day that din’t start too well. Rishikesh-44

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Traveller FAQs

How to reach Beatles Ashram?
It is on the right side of the river. The best way is to cross the Ram Jhoola and walk away along the river bank (Away from Laxman Jhula not towards it). Eventually the road will take a left turn. Keep gong and finally you wll reach a jungle area beyond the town. Take a right turn and you basically enter the Rajaji Natonal Park. However, do not get alarmed, it is a busy road and not a jungle trail. After awhile you should see an entrance with signage of the national park (NO menton of the Ashram) and a small trail going inside the forest leaving the main road. Take it and you will arrive at the entrance.

What is the entry fee?
INR 150 per head for Indians (yeah, a bit too much!). Student discounts are available in case you are one and carrying I Cards. Fees are higher for foreigners.

20 Comments

  • 2016/10/04 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating photographs! Love the write up too.

    I visited it when Beatles Ashram was still closed. Eerie experience for me.

  • 2016/10/06 - 12:42 am | Permalink

    I love visiting abandoned buildings even though they usually have that eerie feel. I am surprised at the condition of some of the graffiti. It looks brand new. You always hear about the Beatles in Hamburg, but I never knew Rishikesh was a city which influenced their career.

  • 2016/10/06 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Really! So unbelievable to me… yet I am seeing the pics. Great you could visit!
    I like such places with so much of history.

  • 2016/10/06 - 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Some of the art is incredible. I hope that these talents find their true place in the world! And I love that these abandoned buildings are a place for this, rather than a place for vandalism or to be avoided. Such great and interesting history, and the photos are fantastic!

  • 2016/10/06 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been a fan of the Beatles but it’s so strange to me to see that a place where they used to stay and live for a while, extend their knowledge and spirituality, and to write songs, has been abandoned!
    I mean, something like that in Europe, would have been a museum with a 5€ ticket fare at least! 😀

  • 2016/10/07 - 1:45 am | Permalink

    Wow, how amazing is that! I honestly didn´t know that the Beatles spend time in an Ashram, and also never heard of a Beatles Cathedral! Thanks for sharing and showing us those great images and creative art!!

  • 2016/10/07 - 9:03 am | Permalink

    Amazing

  • 2016/10/07 - 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Ah, this post is a treat to my eyes and food for my soul! Your post just made me wish I could jump and get there right now. How I wish they let the place remain untouched at least till I get to see and experience it in person.

  • 2016/10/08 - 12:43 am | Permalink

    Between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I prefer The Stones, but I appreciate the Beatles. I ever visited Liverpool in 2012 and stayed at the Hard Day’s Night hotel. Of course I went on the Magical Mystery Tour as well. Like this spot in India, the history seems the most interesting to me. Music history is so much more comforting than military history!

  • 2016/10/08 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    This is something that we must visit when we make our trip to Rishikesh. Really nice photographs I must say

  • 2016/10/08 - 9:40 pm | Permalink

    A really fascinating post. I have been to Rishikesh a couple of times but not been to the Beatles ashram. I am hoping to get there when I am in those parts next. The graffiti is really brilliant. The Ashram does seem to have an eerie atmosphere though.

  • Marinel
    2016/10/08 - 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Love the photos- you got skills…and India is always fascinating, even the art on the walls.

  • 2016/10/09 - 2:10 am | Permalink

    Great post, and beautiful pictures! I’d never heard about this place (and I’ve never travelled to India) but that seems like a nice place to visit! The artwork is just wonderful :) Thanks for sharing! x

  • 2016/10/10 - 8:24 pm | Permalink

    The place looks interesting enough for a tour. It gives off the abandoned vibe, but still full of culture + stories. Also, the fact that there were no other visitors – now that’s really eerie!

  • 2016/10/10 - 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Amazing place to visit, so many things to explore. You have captured them very nicely. We will add this to our bucket list when we plan to visit Rishikesh. Beatle’s Cathedral graffitis looks stunning, we would love to explore them in person.

  • Shane
    2016/10/11 - 3:58 am | Permalink

    As a street art addict, seeking it out wherever I roam, I of course loved this post. I am excited to feature you on my next gaga for graffiti round. You found some real gems!

  • 2016/10/11 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Creepy abondoned place with such a nice graffiti art. Im.not sure if we have something like this herr in the Philippines but the place you visited is very interesting

  • 2016/10/11 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

    This is such an insightful post! I had no idea that the Beatles have spent time in India and that Rishikesh has such amazing graffitis dedicated to them. It must have been thrilling to walk through all those abandoned buildings are just enjoy the street art. Did you imagine how it used to be when the Beatles were there and that you were maybe stepping on their steps?

  • 2016/10/19 - 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Just stunning! The place looks quite eerie now, but I can imagine you could just smell and feel the history of the place. Great post. Will someday visit this place.

  • raj
    2016/11/08 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Very wonderful article you have composed . Enjoyed it a lot . Thanks.

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