Photos: How Rishikesh turned yoga central thanks to The Beatles

Updated On Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

International Yoga Day, is being celebrated on June 21, proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to the United Nations General Assembly and adopted unanimously. And the town of Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is the world centre of yoga, drawing tens of thousands of foreign tourists every year to its dozens of ashram retreats and yoga schools. A centuries old centre for yoga, the Beatles’ 1968 stay helped put the town on the global map, drawing international yogis and yoginis ever since.

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People practice yoga on a terrace at the Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. The town, in the foothills of the Himalayas 250 kilometres north of Delhi, is the world centre of yoga, drawing tens of thousands of foreign tourists every year to its dozens of ashram retreats and yoga schools. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

People practice yoga on a terrace at the Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. The town, in the foothills of the Himalayas 250 kilometres north of Delhi, is the world centre of yoga, drawing tens of thousands of foreign tourists every year to its dozens of ashram retreats and yoga schools. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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Sitting humbly on the floor in his orange robes, the long-haired, bushy-bearded Swami Chidanand Saraswati, head of the biggest ashram in Rishikesh rejoiced at how yoga has spread globally in the 50 years since The Beatles visited the city. “As the Sun is for all, the Moon is for all, rivers are for all, in the same way yoga is for all,” he said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

Sitting humbly on the floor in his orange robes, the long-haired, bushy-bearded Swami Chidanand Saraswati, head of the biggest ashram in Rishikesh rejoiced at how yoga has spread globally in the 50 years since The Beatles visited the city. “As the Sun is for all, the Moon is for all, rivers are for all, in the same way yoga is for all,” he said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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International Yoga Day, was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to the UN General Assembly and adopted unanimously. “Imagine that! The prime minister went to the United Nations and talked about the benefits of yoga... Today yoga is everywhere,” Saraswati told AFP at his Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a stone’s throw from the river Ganga. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

International Yoga Day, was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to the UN General Assembly and adopted unanimously. “Imagine that! The prime minister went to the United Nations and talked about the benefits of yoga... Today yoga is everywhere,” Saraswati told AFP at his Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a stone’s throw from the river Ganga. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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And this is thanks in no small part to the Fab Four, who came looking for refuge from Beatlemania, for enlightenment and to immerse themselves in Indian culture. Staying in an ashram hosted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it was a watershed time for the Beatles-- although drummer Ringo Starr, troubled by the food, went home after just 10 days. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

And this is thanks in no small part to the Fab Four, who came looking for refuge from Beatlemania, for enlightenment and to immerse themselves in Indian culture. Staying in an ashram hosted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it was a watershed time for the Beatles-- although drummer Ringo Starr, troubled by the food, went home after just 10 days. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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The last of the band left after eight weeks. The site is now derelict and atmospheric, having been abandoned in 2001. But the group’s 1968 stay helped to put the town -- a centre for yoga for centuries already and long a gateway to other sacred sites -- on the map for Westerners while also popularising yoga and meditation. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

The last of the band left after eight weeks. The site is now derelict and atmospheric, having been abandoned in 2001. But the group’s 1968 stay helped to put the town -- a centre for yoga for centuries already and long a gateway to other sacred sites -- on the map for Westerners while also popularising yoga and meditation. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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Atta Kurzmann, 68, an American visiting Rishikesh who was a “great Beatles fan” and now a yoga teacher, was one of those inspired back then. “The reason I got into Indian spirituality was because of George Harrison and knowing that they came to Rishikesh... and were interested in higher forms of consciousness that didn’t have to do with drugs was very appealing,” she said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

Atta Kurzmann, 68, an American visiting Rishikesh who was a “great Beatles fan” and now a yoga teacher, was one of those inspired back then. “The reason I got into Indian spirituality was because of George Harrison and knowing that they came to Rishikesh... and were interested in higher forms of consciousness that didn’t have to do with drugs was very appealing,” she said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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Today Rishikesh attracts around 70-80,000 foreign visitors every year, and many more Indians wanting to bathe and go white-water rafting in the river, to attend festivals, or just visit the sights. Away from the crowds at the Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram and Retreat Centre, the mostly foreign and overwhelmingly young guests pay 1,050 rupees per night for a shared room, vegetarian meals included. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

Today Rishikesh attracts around 70-80,000 foreign visitors every year, and many more Indians wanting to bathe and go white-water rafting in the river, to attend festivals, or just visit the sights. Away from the crowds at the Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram and Retreat Centre, the mostly foreign and overwhelmingly young guests pay 1,050 rupees per night for a shared room, vegetarian meals included. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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Among the Ashram’s residents is Mexican Pablo Rueda, 42, who decided to come for a week after losing his job as an aerospace engineer in Canada. “I was depressed and wondering what to do with my life,” he said, fresh from a communal breakfast where guests sit on the floor and eat in silence from individual small tables. “I wanted to practise yoga, which I love, and meditate.” (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

Among the Ashram’s residents is Mexican Pablo Rueda, 42, who decided to come for a week after losing his job as an aerospace engineer in Canada. “I was depressed and wondering what to do with my life,” he said, fresh from a communal breakfast where guests sit on the floor and eat in silence from individual small tables. “I wanted to practise yoga, which I love, and meditate.” (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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It’s a tough routine though, with the wake-up bell ringing at 5 am. Guests then do half an hour of meditation, 90 minutes of yoga on the roof -- as the sun rises -- and then half an hour chanting mantras around a fire before breakfast. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

It’s a tough routine though, with the wake-up bell ringing at 5 am. Guests then do half an hour of meditation, 90 minutes of yoga on the roof -- as the sun rises -- and then half an hour chanting mantras around a fire before breakfast. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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A tourist poses next to murals at the now-derelict ashram attended by The Beatles. The rest of the day is free for meditation, reading, chatting and local trips before more yoga at 6 pm, supper and early bed. The facility is not completely cut off from the modern world however, offering Wi-Fi. “I still look at Facebook as I like to share pictures from my trip,” Rueda said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)
Updated on Jun 21, 2018 02:43 PM IST

A tourist poses next to murals at the now-derelict ashram attended by The Beatles. The rest of the day is free for meditation, reading, chatting and local trips before more yoga at 6 pm, supper and early bed. The facility is not completely cut off from the modern world however, offering Wi-Fi. “I still look at Facebook as I like to share pictures from my trip,” Rueda said. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP)

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