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Remnants of a grand legacy

More than 40 years after the Beatles came to India, we revisit the ashram where they sought musical salvation

travel Updated: Jul 17, 2010 10:05 IST
Harmanpreet Kaur
Harmanpreet Kaur

The pictures taken by
photographer Paul
Saltzman of The
Beatles in Rishikesh, while
they spent three months at
the Maharishi Yogi Ashram
in 1968, are some of my
favourite photographs of the
fab four. I've always found the
easy languor and freedom of
spirit portrayed in those pictures
very attractive. I particularly
like a picture of
Lennon and McCartney
dressed in kurtas and chappals,
composing together sitting
on a doorstep. I had
always wanted to stand on
the same spot where the
band once stood and gave
transcendental meditation a
shot. I wanted to visit the
ashram where they wrote
many of the songs that
appeared on the band's later
albums, especially the White
Album. Maybe I'd spot a
stray piece of paper with
some lyrics scribbled on it
that had miraculously
survived the ravages of time,
just as their music has.

The Beatles Ashram, as it is better known, is hard to find these days. It is tucked away inside the Rajaji National Park in Rishikesh, Uttrakhand. During a recent visit, I was determined to trace it down and pay my respects. You have to cross the Ganga and walk about 4 km past various ashrams and cowsheds, till you come across a signboard that points to the Beatles Ashram. Soon you reach a shady alcove, besides which the river flows peacefully, its waters glistening in the sun.

The ashram itself is in a state of ruin. There is only one guard who keeps watch from one of the balconies on the first floor. The architecture of the ashram is simple and elegant, and reminds me of a haveli. The peeling arches, the broken stairs and the crumbling jaali doors seem frozen in time. I stand there transfixed, turning back time as I walk into musty rooms that smell of decay, wondering whose private enclosure I am trespassing.

It's unfortunate that this musical monument has not been restored by anyone and is falling apart every day. I'd recommend every visitor to Rishikesh to go to the ashram. If you are a Beatle maniac, then put this right on top of your must-visit list!

First Published: Jul 17, 2010 10:05 IST