In 1968, The Beatles arrived at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh, India, to learn Transcendental Meditation. During its heydays, this 15-acre ashram (hermitage) was a flourishing community complete with its own bank, hospital, post office and hotel style residential living facilities. The ashram, located in a national reserve forest, was abandoned by the guru and his followers around the turn of the century. The forest gradually reclaimed the buildings and facilities. It is now the haunt of monkeys, elephants and the occasional mountain tiger.
The dilapidated Satsang Hall (meditation & preaching hall), where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once shared his wisdom with the Beatles and his followers, is now a shrine to Beatles’ fans. With its walls adorned with graffiti and song lyrics, this hall is now christened as ‘The Beatles Cathedral’.
It is said that the band wrote some 48 songs during their short stay at the ashram, many of which made it on to the White Album (The Beatles, 1968), while some appeared on Abbey Road and solo records. Enchanted by the serenity & beauty of the landscape the band wrote songs like ‘The Happy Rishikesh Song’ & ‘Dehradun’, a catchy ode to the state capital.
Entrance to the Meditation Hall
The white letters in Hindi read ‘Maa’, meaning ‘Mother’. Various artists from across the globe collaborated to revamp the hall with their art.
The Beatles Cathedral
The Meditation Hall where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once shared his wisdom with the Beatles
The Beatles Cathedral
Inspired by a lecture given by the Maharshi, Lennon wrote the unreleased songs ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and ‘Child of Nature’, the tune of the later he re-used for ‘Jealous Guy’.
The once immaculately maintained ashram falls apart
The stay of The Beatles in the ashram ended due to a feud with the Maharshi and a discontented Lennon wrote a scornful song about the guru, ‘Sexy Sadie’, which goes, “Sexy Sadie, what have you done? You made a fool of everyone.”
Scattered throughout the ashram, are about 123 igloo shaped meditation pods.
Meditation Pod No. 9
It is believed that John Lennon and Paul McCartney meditated twice a day in pods numbered 9 and 10 respectively. Beatles fans theorize that capsule number 9 may have been the inspiration to the song ‘Revolution 9’. The song ‘I Am The Walrus / I Am The Eggman’ is believed to be written about these domes.
The forest engulfs the meditation pods
Meditation Pods overlooking the Ganga river
Long Decades No Mail
No more echoes of chants
The once luxurious living quarters played host to famous musicians and international celebrities
Jai Guru Dev
Lennon captures the essence of their meditative stay with the ‘Jai Guru Deva Om (Hail to the divine Guru)’ chant in the song ‘Across The Universe’ …
“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass/they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow/waves of joy are drifting through my open mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai Guru Deva Om”
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