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beatles in rishikesh: yoga, music, and nature

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

In 1968, The Beatles released their eponymous "White Album" to both critical acclaim and commercial success. Little known to many, over half of the songs on this LP were written during The Beatles' brief but highly creative sojourn in the serene Shivalik hilltown of Rishikesh. Given my profound love for Rishikesh and deep appreciation for The Beatles, I simply couldn't resist the allure of visiting the very place that served as the birthplace of some of their most amazing songs.

Nestled on the eastern banks of the sacred Ganga, the Beatles Ashram, officially known as "Churasi Kutiya," referred to the locals as such, can be easily reached via any of the footbridges in this vibrant city. The name "Churasi Kutiya" translates to "84 meditation chambers," which perfectly encapsulates the essence of this unique location, as it is home to a myriad of these meditation caves. After crossing the river to the eastern side, Swarg Ashram, I continued along a narrow road, passing ashrams, pilgrims, markets, and multiple monkeys. As I ventured southward, the bustling crowds gradually dissolved, and the asphalt pavement gave way to a winding dirt road. A few minutes of walking led me to the threshold of the Ashram, which is now a part of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, a sprawling 1075 km national park renowned for its majestic elephants and elusive tigers.

Upon entry, I purchased my 150-rupee ticket (grateful for the Indian resident rate, considering it's nearly 600 rupees for non-citizens). After presenting my ticket to the officer, I officially set foot inside this historic sanctuary. The path ahead unfurled as a winding, hilly trek toward the heart of the ashram complex. The journey was pleasant, offering a gentle ascent.

The hilly incline eventually gave way to a relatively level central area, housing a picture gallery and a quaint cafe. However, I decided to explore the Ashram's premises before taking a break for a snack.

I turned right and discovered a series of numbered stone meditation caves, each with its unique egg-shaped design. I could see over a hundred of these caves scattered across the terrain

With a mix of curiosity and apprehension, I entered one that was relatively secluded and kept an eye out for animals, given the wilderness. To my delight, there was an undeniable sense of serenity within these caves (thankfully, no bats in sight). The caves had a small staircase leading to a small open porch area where one could peacefully meditate with the soothing sounds of nature.

Inside one of the caves

As I moved along the narrow pathway, surrounded by the caves, I approached a cliff where I could see nature in all her glory below. The view was amazing, with clean and clear waters flowing serenely.

Ganga, as seen from the ashram

Maharishi's residence

As I continued my exploration, I stumbled upon a dilapidated house, which I later learned was once the residence of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. From this house, one could gaze upon the river while hearing its soothing melody.

Ganga's Grace and the Vast Expanse of Tapovan, Rishikesh

Venturing further, I stumbled upon the flats known as Anand Bhavan and Siddhi Bhavan, which served as the residence for the students participating in the ashram's meditation program. Out of all the structures within the complex, I was particularly drawn to these buildings due to their unique architecture.

Anand Bhavan and Siddhi Bhavan
A dome structure atop the flats

The empty, abandoned flats with their bare corridors initially sent shivers down my spine. However, I overcame my apprehension and explored these spaces, uncovering rooms with spacious, airy balconies and decrepit cupboards (and toilets!) that exuded a haunting, dystopian aura. The inside was a world of ruins; it was hard to believe only 50 years had passed since this place was almost reclaimed by nature.

These two flat complexes housed not only The Beatles during their stay but also the individuals accompanying them, including musicians Donovan, and Beach Boy Mike Love, actress Mia Farrow, and her sister Prudence (yes, of "Dear Prudence" fame, the song was written here!).

Upon ascending to the rooftops of these buildings, I was treated to this breathtaking view of the majestic Shivalik mountains in all their green grandeur.

Shivalik Range in All Its Glory

After exploring the flats, I wandered onto a rocky, hilly terrain, where an unlabeled structure stood with nothing but the grid-like remnants of its foundation. The nature reserve offered a delightful trek away from the bustling city, and this particular section of the complex held a unique charm – it attracted the least crowds, providing a rare opportunity to be truly alone in nature. It was an amazing trek, taking me deeper into the heart of this serene landscape.

As I continued to explore, I stumbled upon another weathered hall that appeared to have once been a community meditation room. The hall's ambiance was almost haunting, with its dilapidated roof and crumbling walls. Yet, what truly stood out was the mesmerizing graffiti that adorned its surfaces. Among them, the words "Let It Be" from The Beatles' iconic song added a poignant touch, echoing the enduring spirit of this place.

Finally, I reached Ved Bhawan, also known as the Satsang Hall or the Cathedral Hall, where meditation classes took place. This hall, adorned with vibrant Beatles graffiti, stood out as the most lively and inviting part of the entire ashram. It exuded a sense of warmth and cheerfulness. I sat on the ground, played "Across the Universe," and meditated, immersed in the positivity of this space, likely owing to the regular satsangs held by the local ashrams. This hall now stands as the main shrine dedicated to the legacy of this place and The Beatles, a living tribute to their enduring influence.

After leaving the Satsang Hall, I moved forward, continuing my exploration of the ashram. The complex held numerous other structures, including various cottages, storage rooms, and temples. Among these structures, I stumbled upon the ruins of a printing press, once a hub of literary activity for the Rishi's meditation program. And there was the kitchen, where vegetarian meals were prepared—a source of frustration for Ringo Starr, who famously struggled to acclimate to the unfamiliar cuisine and spent just 10 days at the ashram (but not before writing his first song here!). As I meandered through this space, it became evident that every corner of the complex held a piece of history.

The ashram had experienced a period of neglect in the 1970s and was eventually reclaimed by the government. During this time, it had become a canvas for Beatles fans who adorned its walls with graffiti. In 2015, it was officially opened to the public, becoming a site of pilgrimage for Beatles enthusiasts worldwide, with artists contributing murals to the ruins.

I encountered a plethora of both official and unofficial graffiti. This art breathed life into the ruins and served as a vivid tribute to the rich history of this place. As I wandered through the ashram, it felt like an ongoing art exhibition, with the ruins serving as a unique canvas. The graffiti was a captivating mix, featuring famous Beatles lyrics, images of yogis, cows, gods, and various other elements, each contributing to the vibrant tapestry of the Beatles' spiritual journey in this remarkable setting. Below, you'll find some of the more interesting graffiti that I encountered during my visit.

Returning to the central courtyard where my journey began, I enjoyed a refreshing lemonade and a sandwich at a small shack café. From there, I proceeded to the photo gallery, where I found a trove of old pictures depicting The Beatles' stay at the ashram. The images portrayed the Liverpudlian boys dressed in white, adorned with marigold garlands, alongside their wives and the Maharishi. The gallery featured numerous photographs, including individual portraits and moments of their creative process.

As I left the gallery, my tour came to an end, and I made my way back to the entrance. I was immensely grateful for the water filter, which offered respite from the scorching afternoon heat. Descending the steps, I reflected on my experience. While I initially anticipated that the visit would center around The Beatles' presence, it turned out to be a profound introspection journey. Despite the ashram's dystopian ambiance, it exuded a unique serenity, thanks to the surrounding mountains and the gentle flow of the Ganga in the valley. I departed with a sense of calm, finding solace in a place that offered respite from the otherwise chaotic world. My visit to this ashram helped me connect with meditation and the deeper essence of life.


As I reflect on my journey to the Beatles Ashram, there are a few valuable insights and tips I'd like to share with fellow travelers. These small considerations can enhance your experience and help you make the most of your visit:

1. Carry Identification: It's always wise to have identification with you. It can be useful for entry and also for your own peace of mind.

2. Comfortable Footwear: Learn from my experience—the ashram's terrain is hilly and rocky, uneven, and definitely requires good support. Opt for sturdy, comfortable footwear, and avoid my initial mistake of wearing chappals.

3. Sun Protection: Rishikesh can be scorching during the summer months, so remember to bring sunglasses and a hat. Ensure you have a bottle of water to stay hydrated during your exploration.

4. Take Your Time: The ashram holds a wealth of history and serenity. Although you can cover the main spots in about an hour, I urge you to take your time. Pause, absorb the atmosphere, and let the place's unique energy seep into your soul.

5. Respect the Wildlife: Keep in mind that the ashram is situated within a literal tiger reserve. While spotting tigers, elephants, or other wildlife is rare, it's essential to be mindful of the wilderness and follow any safety guidelines provided by the authorities.

6. Operating Hours: The Beatles Ashram opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ensure you plan your visit within these hours, so you have sufficient time to explore at your own pace.

7. Meditate and Reflect: If you're so inclined, I highly recommend taking a moment for meditation. It adds a profound dimension to your visit, allowing you to connect more deeply with the spiritual aura that graces this place. The views of the surrounding Shivalik mountains and the tranquil Ganga are truly remarkable. Take a moment to absorb the beauty of the natural world around you.

Remember, the Beatles Ashram is not just a historical site; it's a place where history, nature, and spirituality converge. I hope these tips enhance your journey, just as mine was enriched by this remarkable destination!

Psst! Just a heads up – All pictures featured in this blog post are captured by me 📸

So, please remember to give credit where it's due if you plan on using them. Thanks a million! 😄✌️


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Dec 19, 2023

Extremely well written piece, excited to read more from you!


Oct 19, 2023

heyy jude ;)

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