The Most Famous Ashram – Rishikesh, India

A trip to Rishikesh is not complete without a visit to the Ashram of Yogi Maharishi Mahesh, also known as the “Beatles Ashram.” The old, long-abandoned ashram was made famous after the Beatles stayed there in the late 60’s… a visit that ushered them into an era of prolific songwriting as a result of their time at the ashram.

Although there were reports of rampant drug use by the Beatles despite repeated requests by the Maharishi to uphold the rigid standards of ashram life (it was the 60’s, after all) the guru, best known for popularizing Transcendental Meditation, was reported to have a penchant toward giving into temptation himself, particularly the kind brought about by the fame, fortune and notoriety the Beatles unavoidably brought with them.

After a few months, the Beatles stay at the ashram ended amidst great upheaval and controversy over allegations of both financial and sexual impropriety by the Maharishi. The ashram (sans its original leader) continued to operate for decades after the controversy and closed its doors for good in 2003. It has been abandoned and decaying ever since.

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Annabell inside one of the individual meditation huts.
Annabell inside one of the individual meditation huts.
Old huts and painted trees
Old huts and painted trees

While the Maharishi’s original intentions were likely pure, and he did in fact bring the healing practice of meditation to light for millions, his story is but another example of the controversies surrounding spiritual gurus that invariably arise every few years, reminding us that even the most ‘advanced’ spiritual practitioners can fall prey to the exact ego which spiritual pursuit is meant to dismantle… an all too common pitfall along the path.

Today, the ashram continues to slowly crumble and has become a favored spot for graffiti artists and muralist to showcase their work. When I first visited in late 2015, the ashram was technically “off limits” to the public, a limitation easily removed by a hundred rupee note slipped to the guard. Since then, however, the place has been taken over by the government and is now considered a tiger reserve (?) which also enables them to charge us foreigners a hefty 600 rupee fee to enter. Regardless, it’s a worthwhile expenditure in order to spend a few hours here wandering about, absorbing the artwork, taking photographs (including gratuitous, self-promoting yoga photos!) and tuning into the history and energy of a bygone era.

Natarajasana - dancer pose
Natarajasana – dancer pose, on the painted platform of the mediation hall.
Posing with the boys
Posing with the boys
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Several new murals by the same artist have appeared… and I absolutely love their work.
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“Painting is Prohibited”
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Sacred cow sports sacred geometry.
Carrying her crown chakra with grace.
Carrying her crown chakra with grace.

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{{ I’d like to extend a special thanks to my dear friend Annabell, for not only accompanying me on this incredible journey, but for her artistic talent which produced all these beautiful photos of me! So grateful for you! }}