If you are a fan of the Beatles, you might have heard of the Beatles Ashram, also known as Chaurasi Kutia, in Rishikesh, India. This is the place where the legendary rock band spent some time in 1968, learning meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and composing some of their most famous songs. But what else do you know about this ashram?
Here are 10 facts about Beatles Ashram that might surprise you.
1. The Beatles Ashram is not its official name. The ashram was originally called the International Academy of Meditation and was one of the many ashrams in Rishikesh, a city known as the yoga capital of the world. The name Beatles Ashram was given by the locals and the fans after the Beatles visited it.
2. The Beatles ashram is located on a cliff overlooking the Ganges river, in the foothills of the Himalayas. It covers 14 acres of land surrounded by jungle, and has a stunning view of the river and the mountains. The ashram is accessible by foot, ferry, or two-wheeler, and is about 5 kilometers from the Lakshman Jhula footbridge.
3. The ashram was built in 1963 with a $100,000 gift from an American heiress. Doris Duke, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist, donated the money to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who leased the site from the state forestry department. The ashram had 84 meditation huts (hence the name Chaurasi Kutia), a lecture hall, a kitchen, a dining hall, and a garden.
4. The Beatles stayed at the Beatles ashram for about two months in 1968. They arrived in February, along with their wives, girlfriends, and other celebrities such as Donovan, Mia Farrow, and Mike Love. They were looking for spiritual guidance and peace after the death of their manager Brian Epstein and the stress of fame. They learned Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught them to meditate for hours a day.
5. The ashram was the most productive period for the Beatles as songwriters. They composed most of the songs for their self-titled double album, also known as the White Album, as well as some songs for Abbey Road and Let It Be. Some of the songs inspired by their stay at the ashram include Across the Universe, Dear Prudence, Sexy Sadie, Mother Nature’s Son, and The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.
6. The ashram also had some controversies and conflicts. Not everything was peaceful and harmonious at the ashram. There were rumors of Maharishi’s inappropriate behavior with some female students, which led to some of the Beatles leaving early or losing faith in him. There were also disagreements among the band members over their musical direction and personal issues.
7. The ashram was abandoned in the 1990s and became a ruin. After Maharishi Mahesh Yogi moved his headquarters to Europe in 1970, the ashram gradually declined and was eventually reclaimed by nature. The buildings were dilapidated and overgrown by vegetation, and the walls were covered with graffiti and art by visitors. The ashram was officially closed in 2003 and reverted to the forestry department.
8. The Beatles ashram was reopened to the public in 2015 as a tourist attraction. After years of neglect and vandalism, the ashram was finally restored and opened to visitors by the Uttarakhand government. The entry fee is Rs 150 for Indians and Rs 600 for foreigners. The visitors can explore the meditation huts, the lecture hall, the Beatles’ cottages, and the art gallery.
9. The ashram has an exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ visit. In February 2018, an exhibition called “The Beatles Cathedral Gallery” was inaugurated at the ashram to commemorate 50 years since the Beatles came to Rishikesh. The exhibition features paintings, photographs, installations, and memorabilia related to the Beatles and their music.
10. The ashram is still a place of inspiration and creativity for many artists and musicians. The Beatles ashram has not lost its charm and appeal for those who seek spirituality and artistry. Many artists and musicians have visited or performed at the ashram, such as Russell Brand, Jared Leto, Gaurav Raina (of Midival Punditz), Anoushka Shankar, Raghu Dixit, Shubha Mudgal, Karsh Kale, Vishal Dadlani (of Pentagram), Monica Dogra (of Shaa’ir + Func), Ankur Tewari, and Prateek Kuhad.
Text by Harender Singh