The Beatles, the world’s most famous band, require little introduction. Their decade of chart success generated some all-time classic singles and essential albums that continue to have a significant impact on worldwide culture to this day after bursting onto the popular scene in the early 1960s. During their time together, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr travelled to India to meditate and collaborate on several songs on the legendary White Album. And it was at Chaurasi Kutia, also known as the Beatles Ashram, which is easily accessible by booking a cab in Rishikesh. This is where one of music’s greatest works ever was written.
Why did the Beatles visit the Ashram?
Interestingly, the Beatles visited India during the height of their fame. Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s wife, was looking for spirituality in her life when she came across an article in a newspaper offering Transcendental Meditation lessons in 1967. She immediately signed up for the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. When Boyd later told her husband about what she had done, it piqued his attention. As a result, the Harrisons and the other Beatles attended a lecture by the Maharishi in London. During the conference, the Beatles revealed that they were giving up drugs. The Beatles then asked Maharishi to invite them to stay at his ashram in Rishikesh, where he was teaching a course for people interested in spirituality.
They travelled to Rishikesh to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Transcendental Meditation is a type of mantra meditation established in India and the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1955. The Meditation Centre, commonly known as the “Aashram,” is also known as the “Chaurasi Kutiya” Aashram, which means “84 cottages for prayer or meditation.” The estate was built in the middle of a forest, far from the noise and bustle of daily life. It was an ideal location for anyone seeking quiet and harmony with nature.
Meditation, a vegetarian diet, and the gentle beauty of the Himalayan foothills provided a uniquely serene and creative refuge for the Beatles during their weeks at the ashram. There were no fans, no press, no racing around with hectic schedules, and in this freedom, in this single capsule of time, they created more brilliant music than at any other point in their illustrious lives.
Songs inspired by the Aashram stay
During their stay in the holy city of Rishikesh, the Beatles are said to have written many songs. In addition, the tranquil atmosphere of the location aided the band’s creative process. They wrote 48 songs while staying at the ashram, and their stay effectively gave birth to The White Album, one of their masterpieces.
The song “Blackbird” is said to have been written by McCartney in response to the raucous crows that disrupted the meditation sessions. It also features “Dear Prudence,” inspired by actress Mia Farrow’s younger sister, Prudence Farrow, who would spend long periods meditating in her room.
However, many people are unaware that the band also wrote a song called ‘Dehradun’ during this period, which was never released but is fondly remembered by many music fans in the Doon Valley. Almost five decades after it was written, the eminently hummable tune continues to resonate with older and younger music fans. With this catchy song, the Beatles immortalised Dehradun. The lyrics are a catchy homage to the picturesque getaway in the Himalayan foothills. Its allure had worked well enough on the Beatles, who were amidst one of their most creative periods.
Influence of Indian culture on the Beatles’ music
The impact of Indian classical music on the Beatles’ songs was particularly noticeable, as it incorporated instruments such as the Sitar and Tabla. “Across the Universe,” the first song to be transmitted directly into space by NASA, is also said to have been influenced by the Beatles’ interest in Transcendental Meditation. In the music, the Sanskrit phrase ‘Jai Guru Dev Om’ translates to “Victory to God Divine.”
The Beatles Ashram today
For decades, the ashram had been abandoned, its gates barred, and its wooded grounds neglected. Fans and lovers would sneak in to scribble their names on the empty buildings. The property within Rajaji National Park reopened to visitors a few years ago, driven by the boom in ecotourism. A small café and an exhibit displaying photographs from the Beatles’ 1968 tour were added.
The 14-acre ashram is a legacy of nature, art, and the spiritual counterculture of the 1960s. Pop art, graffiti, pictures of the Maharishi, and murals of the Beatles were painted on the ashram walls by street artists. If you are a Beatles lover, this is the place for you. It’s been more than 50 years since the musicians came to Rishikesh. John and George are long gone. But it feels like their spirits remain here.
Things to do in the Beatles Ashram
- Wonderfully designed meditation chambers of Chaurasi Kutia.
- Examine the eye-catching graffiti and paintings created by visitors on the walls of the abandoned ashram on the wall of Ved Bhavan.
- Take photos so you can show your friends and family that you have visited the same location as the Beatles.
- Hike to Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula. You can even sprint to the two bridges with your pals.
How to Reach the Beatles Ashram
One can take a direct bus or train to Rishikesh from New Delhi. It lies at a distance of 240km from Delhi. We have written comprehensively about a road trip from Delhi to Rishikesh, including quick stops at the lesser known attractions enroute. If you travel by flight, you can deboard at Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun. From Dehradun, Rishikesh is just a distance of 43.5km, and you can book an airport taxi to travel comfortably.
Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Swati Deol