I had waited for this moment for a long time. I actually postponed it from occurring a bit too prematurely; unconsciously wanted something to anticipate right to my last days in North India. I wanted to not only walk through, I wanted time to revel in Rishikesh for all that it is! To not only see but wander and spend quality time in especially the Maharashi’s Ashram, better known today as the Beatles Ashram. I can’t decide and pin point what it is exactly about Rishikesh that harbors such an affinity in me. It’s a combination of many lovely things. For me, just the fact that it’s a spiritual city where God Realized Yogis have magnetized and charged the vibration of the vicinity next to the holy Ganges with the deepest mediation, makes this city a favorite by all means! Many apparitions of countless past Guru’s, Saints and Sages have been said to be seen still today in spirit visiting this notable yoga hub. Why not? It’s eye candy for the nature lover with the Himalayan view and waterfalls! It’s a cleaner part of the Ganga where you can sit next to the holy water in a beach setting. It’s excitement for the adventure seeker but also a fusion of where pop culture met spirituality for the first time! It’s exciting, an actual physical place that is centered on spirituality, yoga, inspiration and music’s spark! … Seems like a place any musical yogi could call home! This city is the ideal city for taking time out for the higher self to cultivate one’s greatest inspiration, best work and bringing new meaning to old ways of life. It’s obvious why the Beatles were led there and stayed for a break. I have always been a Beatles fan, I hold their song writing in the highest of calibre!!! You can imagine my excitement or any fan’s excitement approaching the main ashram entrance. To many it’s a big deal, to me it truly was!
At the gates of this beautiful lushly over grown ashram, it unexpectedly seems really loathsome in its complete abandon. I was warned earlier on that it is actually trespassing to go inside the grounds, but there is a man charging 50 rupees to enter… figure that one out! So I was told not to pay him, go around pass the gates to the left hand side and climb the rock wall to enter. After doing so, there he was standing in front of me in full authority asking for the entry fee! I just walked on past him signaling my friends to do so also as he threatened to call a policeman on site. I just said, “go for it, we’re both trespassing, you’re the one trying to charge for it, we’re just here to admire!” He didn’t bother us after that.
To me, if there ever was a thing called ‘sin’ (either than what the Social Insurance Number represents numbering individuals) it would be to allow these utopian grounds of an ashram to be that desolately deserted! It should be a living chakra right now. Oh what I would turn that place into if given the chance and budget! My love for Feng Shui and renovation was on full throttle here! At every turn a new building or quarter with true character in its structure; I wish I could give it a Jenovation! I would turn it into literal spiritual paradise! … Anyways more on that fantasy to come later I’m sure lol!
Walking in are beautiful individual stone mediation cells. They look like beehives for humans, where one can go to extract their inner honey and taste the bliss of joy in meditation. It seems they have washrooms on the ground and a small staircase to a top bunk for individual silence. I went inside one but with not enough time to allow for a proper meditation but still I could sense this ashram’s spiritual vibration in its hay day!
The most exciting part was entering the “Beatles Gallery!” You not only can see but feel the wear and tear of time in which hippies, tourists and troublemakers have left there mark and memories in the vast warehouse type space. The art and graffiti there is audaciously inspiring. Mixed messages of love, peace, lyrics and symbols stain the dilapidated walls and multiple levels of tiers which seems like it was at one point a stage or rostrum.
To my a surprise I was delighted to see both paintings of my meditation lineage Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda and my yoga lineage guru Sivananda. The sight filled me with such happiness, never before have I seen them together side by side, what a wonderful sight, and next to a painting of one of my most admired bands… what a priceless vision!
The vibe in there is uplifting… almost groovy and spacey like. Imagine a physical place where the Beatles are energetically present, that’s the sensation. I wasn’t the only one that began to crave listening to their music. The few around me started humming different legendary tunes. It felt like the graffiti on the wall has a life of its own, living lyrics with all the energy people have used to sketch into them. Luckily randomly outside there was an English fellow playing guitar who led us to the actual guesthouse the Beatles occupied. While there on the roof top he serenaded us with “Black bird.” … Amazing eh, what are the chances of that! The view from the rooftop is just breath taking! All the mature trees and epic view of the Ganges, the entire ashram itself is just amazingly majestic but that spot holds splendor!
No wonder they shot an interview from there. It’s no surprise “The White Album” is one of their best albums, coming from the seedlings of a purely beautiful environment. There are countless abandoned buildings on the grounds. Even what seems like apartment buildings of ‘hotel’ rooms; all of them with signatures of visitors who felt compelled to write “___ was here.” Come sunset there is an eerie feeling, as if junkies or homeless occupy or lurk in the dark endless quarters and nooks, so it’s best to visit in daylight. What an amazing experience, I recommend it to all so if your headed to Rishikesh, it is worth the visit. It’s just such a tragedy the government has just “Let It Be” and doesn’t restore the grounds and invest in returning it into its functioning magical potential.
Rishikesh as a city in general has a spark of guiding light within it. Unlike other buzy, crowded Indian cities it is rich in spiritual lure. One can actually feel a greater elevation, I imagine it maybe literally the altitude but it’s also something more. I think it’s the Ganga and the highly concentrated yoga practice here that’s got tourists naturally buzzing. I had the great honour of attending a yoga class with a 106 year old yoga teacher!
Oddly enough I pulled my left hamstring at his class! I have never pulled anything in yoga in 18 years, I must have been channeling in old energy, LOL! I think it was just his bouncing style that threw my body off. I was taught never to bounce in a pose and I was reminded why! Regardless, I enjoyed every moment and watched in awe especially at the end where he demonstrates amazing poses.
It just reiterated how you are never too old to do yoga. Also by doing yoga undoubtably it does contribute to long term positive health which in turn can quite possibly increase ones lifespan. Most importantly there is always room for personal improvement. No matter how amazing of a yogi one is, there truly is no summit to one’s personal practice or to yoga in general. Unlike traditional exercise such as weight lifting, yoga assists us in old age when flexibility is needed most. The earlier one adopts yoga into their lifestyle the sooner one can experience it’s healthy rewards and the wonderful feeling each class leaves you with. Once a week is really all that’s needed to make a difference. That guruji is an amazing yogi, his asanas (poses) carry the expertise only a century of practice unveils! I had the honour of taking a picture with him, he told me to put on an energy hat… I did what I was told. 😉
Photo’s of Jenikz at the Beatles Gallery were taken by Ofek Ron-Carmel Photography.