What do Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, have in common with Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates?
They have all been to Rishikesh and probably Liverpool too.
Fifty years ago, The Beatles went to India to study transcendental meditation, write some songs, smoke a lot of dope and have a lot of sex.
Most of the White Album – released in November 1968 – was written in India.
Classics like Revolution, Back in the USSR, Blackbird and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da were composed at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s International Academy of Meditation and Chaurasi Kutia (84 huts) ashram when Rishikesh was the world yoga hub.
Now Rishikesh, a 45-minute drive from Dehadrun, which is an hour’s flight from Delhi, is the adventure capital where you can zip-wire over the Ganges, whitewater raft down and bunjee jump within a foot of its jade green holy waters. And, afterwards, calm your disorientated mind, still your heartbeat and palpitating body parts and get your laundry done in a five-star royal palace.
It is still a place of meditation. A former vice-regal palace, Ananda in the Himalayas is India’s top luxury health resort.
In Sanskrit, ananda means ‘absolute joy’. Ultimate bliss is attainable through a combination of chickpea poultices, nostril washes, avoiding potatoes and eating more millet, regular and ruthless exfoliation and colonic irrigation, express pedicures, skull polishing, eyebrow threading and drinking more beetroot, papaya and watermelon juice.
And paying an Indian enormous sums of rupees to pour buttermilk over your forehead. And fiddle with your sacral dam.
On hand for wellness seekers are resident and visiting inferential therapists and whole-body welfare counsellors, intuitive and sacro-cranial masseurs, ‘rolfers’ and masters of refining your etheric body and giving your ‘ojas’ or aura a rejuvenated lustre.
In time you can learn universal adoration. And become accepting.
Even of sitar music.
Ringo described The Beatles’ 14-acre ashram on Manikoot hill ‘as a kind of spiritual Butlin’s’
And the lack of Wi-Fi.
Ringo described The Beatles’ 14-acre ashram on Manikoot hill over the Lakshman Jhula bridge in the Rajaji National Park above the Ganges as “a kind of spiritual Butlin’s”. The Beatles were resident from 10 days to 12 weeks. Lennon and Harrison lasted the longest. Donovan was a guest.
Originally built in 1963 as a gift from American tobacco heiress Doris Duke, the main four-storey ‘Puri’ accommodation block is now a shell. The two-storey lecture hall is ground-floor only and roofless. There has been talk of conservation and re-development of the Beatles bungalow, Yogo’s residence and the post office.
To mark the 50th anniversary, a new toilet block has been opened. And a cafeteria and two galleries with wildlife and period Beatles photographs. The ashram is managed by the reserve.
The old, five-room beehive stone meditation caves stink of urine and retain the aura of other methods of self-expression. More recent than the 60s. The message seems to be “Please, Please Do”.
You have to “Let It Be”.
But you can experience peace and love on the banks of the Mersey too. Although it may not be so pampering and exotic or as extravagant, Liverpool’s Albert Dock gives you a taste of India at its Beatles Story museum, which now has a two-year special exhibition of The Beatles in India.
Along with a pair of John Lennon spectacles, Harrison’s first guitar, a Brian Epstein jacket and the original Strawberry Fields sign there are also reconstructions of the Cavern Club and Casbah Coffee House. India may have the weather but Liverpool still preserves the romance. Entry to the historic Uttarakhand ashram is £1 for Indians. £6 for ‘Foreigners’.
The Fab Four’s trip completely changed the face of the tourism industry in Rishikesh. The positive media publicity has helped Rishikesh emerge as a popular tourist destination. About 8,000 tourists visited the site last year. If not to get the T-shirt, to get the marigold petal garland.
Guests at the uber-expensive Ananda in the Himalayas pay to get reborn. Special restorative work has been carried out on the world’s most famous Liverpudlians.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Beatles have all been titillated. Old graffiti have been airbrushed or lovingly restored.
Sir Paul has had a complimentary facelift and looks 50 years younger. John and George have been brought back to life. And Ringo has also been subjected to a rejuvenating makeover. On the house.
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