To this ashram (this Sanscrit word we could roughly translate as ‘fussless and painless place’) The Beatles were invited to study transcedental meditation under the guidence of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the very same person who “has revived the practical, ancient science that is capable of creating Perfect Health and Enlightenment for any individual and a society of Happiness and Peace – Heaven on Earth” (quot. from http://www.alltm.org ). But anyway it didn`t work out well between The Beatles and their guru.
(photo from http://cosma.livejournal.com ).
Some pictures from 1968 and Paul Saltzman memories made it a bit more clear for me what I was looking for: “The ashram sat on a small plateau among wooded hills. A narrow dirt road ran from the front gate to the back of the property, and a barbed-wire fence surrounded the property, ensuring the ashram's privacy. Along the road, away from the cliff, behind a low chain link fence were six long, whitewashed bungalows each with five or six double rooms. Flowerbeds filled with large red hibiscus blossoms garlanded the ashram and several vegetable gardens...” (Paul Saltzman,Beatles in India, 2005).
That is the very same bridge that Ringo, his wife Moreen and a couple of suitecases stuffed with english beans crossed over heading for Maharishi ashram and several weeks of serenity.
While heading down-stream along the Ganges bank one can soon reach the end of the inhabited territory and the river bend. Shortly before there`s a sign on the road (photo from http://cosma.livejournal.com) giving a desperate beatlefan an excitement shiver. Just after the sign the flat river bank transforms into steep wooded cliffs which provide you with excellent view of old Rishikesh on the opposite river bank. What of course, I found out a bit later.
The road I was walking on could be better described as piles of gravel and boulders but it was reasonably wide for me and a monkee to pass one another without any international conflicts.
Twenty minutes of leisurely walk in the jungles and I`ve noticed the spot where plants were not so dense, it could hardly be called a path. Of course I immediately turned towards it. And that was a really wise move.
Protecting the remains of my clothes agains thorny shrubbery and memorizing the direction at the same time I have tumbled out to some deserted road in five minutes. And when I say ‘road’ I mean road. Some long time ago it was paved with red bricks now partly crumbled partly moss-grown and covered with dead leaves. The road led to the iron gate, painted in green and red and, surely enough, locked.
And after coming closer, in three minutes after I found my way to the ashram I realized – this is it. I found the place.
In following few days I visited the ashram for several times sketching ashram plan and cottage #1 scheme, taking pictures. Surprisingly enough but I never saw there a single monkee anymore. I met two or three couple of tourists instead. They were wandering around, climbing up the main building roofs and capturing the views but I never saw any of them near the ‘beatle’ bungalow. No other fidgets were trying to shed light upon which place these fabulous Beatles lived in after all.
If one takes a look on the ashram map he will see six cottages in a row rougly of the same type – no more no less. Between the third and the forth ones was one more building overgrown with plants so much that its shape remained unrevealed by me. But from its size I`d presume that it was some secondary premise.
Nearby towered two buildings – three- and four-storey ones. At the first sight they were in the already familiar state of neglect. And at the second too. But these two buildings somehow left to me a lasting impression that after a good remodelling job they could serve as a passable hotel. Or ashram.
From the numbers above the entrance to every such house I concluded there must be no less than a hundred of them. I didn`t enter them because I knew already from the pics what could wait me inside – nothing. Besides they were kind of dismal...
Logically enough I have thought that “the cliff” should be somewhere on the steep bank of the river not far from the “beatle part” of the ashram. It turned out to be difficult to find the very place because all the river bank was covered with ubiquitos shrubbery, cactuses and small trees. Red hibiscus blossoms brightened up the neighbourhood.
After a while I`ve come across very familiar semicircular steps among the grass leading to the small lawn.
And again it seemed pointless to go somewhere else. This place had it all.