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Longing for Yesterday: Rishikesh, Liverpool to mark 50 years of the Beatles in India

Monday, September 11, 2017
By Mona Parthsarathi

Rishikesh: “We can work it out”, they hoped as they headed to an ashram at the dizzying height of their fame, discovering mental calm, learning meditation and writing over 40 songs on the banks of the Ganges.

They were The Beatles, the quartet that won over a million hearts and still has listeners dreaming and dancing to their songs. And now, 49 years after they went to the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga ashram, preparations are on in both Rishikesh and their hometown Liverpool to mark the golden jubilee of that visit.

Situated at Swargashram after crossing the Ram Jhoola, the Chaurasi Kutia Ashram, or The Beatles Ashram as it came to be known, is quite rundown. But it will be repaired and spruced up ahead of the celebrations next year.

The retreat captured global attention when the four members of the legendary English band -- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr -- visited it in 1968, just two years before they disbanded.

The ashram is different from other such retreats in this Yoga capital because of the graffiti work and paintings on its walls and 84 soundproof meditation huts.

This is where they wrote 48 songs, which were included in 'White Album’, ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘ Let it be’, including “Dear Prudence” and “Sexy Sadie”, described as a barbed tribute to the Maharishi.

The 15-acre ashram, which has a distinctive place in The Beatles' history, falls in the Rajaji Tiger reserve and had been off limits for tourists since 2001. In 2015, it opened its doors to fans after a nod from the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

For the golden jubilee celebrations, the forest department is planning to involve Mahesh Yogi’s followers and local people. “We are planning to open an information centre with a new brochure and maps as a lot of foreign tourists visit the place. We will also involve locals in the initiative as it will be a source of income generation for them,” said Sanatan Sonkar, director of Rajaji National Park.

Rishikesh hosts an international Yoga festival in March every year and many of the late Yogi's followers take part in that, he added.

"We will talk to them, too. The year-long celebrations will start around February next year,” he said.

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