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The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 26, 1968

The Beatles time in India was spent in the holy "Valley of the Saints", the International Academy of Meditation, also called the Chaurasi Kutia ashram, was a 14-acre (57,000 m2) compound. It stood across the River Ganges from Rishikesh, the "yoga capital of the world" and home to many ashrams in the foothills of the Himalayas, 150 feet (46 m) above the river and surrounded by jungle. The Maharishi's facility was built in 1963 with a $100,000 gift from American heiress Doris Duke, on land leased from the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. The training centre was designed to suit Western habits and was described variously as "luxurious" and "seedy".

Starr later compared the ashram to "a kind of spiritual Butlins" (a low-cost British holiday camp). It was built to accommodate several dozen people and each of its stone bungalows contained five rooms. Each was equipped with electric heaters, running water, toilets, and English-style furniture. According to DeHerrera, the Maharishi obtained many "special items" from a nearby village so that the Beatles rooms would have mirrors, wall-to-wall carpeting, wall coverings, "foam mattresses" and bedspreads. She wrote that "by the standard of the other" bungalows, the Beatles' cottages "looked like a palace".

The Maharishi had arranged a simple lifestyle for his guests, which included stone cottages and vegetarian meals taken outdoors in a communal setting. The days were devoted to meditating and attending lectures by the Maharishi, who spoke from a flower-bedecked platform in an auditorium. The Maharishi also gave private lessons to the individual Beatles, nominally due to their late arrival. The tranquil environment provided by the Maharishi – complete with meditation, relaxation, and away from the media throng – helped the band to relax. Harrison told Saltzman, "Like, we're The Beatles after all, aren't we? We have all the money you could ever dream of. We have all the fame you could ever wish for. But, it isn't love. It isn't health. It isn't peace inside, is it?" Lennon was respectful of the Maharishi but not in awe of him. At their first meeting Donovan remembers that the Maharishi was "amiable but non-talkative", and during an awkward silence Lennon walked across the room and patted the Maharishi on the head, saying, "There's a good little guru" while the room erupted in laughter. Maharishi cancelled the formal lectures for a time and told students to meditate for as long as possible. One student meditated for 42 straight hours, and Pattie Boyd once meditated for seven hours. Boyd's sister Jenny meditated for long periods as well, but also suffered from dysentery (misdiagnosed as tonsilitis); she said Lennon also felt unwell, suffering from jet lag and insomnia. The lengthy meditation sessions left many students moody and oversensitive. Like the 60 other students at the ashram, the Beatles adopted native dress and the ashram had a tailor on the premises to make clothes for the students. The Beatles shopped in Rishikesh and the women bought saris for themselves and to be made into shirts and jackets for the men, which affected Western fashion when the Beatles wore them after going home.

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