In 1968, The Beatles visited an ashram in Rishikesh to study meditation with Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi and the trip got widespread media attention, influenced Western attitudes about Indian spirituality and music, made an impact on fashion, and encouraged the study of Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles’ visit was one of the band’s most productive songwriting periods. John Lennon said: “Paul must have done about a dozen. George says he’s got six, and I wrote fifteen”. Even Ringo Starr wrote his first song, “Don’t Pass Me By, ” in Rishikesh. Many of those songs were on “the White Album”, others on Abbey Road, and solo records.
The Brit musician Donavan was in Rishikesh, at the ashram, at the same time as the Beatles, and he taught Lennon a guitar finger-picking techniques subsequently implemented by Lennon on the Beatles songs “Julia” and “Dear Prudence.”
Rishikesh was calling me: The Beatles. Donavan. Meditation. The “‘yoga capital of the world!” (Back in the 70s, my Cambridge Yoga teacher spent time here and had an out-of-body experience.) Plus, while in India, it just so happened that my pranayama teacher had studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogl—though he never met the Beatles. I thought it might be a good place to check into an ashram.
Maybe it was the hot, humid weather, or the fact that I happened to be the only westerner in town, or the noise. I couldn’t wait to get out of this town along the Ganges.