Tips to get Spiritual Just like the Beatles in Rishikesh

ALRIGHT, you all want to get all spiritual in India. I know this because you e-mail me about it.

There are stories galore about the Beatles in Rishikesh, because along with some other serious celebrities, they helped bring Transcending Meditation (TM) to the West.  Some were actually only there a couple weeks and were scared away by bugs. But ever since, Rishikesh has been the place in India people flock to to “find themselves” and for good reason.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips lots of monkeys

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

I headed here right after my killer time in McLeod Ganj. I LOVED it.

So, what’s Rishikesh all about?

  • Named after Lord Vishnu, it’s a pilgrimage for Hindu’s (and a playground for western hippies)
  • The birthplace and capital of YOGA

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • A major stopping point for Europeans along the infamous “Hippie Trail” in the 1960′s
  • Where the Beatles spent the late 1960’s writing 48 songs, mostly on the White Album at the now famous ashram of Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh. They used psychedelic drugs during their six weeks of transcending meditation, although they announced publicly they were giving up drugs. Many famous people were there at that time. Dear Prudence was written about Prudence Farrow, about trying to get her out of his intense meditation “Dear Prudence, won’t you come out and play?”. Lennon brought his wife, but walked to the post office every day checking for telegrams from Yoko Ono. They left after finding out Maharishi made a pass a Mia Farrow on multiple occasions. He also asked the Beatles to put 25% of their next album profit into his Swiss bank account. Luckily Lennon could see through that and wrote Sexy Sadie about Maharishi. Later, they all made up.
  • The place where you can get in the clean, cold Ganges, and therefore one step closer to moksha (or enlightenment). You can also raft it, because, why not?

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • An absolute ABUNDANCE of ashrams to choose from.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • Yoga all day, every day. Learn to teach it if you want like Ashley Abroad did here.
  • Get Healed! Crystal therapy, reflexology, light-healing therapy, massages…
  • Where you’ll see the new-age travelers sitting on the Ganges playing their sitars or doing yoga outside on the Ganga like these guys (who are a little hard to see) below

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • Sadhus (Holy men) invite you to chill with them for the day.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • Laughing therapy! Really. It’s called Hasya yoga.
  • End your day with the Ganga Aarti. Listen to the holy man, His Highness, sing and place a lit diya in the river. Actually, this ceremony is performed at dusk in Haridwar and Varanasi as well. The tiny candles on leaves that float down the river are a gift to the goddess Maa River, the goddess of the Ganges. The ritual in Rishikesh is the more spiritual and relexed of all places, and is held at Parmath Niketan Ashram directly on the stairs to the river across from the giant Shiva statue. The people at that ashram lead the night’s songs with the head of the Ashram singing into a microphone. These helpers of his are mostly western women (at least when I was there) and they are SERIOUS about it. I mean, I couldn’t even focus on what what happening because watching them was like they were in a trance. To be honest, they seemed a little too over the topDetails: Arrive early before sunset, keep your shoes with security, pay for a diya full of flowers from a cute kiddo on the street, and remember to bring matches. It will go on rain or shine.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

  • Meditate with the pro’s while they gong their bells and make their bowls sing!
  • Eat veggie… it’s your only option & enjoy the families that are there on pilgrimage. Be respectful because this isn’t just a place to take acid and become seriously enlightened like John Lennon, but this is a place that is imbedded deep into Hinduism and is important to the local’s religion. I’ve explained how some drugs are okay in their culture, like bhang lassi & general smoking of hash, but there’s a fine line of what’s okay and what’s not in India. Use common sense people!

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

So, is it your next Dream Destination? Duh.

Sound like somewhere you want to go? Of course you do! It’s incredible.

Is it like it was for the Beatles? Not even close. It’s crowded, full of sham places, and a little overpriced at many ashrams and yoga shops (that you won’t even be able to tell if they are legitimate or not). The shopping is fairly lame but the streets have no car horns because cars aren’t allowed! Half the people are serious about spirituality, and half are either faking or just there out of curiosity.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

You can rock up with no plans, like I did, and stay at whatever ashram you can afford, or you can plan ahead of time and get the most of your experience. I definitely want a re-do. My spirituality was on already on E even after being filled up to high and exploding due to so much soul-searching in Udaipur, hanging with the Dalai Lama, becoming a masseuse, and getting into the Buddhist lifestyle with the monks and Tibetans in Mcleod Ganj.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

By the time I plopped down on my hard-ass bed in Rishikesh, I thought, “I don’t want to do yoga, I don’t want to wake up at 5 and I definitely don’t want to be told what to eat”.

But, when traveling, you have to remind yourself you can sleep when you’re dead. Go big or go home. 

So, I booked my stay at an ashram

I had my ashram experience (see here for post on details and costs) which included early morning wake ups, intense yoga all day, practicing massage on the Ganges riverbanks with Chloe, and being yelled at by a tiny little Indian man to suck in my belly and point my “feets” to the sky during a 3-minute head stand.

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips ashram

Important Details for Rishikesh

Rishikesh is in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, surrounded by forest with the flowing Ganga racing through.

Rishikesh is 25 km North of Haridwar (this is probably where your bus ticket will be to). You’ll take a local bus or rickshaw up to Rishikesh (and hitchhike back down when it’st time to leave, like we did).

No one stays in Rishikesh city center. From there, you’ll go 2 km north to Shivananda Nagar or Swarg Ashram (a small section on the Eastern bank is the “spiritual center”).

beatles in rishikesh birthplace of yoga tips

Head to suspension bridges, Ram Jhula & Lakshman Jhula. The bridges over the Ganges are pedestrians only, so you better be able to carry your backpack for a while! The two jhules lead to the “temple sections”. This is where most backpackers stay.

Across RAM jhula it is LESS touristy, but more busy and crowded, than across LAKSHMAN jhula.

When to go? March to October

Sleeping: We stayed one night up in the High Banks at New Bhandari Swiss Cottage. I don’t recommend it. They guy did not pick us up at the bus stop as we pre-arranged and was actually really rude. It was a 45 minute walk to Ram Jhula where we found our ashram to finish out our stay in Rishikesh. I actually don’t recommend the High Bank area at all.

Need Wi-Fi? Only place we found with it was Hotel Nirvana Palace. But the service was… questionable.

 

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26 Comments
  1. 6 months ago
    Christie of The Butterfly Editions

    Rishikesh looks amazing, I would love to visit one day soon! My brother does laughter yoga and has taught it in the past too – its awesome :) Can’t wait to hear more about your experience at an Ashram.

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I’d love to try it! I don’t know if I’d be any good at it though!

      Reply
  2. 6 months ago
    Empty Rucksack

    Didn’t all spirituality start and end at the prasad I.e. drugs, isn’t that why everyone flocks to these hippie hangouts. We have a yoga course booked for October in Uttarkashi but personally feel its all these plants making you crazy.

    * should stop reading castneda books and start listening to beatles :)*
    Empty Rucksack recently posted…Renting a Motorbike for Ladakh Road Trip

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha ! what yoga course are you guys doing? I want to do the vipassana some time this monsoon but not sure I could last 10 days… still thinking about it.

      Reply
  3. 6 months ago
    Renuka

    It’s definitely not my kind of a destination, but I like your take on it. Interesting.
    Renuka recently posted…Lamahatta – A Secret Spot For Kanchenjunga

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Oh you didn’t like rishikesh? ashley abroad was just there and didn’t like it that much either- it’s one of those love it or leave it places I think.

      Reply
  4. 6 months ago
    Justine

    It sounds like an amazing experience and I would love, love to experience Rishikesh. I know very little about this pilgrimage. So I really enjoyed learning a little bit about it. I am also obsessed with the Beatles, so it’s really cool that you threw a little bit of Beatles history in there :)
    Justine recently posted…Traveling on a Budget: 5 Free Things to do in Bogotá

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Thanks, I read so much about the beatles I almost did a whole post on it but refrained lol

      Reply
  5. 6 months ago
    Laura

    This is so helpful! I have been day dreaming about India a lot recently and your posts have been so inspiring! Lovely photos too!

    Reply
  6. 6 months ago
    Hannah

    Great post! I’d love to visit one day, it’s been on my list for so long.

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Oh really!? It’s not on many people’s lists so that’s really cool.

      Reply
  7. 6 months ago
    Myriam @OffToWanderland

    I am quite a newbie about all those spiritual things but very curious about them. The ashram experience seems like a lot of fun :)
    I am planning to take on some yoga classes in September to learn about this lifestyle. I am so looking forward to it!

    I have a question though : As you said “People come to India to find themselves…”..so is it working? Did you “find yourself”?:)

    Cheers from Sweden!
    Myriam @OffToWanderland recently posted…Arbois : Wine capital of Jura – France

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha I think I’m still working on finding myself lol but India certainly was a wake- up call!

      Reply
  8. 6 months ago
    Empty Rucksack

    Intially it was one in parmarth niketan, but we backed out last minute. Have another one lined up in Uttarkashi for October.

    Go ahead and do the vipassana, you will easily be able to last, we did that in Jan 2013, and it was a lot of fun
    Empty Rucksack recently posted…Ladakh Inner Line Permits Explained

    Reply
  9. 6 months ago
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    It looks awesome; I’d love to go there and do yoga. And I love that the Ganga Aarti is taken so seriously, even with backpackers and tourists floating around. It would be really sad to see that reduced to just another tourist attraction.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted…A Study Update

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Hopefully it stays serious, I think it will because it’s a big destination for people all over India.

      Reply
  10. 6 months ago
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    Great post, Rachel! Your photos make Rishikesh look so pretty and clean. I actually wish I had done yoga somewhere else as I found Rishikesh to be touristy, dirty and had really bad food :(. Also I used to swim in the Ganga until I saw a mottled blue and white corpse drift by- that ended my swimming days!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted…Back From My World Trip and Kicking Off the Blog!

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      ohhh the food was bad!! and i can’t wait to hear more about your time there!! anyone who asks me about yoga in that area I will be sending your way so you can tell them what it was like.

      Reply
  11. 6 months ago
    Ashley

    Looks like an interesting place! Might have to add it to the list of places to visit when I come to India.
    Ashley recently posted…A Two Week Itinerary of Western Australia

    Reply
  12. 6 months ago
    Joella J in Beijing

    Such an informative post! Thanks, Rachel! I had heard snout this place in reference to yoga and The Beatles, but not read that much about it before. It’s definitely somewhere I would consider as I’m trying to improve my yoga practise this year!
    Joella J in Beijing recently posted…We’re going to Amdo and Kham: Traditional Tibet

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I bet you could get a decent priced flight over here as well! Something to consider :)

      Reply
  13. 6 months ago
    Michael

    Good overview post. Do you think it would still be as popular if the Beatles and other famous people hadn’t spent time there, though?
    Michael recently posted…The hardest part about coming home

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      That’s a good question. I think it would be as popular. It was a main stopover point on the Hippie trail through Europe down to Goa, and that was even before the Beatles were there.. it was chosen because it is one of the most spiritual places in India for Hindus and the hippies were trying to learn and emulate what other cultures were doing! :)

      Reply
  14. 5 months ago
    Ceri

    I’ve always wanted to go to India and, I’ll admit, a lot of my curiosity of Rishikesh stems from being a huge Beatles fan. More than that though, I’ve always wanted to go someplace to study a bit of yoga and really look at the different ways we can connect with our spiritual selves. I think I’d still visit it; I’d probably think about heading somewhere a little less crowded though if I was to stay at an ashram. It sounds a little full there. :)
    Ceri recently posted…Huh … Well, that’s interesting …

    Reply
    • 5 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yeah I mean rishikesh is very touristy now and not the best place to really do the ashram thing but most “great” ashrams are well known and you face the same problems. It’s quite a populated country lol

      Reply

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