Friday, December 19, 2014

The Beatles (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) Ashram - Rishikesh, India

The Beatles (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) Ashram Rishikesh, India
Prices: $$$$$

Sign on Wall Leading to Maharishi Mahesh Ashram
In February 1968 The Beatles came to Rishikesh and stayed at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, writing many songs for the White Album and others, including Revolution #9 in the small meditation huts you see in eight of the last ten photos.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr left in March, returning to England, but John Lennon and George Harrison remained until John had a falling-out with the yogi over a rumored sexual liaison with a young westerner, some reportedly thought was Mia Farrow, who had accompanied the Fab Four on the trip. Before leaving, the Maharishi asked Lennon if they could talk to find out what was wrong, but John stated something to the effect of: "if you're so cosmic, you'll know why" and they were off, apparently plagued by car troubles that Lennon attributed to some type of "spell" the Mahirishi had put on them before their departure.

Entrance on North Side of Ashram
The "Beatles Ashram", as it has become known, closed in 1994 and has been taken over by jungle where only the empty shells of the former glorious ashram remain. Only parrots, peacocks, monkeys, elephants, and leopards remain along the banks of the Ganges where music history was made some 46 years ago. 

Follow the path in front of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram south less than half a kilometer until it turns into a sand Jeep trail. You will see the Ganges on your right, where there happened to be a funeral pyre the day I was there, along with an old guest house and makeshift shacks. You may see the "Beatles Ashram" sign on the wall on your left if it is still there. When you reach the end of the path at the dry river crossing, make a left up the riverbed and follow the intertwined paths between the rocks. You will see a park and high wall on your right and about 150 meters further east you will find the gate to what used to be the Maharishi Mahesh Ashram.

The entrance fee will run around 100 rupees ($1.60) per person, but try to haggle. There will likely be  a "guide" waiting there to offer his services for a "donation", so feel free to partake or not. I did and it was well worth the 200 rupees ($3.20) I gave him, probably twice what he was expecting for an hour of his time.

As you meander through the dense jungle, you will go up a hill past small domed rock two-story structures that served as living and meditation quarters for ashram guests. A little further up on the right (you will see a small entry/exit gate) are three of these that the Beatles "reportedly" used for song writing during their stay. The second, bungalow "#9", I was told by the guide, is where Revolution (1 and 9) were written by Lennon.

The ashram was a small city at one time, housing up to 2,000 guests and providing banking, a post office, shops, kitchens and cafeterias, bungalows, large single-room dorms (where the Beatles and their entourage lived during their stay), meditation halls, and the quarters of the Maharishi Mahesh atop the cliff overlooking the Ganges, complete with air conditioning and a small swimming pool.

You can see everything in an hour to an hour-and-a-half or you can spend an entire day meandering through the jungle, exploring buildings, or meditating in a mecca of rock and roll ... The Beatles Ashram.

CombatCritic Gives Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (The Beatles) Ashram 9 ... Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 ... Out Of 10 Bombs ... BOMBS ARE GREAT!














































Key Words: Beatles Ashram, Beatles, ashrams, ashram, Rishikesh, rishekesh, India, White Album, The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Revolution

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ramana's Garden: Good Cause, Bad Attitude, Above Average Value

Ramana's Garden
Village Tapovan, Laxman Jhula
Rishikesh 249192, India

Having studied psychology for over 30 years, I will never completely understand the territorial nature of humans, particularly when it involves a very worthwhile charity, but I have experienced this phenomena more times than I can count, including at Ramana's Garden in Rishikesh.

Entrance from Path
I decided to visit Ramana's Garden after reading about the charity and café on TripAdvisor and their website, but the compound was very difficult to find. There are no maps online and the only sign I found was on a gate I spotted while on a path leading toward the Ganga (Ganges) and just happened to come across.

I asked the man behind the counter at Ramana's if they needed any volunteers as I had about four more days in Rishikesh before heading to Delhi, but I was quickly dismissed without further inquiry. He told me that they only accept volunteers for three months or more because the children need consistency in their daily lives. I understand that the children need consistency, but when someone is kind enough to offer their time to your charity, maybe you should ask a couple questions before making them feel unneeded. I could have been CEO of a Fortune 500 company for all he knew, but he did not seem to care.

One of the Residents
In my case, being the author of two popular blogs, producer of a very successful YouTube channel (400,000+ views), a licensed professional counselor, and a retired military officer, I think I could have contributed something to their cause without being an unnecessary stress or burden on the children. I could have taught them how to make my World Famous Orecchiette with Broccoli Sauce recipe in less than an hour, but it was not meant to be.


Menu
In any case, even though I was more than a bit put off by the volunteer in question, I decided to stay for their "set menu" lunch and I am very glad I did. A tulsi (a local herbal tea-like drink), starter (soup or salad), entree, and dessert runs 400 rupees ($6.40), rather pricey by Indian standards, but a good value in this case.

The tulsi was warm, sweet, and tasty and the cup of soup of the day (a creamy kale consommé straight from the garden) flavorful and light, although rather small. Some bread, crackers, or croutons would have been a nice addition, but it was a  good start to a late lunch (they close at 4pm, so dinner was not an option) nonetheless.

Cup of Kale Soup
There were several entrées to chose from, including spinach gnocchi, pumpkin ravioli, enchiladas, and momos among others, but I went with the special of the day ... cannelloni. The cannelloni (2) were large and accompanied by a few greens. Unfortunately, the pasta was lukewarm, but flavorful nonetheless, particularly for a vegetarian dish (everything on the menu is vegetarian or vegan). 

Canneloni

The chocolate cake, although very small, was decadent and rich, making me wish there were more to go with my coffee and milk (hot from the cow in the barnyard).

In all, coming in at $8 including a small donation, I have to say that the meal was a very good value. The terrace overlooking the Ganges River below was quiet and a pleasant place to enjoy a mid-afternoon meal while helping a good cause, even if it was for just an hour. Ramana's probably would have garnered a 5 or 6 OUT OF 10 TravelValue rating if not for the kids they support and the natural, organic ingredients they use in their foods, so ...

CombatCritic Gives Ramana's Garden 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Bombs Are Good!




Cake and Coffee

Café Entrance 

Organic Garden

Garden

View of Ganges from Terrace
Key Words: review, Ramana's Garden, blog, CombatCritic, TravelValue, Ramana's, Ramana, Garden, restaurant, café, cafe, food, menu, lunch, Rishikesh, India, travel, value, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor