The Vision behind the Beatles Cathedral Gallery: Pan Trinity Das on Art, Love and India

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The Maharishi Mahesh Ashram, popularly known as The Beatles Ashram, lies at the end of a dirt road on the banks of the holy Ganges river in Rishikesh, India. The ashram, once home to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi– developer of Transcendental Meditation and teacher to the Beatles– is now an overgrown jungle, seemingly forgotten behind chained gates padlocked shut. But, if you can get past the gatekeeper, you will discover a place where nature, and perhaps magic, rules over the construction of man. Wander around through the thick forested paths, between vine-covered structures, and eventually you will stumble upon what used to be a large meditation hall. Inside, is the vibrant treasure of the Beatles Cathedral Gallery (BCG). On one of the side walls, a letter welcomes all who find their way to this special place:

Our story is one of transformation. Together we witnessed the force of alchemy as this abandoned, sacred place regained its roots. Our story illustrates the lila between surrender and rebellion. This work is entirely illegal and entirely holy. Our story is one of growth. In this hall, one artist became an art director. Within these walls, one group of backpackers became first a community, then a sangha. We are painters, musicians, writers, sculptors, daughters, sons, lovers, bhaktas, rebels, renegades, strangers, yogis and friends. This is our gallery. This is our cathedral. This is our home. This is our satsang hall. This is our story. You are part of it now.

Thank you to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Thank you to the Beatles. Thank you to Pan Trinity Das. Thank you to our gurus. Thank you to the birds. Thank you to the sadhus. Thank you to this place.

May all be welcome here. May you love, may you create, may you inspire. May all beings in all realms be happy and free.

Shanti.

Bohemian Compass is proud to introduce the man with the vision behind the Beatles Cathedral Gallery: Pan Trinity Das

How did you get started on this project?1tvrSh1yQDvnjGcf57cw7Z1TzP8u-I9PONBe2e15Tm4

The project started back in 2012 when I set out on a mission to do start art projects in every town and village I visited in India. It was so much fun and the locals were responding really well. I came to a few sacred cities in the North where it didn’t feel right to paint so I migrated East to Rishikesh, where I heard there were walls along the Ganga I could paint. When I arrived a musician friend of mine asked if I would do some Live Painting for a music video that he wanted to shoot at the abandoned Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. I had never even heard of the place but i fell in love instantly upon arrival. After the first day of painting I had a vision to create a renegade gallery in the main lecture hall and the next day I began…

11009181_867415509970810_552484187620046723_oWhat inspired you to paint specifically in the Maharishi Mahesh Ashram?

The initial inspiration to paint in India came within the first few days of arriving at an Ashram in Southern India. I saw a few paintings on the wall and asked if I could play too. I offered a drawing and once it was approved I set to work. It was then that I heard a little voice inside putting me on a path that would change my life. When I finally arrived at what would later become the BCG, I cleared my schedule and spent every moment I could there. It felt like I had found the reason why I came to India.

When was the first time you visited the ashram? How many times have you been?

I first visited in 2012 and have only been twice since. I recently had the profound experience of bringing my wife, together white washed an entire wall of my previous work and started over with some fresher designs and better tools… something I had wanted to do for years.

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What other artists did you collaborate with?

Originally the BCG was going to be a collaborative project with a dear friend Ian Ether but when word spread about what we were doing, and more people started to come out, he left for Vipassana and when he returned the work was finished.

During the project I recruited a few international artists who came to visit, their drawings were awesome so I hooked them up with walls. Also, during that time I was drawing out the images in a paint by number style and was having people come in a help paint, that’s how we managed to get so much done so quickly. People loved getting involved and by the last day I had about 75 volunteers!

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How did you find your way to India?

Like most stories it all started with a girl. I fell in love with a yoga teacher when I was 19 and began my inquiry into Asana and especially Bhakti (Devotional) Yoga. I had always wanted to go to India and up until the moment I landed in Delhi didn’t believe it would ever happen, as I was super broke in my teens and early twenties. I feel like fate conspired to bring me.
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What sort of complications, if any, did you encounter when you proposed to paint inside a place otherwise “closed to the public”?

I was showing up everyday and lying to the Ashram gate keeper -,a slimy and corrupt individual who was growing more suspicious everyday. Aside from him… India is always challenging. Going to the paint store meant confronting traffic and the congestion of people, all which lay siege on the senses.


 

 

 

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Were there any surprises?

I had no idea the BCG (Beatles Cathedral Gallery) would turn out to be a ‘thing,’ a destination. Somebody just posted on my wall a video the BBC had done on the Gallery! And thats the 2nd time they’ve taken an active interest and done a piece on it now. I’m constantly finding articles and blogs about travelers visiting and wanting to share their experience. Its on trip advisor as a hot spot… It’s like having a child and now it’s grown up and has a life of it’s own now. I check in on it from time to time.
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Your portraiture is dynamic and clean. How did you learn your technique?

It was an evolution. Instead of going to art school like my parents wanted, I began hitch hiking Canada at a pretty young age and used the tools I had to express the thoughts and feelings I wanted to share. I don’t claim to be a natural talent, more it’s my determination and love for painting that has gotten me this far.

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What materials do you like to use?

I prefer to use house paint… it’s cheaper and coats thicker. I use photo shop and have a projector which makes my life infinitely easier. However, the most valuable ‘thing’ I could possibly take with my is my wife. Her precision and grace are a constant inspiration. Everything is better when we’re together.

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What is your planning process behind each project? How much of a degree of spontaneity do you pursue?

I utilize a combination of 60-70% design and execution and 40-30% spontaneity. I love form and communication, so my first agenda is to make my messages accessible and clear. After that it’s all about fun and getting high off artistic exploration.
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You’ve been back at least twice and added artwork to the gallery. Can you tell me about your favorite aspects of, or pieces in, the gallery?

Within the gallery there are definitely some moments that I love, but my favorite thing about it is the energy that you can tangibly feel as you enter. New visitors always have the same reaction… ‘Wow,’ and then they take out their cameras and start playing in the space. What makes the BCG a success is that it was something that was needed. People wanted a place to congregate, play guitar, do yoga, share and meet people. It represents and reflects the love people have for The Beatles, Rishikesh, the Maharishi, Transcendental Meditation etc…

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Where are you from? Did your childhood have an impact on your choice to make art for the public to enjoy? 

I’m from a small town in rural Ontario called Peterborough, which I guess makes me Peterborough Pan? Street art didn’t exist there when I was growing up and it wasn’t until I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop that I was aware of it’s existence. I started tagging the next day!
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What’s next?

We just want to continue the work we’re doing. Working with NGO’s, Not for Profits, Orphanages, Women’s Shelters and Monasteries has been so fulfilling that I can’t imagine straying far. I love working on Commissions as they take me out of my process and into service. My dream is to transform a yoga studio into a rebel/spiritual art gallery.

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Check out a video by the BBC featuring Pan’s work in the Beatles Cathedral Gallery

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