Indian retreat frequented by The Beatles opens to the public

Posted on 11 December 2015
By Khyle Deen
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The Indian town of Rishikesh, specifically an abandoned spiritual retreat where The Beatles learned to meditate, has been opened to the public.

The Beatles meditated and wrote songs in 1968 at the 19-acre ashram. Many of the songs made it onto the band’s iconic White Album.

Maharashi Mahesh Yogi ran the ashram, he was a flamboyant self-styled Indian guru, he sadly passed away in 2008. The ashram was abandoned by him and followers in the 1970s.

The retreat, which was taken over by the local forestry department back in 2003, remained a big draw with Beatles fans all over the world. They were known to sneak in by climbing the walls and even pay a small bribe to the gatekeeper.

The derelict ashram is situated on the fringes of a tiger reserve, the main attraction is a meditation hall branded with colourful graffiti.

‘Rustic look’

Authorities opened the ashram to visitors on Tuesday, and are charging Indian and foreign tourists 150 ($2.24; £1.49) and 700 rupees ($10.49; £7) respectively.

“We have cleaned up the place and lined the pathways with flowers. We are making some gardens and putting some benches for visitors,” senior forestry official Rajendra Nautiyal told the BBC. “We are introducing a nature trail and bird walk. We also plan to set up a cafeteria and a souvenir shop at some point. We want to retain the place’s rustic look.”

Visitors however, will not be allowed to draw on the walls without permission from the authorities, he said.

The Beatles had planned a three-month retreat at the estate in 1968, but, according to some accounts, it descended into farce.

Ringo Starr went home after 10 days complaining about the spicy food.

Paul McCartney stayed for a month, while John Lennon and George Harrison left abruptly after six weeks.
Paul Saltzman, author of The Beatles in Rishikesh, says the band wrote some 48 songs during their stay. The retreat itself – leased to the guru by the government in 1957 – was gradually reclaimed by nature after being abandoned.