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The retreat that was

| Updated on August 28, 2020 Published on August 28, 2020

A visual tour of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Uttarakhand before it was taken over as a tourist attraction that intends to celebrate its Beatles connection

Nestling in a remote outcrop, near the banks of the Ganga, lies an almost derelict complex well past its prime. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram was built in 1963, funded by a $100,000 donation from American heiress Doris Duke. The ashram is in a remote corner of Rishikesh, some 500m from the tourist spot of Lakshman Jhoola. It is spread over 14 acres of forested land, and the premises once consisted of meditation cells, a lecture hall, and a number of bungalows. The yogi shot into fame after The Beatles patronised him for a while. The Fab Four met him for the first time in August 1967 in Wales where the guru was speaking on meditation.

In February 1968, The Beatles visited the Ashram. As for their immersion into the Western notion of a spiritual India, the stay there did prove to be their most productive (with approximately 48 songs to show for it). On a personal level, however, their experiences were plagued with maligned allegations, with John Lennon saying: “We believe in meditation, but not the Maharishi and his scene... We thought he was something other than he was.”

In 2003, the forestry department in Uttarakhand formally took charge of the site and repurposed it as a tourist attraction. The complex has been renovated, but these images were taken before it was whitewashed and thrown open to tourists in 2015. The photographs record over four decades of reclamation just as much by nature as by numerous artists commemorating its claim to fame.

Chirantan Khastgir is a mixed media artist based in Delhi

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Published on August 28, 2020