By Mark McConville
EERIE images have revealed the abandoned remains of the ashram in India where the Beatles wrote the White Album, released 50 years ago.
The striking pictures show the ruins of the buildings and overgrown grounds as Mother Nature has reclaimed the site.
Other stunning shots show lyrics from the Beatles’ songs graffiti-ed on the walls as well as murals including the Dalai Lama.
The incredible photographs were taken at what is now known as Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India by British photographer and cinematographer Antony Meadley (54), from Eastbourne, East Sussex.
“These images capture a moment in time, as nature and the elements take over,” he said.
“The building which looks like a stepped pyramid was the accommodation area. The egg shaped structures were small prayer and meditation areas. The other images are walkways or communal areas.
“Most of the abandoned places I visit happen after weeks of research, finding historical records, tracking down precise locations, and so on. But this was different.
“I had been walking through the Himalayas to raise money for a cancer charity and I had a few spare days at the end of the trip.
“A local guide asked me if I knew about the ashram where the Beatles had stayed and, being a big fan of the Beatles, and fascinated with their dabble with spiritualism in the late 1960s, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to visit.
“The area is under government control and access is prohibited, so my guide had to “encourage” the soldiers to let us in.”
Beatles Ashram, also known as Chaurasi Kutia, is an ashram close to the north Indian city of Rishikesh in the state of Uttarakhand. It is located on the eastern bank of the Ganges river, opposite the Muni Ki Reti area of Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas. During the 1960s and 1970s, as the International Academy of Meditation, it was the training centre for students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who devised the Transcendental Meditation technique.
The ashram gained international attention between February and April 1968 when the English rock band the Beatles studied meditation there, along with celebrities such as Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love. It was the setting for the band’s most productive period as songwriters, where they composed most of the songs for their self-titled double album, also known as the “White Album”.
The site was abandoned in the 1990s and reverted to the local forestry department in 2003, after which it became a popular visiting place for fans of the Beatles. Although derelict and overrun by jungle, the site was officially opened to the public in December 2015. It has since become known as Beatles Ashram and held an exhibition in February 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in Rishikesh.
The retreat and the discipline required for meditation was met with varying degrees of commitment from the individual Beatles. Starr left on 1 March, after a ten-day stay; McCartney left later in March to attend to business concerns. Harrison and Lennon departed abruptly on 12 April following rumours of the Maharishi’s inappropriate behaviour towards Farrow and another of his female students.
The divisive influence of the Beatles’ Greek friend Alexis Mardas, financial disagreements, and suspicions that their teacher was taking advantage of the band’s fame have also been cited by biographers and witnesses as reasons for the two Beatles’ dissatisfaction.
The band’s denunciation of the Maharishi proved detrimental to his reputation in the West, and their return from Rishikesh marked the start of a divisive atmosphere that anticipated the group’s break-up in 1970. Harrison later apologised for the way that he and Lennon had treated the Maharishi; like many of the other students at the ashram, he said that any allegations of the Maharishi’s inappropriate behaviour were unfounded.