Visitors meditate in front of Beatles-themed graffiti. (Oleksandr Rupeta/Demotix/Corbis)
The ashram's entrance was once closed to visitors, who had to sneak in or bribe a guard. (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
The ashram's meditation hall has become a shrine to the Beatles and features graffiti that illustrates both the Fab Four and their songs. (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
Stacked living quarters at the site where the Beatles wrote some of their most famous songs. (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
The ashram is filled with small hut-like cottages for meditation and isolation. (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
Living quarters at the once-abandoned ashram. (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)
"Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey." (Pallava Bagla/Corbis)

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Abandoned Beatles Ashram Is Opened to the Public for the First Time in a Long, Long, Long Time

Get back to the site of the Fab Four’s disastrous meditation retreat

smithsonian.com

Beatles fans on a pilgrimage might choose London, Liverpool, Hamburg or New York as their destination—each city contains plenty of traces of the Fab Four's roots and rise to fame. But now, you can add India to that list. Pallavi Chattopadhyay reports for The Indian Express that the Rishikesh, India, ashram where the Beatles learned transcendental meditation and wrote some of their most iconic songs is now open to tourists.

In 1968, the Beatles decided to visit their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at his Rishikesh retreat. They enrolled in a transcendental meditation teaching course along with their wives and a star-studded list of companions including Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love. But their idyllic vacation soon turned into a nightmare—arguments broke out among the band members and their wives, Ringo Starr reportedly left early due to his aversion to the food, and the guru was eventually accused of leading a cult.

But fans of the Fab Four value the ashram for another reason: It was the place where George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote many of their most beloved songs. The so-called White Album included songs that were directly inspired by teachings of the Maharishi or incidents at the ashram, and the Beatles returned to London ready to record songs like "Revolution," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "Blackbird."

The BBC reports that devoted fans have known about the long-abandoned ashram's location for years, but the only way to get in was to sneak in or bribe a gatekeeper. Inside, crumbling living quarters, meeting halls and round isolation cottages speak to the sacred isolation the Beatles sought nearly 50 years ago. Chattopadhyay writes that the ashram's big draw is a large yoga hall that has been taken over by Beatles graffiti. Officials say they'll preserve the hall and clean up the monkey-infested, overgrown site, adding nature walks and a cafeteria for guests.

It will cost foreigners about $10.50 to get into the ashram—a small price to pay for a ticket to ride and a taste of enlightenment. 

(h/t Time)

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