On the edge of Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, lies an overgrown ashram reminiscent of the great ruins of the Mayans. Fifty years ago this year, the Beatles arrived at this unlikely location at the invitation of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The visit has passed into rock’n’roll legend even as the ashram has fallen into ruin. Much of the fabled White Album was composed in these now-derelict halls and bungalows. Everything is crumbling, overgrown: the kitchen, the printing press, the post office where John Lennon waited for daily postcards from Yoko Ono even though he was travelling with his wife.
The “Beatles’ Ashram”, as it is colloquially known, serves as a humbling reminder that — as George Harrison once put it — “all things must pass”. The line — the title of Harrison’s first post-Beatles album — was cribbed from the Maharishi himself.
The ashram witnessed the birth of other classics too, such as Back in the USSR, Blackbird and Dear Prudence, the latter of which Lennon wrote to lure Mia Farrow’s sister away from her seemingly non-stop meditation sessions.