THE long derelict “Beatles Ashram” in the northern Indian state Uttarakhand has been revamped and reopened as a tourist attraction.
The Chaurasi Kutia Ashram was made famous after the world’s most famous pop band practiced Transcendental Meditation there under the spiritual instructor Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (ironically immortalized in the song “Sexy Sadie”) in the late ’60s, as shown above.
The spiritual hermitage inside Rajaji National Park, in the popular yoga retreat city Rishikesh, was also where the English band wrote about 40 songs, including many featured on the LPs Abbey Road and The White Album.
The ashram was then closed for more than three decades and fell into serious disrepair. It was taken over in 2003 by the Uttarakhand Forest Department.
Even thought the ashram was officially closed to the public, the complex had become a shrine for the Beatles’ fans and graffiti artists who secretly sneaked into the property.
“We have cleared the floors and walls of all creepers and have removed cobwebs and garbage from the meditation cells and halls,” Rajendra Nautiyal, ranger of the Rajaji National Park’s Gauri Range, told The Indian Express.
New nature and bird walks are being introduced and there are also plans for a cafeteria and a museum. But the biggest attraction appears to be the colourful graffiti on the walls.
“No one will be allowed to draw on the walls anymore. But an artist can (get) permission and paint since it’s the artwork here that is its biggest draw,” said Nautiyal.
California-based street artist Pan Trinity Das visited Rishikesh in 2012 and left behind many yoga-inspired murals.
“When I first arrived in the hall there were charcoal drawings all over the walls and maybe one or two very small colored paintings. It was obvious to me that people wanted to claim this space and commemorate the legends that walked these grounds,” said Pan Trinity Das.
He began drawing out rough drafts on the wall and recruiting volunteers who could help to “bring them to life with colors.”
They were shut out by the park officials before they could complete the initial design, but earlier this year Das and his wife Kyrie Maezumi returned to finish it. He said: “I’m thrilled that the space is getting the recognition that it deserves.
“Almost everyone who enters the space is dumbfounded that such a historical and spectacular site was falling into ruin.”
Rajaji National Park spans over 800 square kilometers and is open between mid-November and mid-June every year. It is home to a vast amount of animals and birds including 500 elephants, 250 panthers and more than 400 bird species.
Rajaji National Park, Ansari Road, Mohand Range, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India, can be visited for Rs150 ($2) for locals and Rs 600 ($9) for foreigners.