Photos from the Crumbling Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh

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Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

No visit to Rishikesh is complete without a stop at the decaying ‘Beatles Ashram’. It was here that most of the songs from the White Album were written in 1968, after the band adopted Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their guru. Maharishi later ran into tax problems and the land was eventually claimed by the Indian government, which has now declared it a national park and is allowing the jungle to reclaim the vast complex.

The ashram is an easy fifteen-minute walk from the Ram Jhula bridge, following the Ganges River as it makes its way to the plains below. You’ll know your there when the road turns to rough dirt and you see several touts standing around, waiting to lead you through the ruins.

Technically, the ashram is closed to visitors but the old man who lives there as a guard and steward will let you in for 50 rupees ($1.25 US). Normally, I try to shake off anyone who offers to play tour guide but here it’s well worth the expense — the buildings are so overgrown that I probably would have only discovered a quarter of the place without help.

The old Yoga Center is one of the most visually-arresting buildings in the complex. As with the others, everything of use has been stripped — door frames, electrical outlets, fittings and more.

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

These two photos are from the on-site bank, one of the larger buildings in the ashram. When the band eventually fell out with the Maharishi, one of the often-heard complaints was that he seemed to be overly-focused on financial gain. It was noted that his accountant never left his side and he would later develop a taste for collecting Rolls Royces.

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

The forest is thick and relentless here. My guide took me along the ‘jungle trail’, which is what I believe he intended to name it after he actually got around to creating one. Within minutes I was scratched up, bleeding, covered in cobwebs and cursing like a sailor.

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

The Meditation Hall was similar to the Yoga Center in its layout and was equally distressed. Off to the side sat the tiny mediation cells, 84 in all, and they were well-named — small, dark and claustrophobic.

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

I have, embarrassingly, forgotten my guide’s name but he was a great help, soft-spoken and very knowledgeable about the area. When were were negotiating a fee, he insisted that I “pay as you like” and insisted that all he needed was “a little baksheesh — no big money”. I paid him 150 rupees ($3.75 US) when we were done — he seemed satisfied and I certainly was.

Travel Photos from the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India

 

 

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Theodora December 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm

These are beautiful shots and a great perspective on a little slice of 60s iconography. Love the lighting. Love the story. Now, also, understand what you were doing in Rishikesh… There must still be hustlers there, no????

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Ha! Hustlers for clothing shops and over-priced rickshaw rides…

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Brendan van Son December 27, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Wow… these photos are just amazing! Great post Wes!

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Wow, thanks man! I appreciate that.

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ayngelina December 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Nice post processing on the lead photo, really highlights the decay.

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wes December 28, 2010 at 9:20 am

Thanks! I really didn’t do much to that one — boosted exposure, played with the curve/contrast a bit and toned down the saturation a few notches :)

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Chris - The Aussie Nomad December 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm

As always mate your photos are stunning. I feel like I’ve been there and seen it.

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thanks, dude!

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Michael Hodson December 28, 2010 at 1:19 am

Great photos — you are really coming into your own out there

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thanks, brother. Still working at it…

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Andi December 28, 2010 at 2:43 am

Wow it definitely is crumbling!!! I can imagine it once was a gorgeous place though.

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm

It was! It’s up on a hill with amazing views of the Ganges. Quite a spot…

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Pirate63 December 28, 2010 at 4:01 am

Again Wes,superb,looks a great place to get away from crowds for a while

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

That it is! Very quiet and peaceful when you’re not slogging through the brush.

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suzanne December 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

hauntingly beautiful place. you possess real gift, wes.
-suzanne

http://www.savorygal.wordpress.com

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wes December 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks, Suzanne. The scenery did all the work for me, really :)

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het December 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Great pictures… While passing through haridwar did you by any chance visit har-ki-pauri during the evening aarti? Worth a visit for the atmosphere and the photo ops.

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wes December 31, 2010 at 10:33 am

Ooh, sorry I missed that. Hardiwar looked very interesting but I was trying to make time so I could reach Kathmandu by New Years and ended up just breezing through the city.

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joshywashington December 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

Very interesting, I have always liked photos of locations in decay. How did you learn about the Ashram?

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wes December 31, 2010 at 10:32 am

Same here — old, crumbling buildings are favorite photo subjects for me. Learned about the ashram from a nice Canadian couple I met in Pushkar. It’s also mentioned in the LP Guide but whether or not I’d have noticed it, I can’t say. It’s definitely something you have to go looking for — there are no signs and no one mentions it…

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Mike December 30, 2010 at 4:14 am

As others have mentioned, spectacular photos! Looks like a cool place to visit, especially with the history of the location.

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wes December 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

Yeah, very cool place. I wish now that I had gone back for a second run with a tripod…

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Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World December 30, 2010 at 5:29 am

Love those shots!

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wes December 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

Thanks for the comment, Jill

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Micah December 31, 2010 at 12:43 am

Wow! If only the Maharishi could see it now… Keep up the good work!

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wes December 31, 2010 at 10:27 am

Thanks, Micah :)

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Erica December 31, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Wes, your photos are always freakin’ phenomenal and inspire me to no end. I LOVE the textures that can be found in these pictures.

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wes December 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Thank ya, Erica! There was plenty of texture to be had — everything was in an advanced state of decay…

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Laura January 1, 2011 at 1:40 am

I love saturation in these photos. Nicely done!

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wes January 1, 2011 at 10:16 am

Thanks, Laura. Happy New Year!

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Raji January 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Again, I have been to rishikesh 5 or 6 times. Love the place. Everytime I do/see something different there. But yet to see this ashram. Was never in my agenda till now ! ooops.

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:39 am

Next time! :)

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Dan February 7, 2011 at 7:44 am

Wow….love the photos….you are really talented!!

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wes February 8, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thanks, Dan! Cool place — hard to take a bad photo :)

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Kate February 12, 2011 at 5:57 am

Really love your photography, can I ask what camera you use? also, do you edit in photoshop and do you do this on the road? (i’m heading overseas soon and trying to decide what camera to buy and wondering if internet cafes in SE Asia & India have any photo-editing software on their computers…?).

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wes February 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

I’m shooting a Canon Rebel T21 (550D) with an 18-135 zoom. Have had it about 3 months now and really love it. Everything you see on the site has been run through Lightroom, with varying amounts of editing. I rarely use internet cafe computers, since I have the laptop but I wouldn’t count on finding much in the way of editing software. They seem to mostly feature browsers and skype…

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jony boy November 15, 2011 at 3:48 am

fantastic photos really love em, am going up there myself in feb 12 gonna pack my guitar and play the white album while im up there, should b fun, shud be nice acoustics in the meditation cells, cant wait

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Greg May 31, 2012 at 7:19 am

Great great great post! I love the big images and it’s fascinating to see what it looked like a few short years ago. I get the feeling that even spending a few months away from the Ashram will result in a completely new experience. For a glimpse of what it looked like just two years later… http://www.adventuresofagoodman.com/beatles-ashram-maharishi-mahesh-rishikesh-india/

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wes June 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

Nice shots. We were there at fairly close times — my set is a little over a year old at this point.

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Nick December 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

Saw this place about a week ago. Falling into disrepair and the jungle has now taken over the buildings. I was chased off by some Sadhu squatters, but left alone when I went back with an Indian guide. Truly amazing as a place. Hopefully the Inidan Government will allow this to be turned into a visitor spot!

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