Whatever happened to the “Beatles ashram” in Rishikesh?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 11

UPDATE: This Guardian article on the 1972 visit of Led Zeppelin to India contains a reference to the supposed restoration of this ashram. Anyone heard anything else? Please leave links/information in the comments. Thanks!

Paul Prudence, author of the blog dataisnature, took these photographs of the abandoned Rishikesh ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—celebrity yogi to the Beatles and a central figure in late 60s counterculture. The Beatles stayed at the ashram in 1968 to study with him. He apparently disapproved of their use of weed, though I think that story could be apocryphal. John and George eventually left the ashram amidst rumours the yogi had made sexual advances on Mia Farrow, though apparently much later on those rumours were discounted. It is possible that nothing anyone ever said about the ashram is true. By the time the accusations were retracted the much-publicized 60s melodrama was already mostly forgotten anyway. The disintegrating ashram is now minimally monitored by a security guard, but an image search online shows that many travelers and photographers trespass on the place regularly, out of homage or just curiosity or both. The Maharishi died last year at age 90 in the Netherlands, John and George are long gone, and it’s unclear exactly when the ashram was abandoned and the bees started to move in. I am not a Transcendental Meditationist, unlike David Lynch and Clint Eastwood, or any facsimile of one, but I like the architectural remains. They’re a reminder of the pervasive influence of Indian design and thought on 60s aesthetics in the west and during my childhood in particular. Thanks to Paul Prudence for permission to reproduce these photos here.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 27

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 13

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 32

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 31

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 08

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 33

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 18

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 37

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 36

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 38

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 22

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 30

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 09

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Beatles) Ashram 03

77 comments on "Whatever happened to the “Beatles ashram” in Rishikesh?"

  1. I do believe that the Maharishi banned drugs, even smoking marihuana. Also in Tibetan Buddhism, we have learnt that this combination can lead to very unpleasant states of mind, in worst cases to heavy obsessions and other psychic suffering. — The architecture is amazing! As I learnt about TM (without practising it myself), the Maharishi planned every detail and gave it a meaning in his plan to make the world a better place. And who knows, maybe he succeeded to a certain degree. I can believe it when I look back into the times of the Berlin Wall and how it fell.
    Under this aspect, it is a little sad to see the state this place is in.

  2. Nice to see this abandoned wonder getting some deserved attention! What isn’t immediately noticable in the pictures is that forest is has encroached much of the Ashram complex and at the right time it is absolutely teeming with flowers and insects, a ghosly bioheaven!

    You might also be interested in this wonderous relic form the MIU ‘cult’ which i found in one of the many, many rooms i looked in.

    ‘Documenting The Reality of the Global Taste of Utopia’ can be found here:


    I particularly enjoy ‘the lagrangian of the unified field’



  3. Heh Lindsay,

    I was told that the ashram was finally abandoned sometime during the 80’s, even though it had been losing popularity for quite some time. As you can see in some of the rooms there are piles of old files, documentation and various TM artifacts. The dates on the documents cut-off at around the mid 1980’s if I recall correctly. Btw the did you noticed that the date on the Daily Mail clipping (in one of the photographs) is from Jan 1960!?

    Another thing worth mentioning is the stunning acoustics of the pod shaped dwellings, whose shape i suppose was created to enhance of sound of chanting and mantras.

    I have a lot of video of walking around this abandoned complex which i should really dig out soon.

  4. Hi Paul! Thanks again for permission to post these great photos. The utopian documents are beautiful and disturbing at the same time, but then that’s utopianism. I love the way the forest is moving back in. That hanging bee hive! Do you know when the ashram was abandoned?

    1. Jaskiran, you need to ask Paul (comment above) for permission – these photos are all his. Click on the photos to be taken to his Flickr, and you can contact him that way.
      – Lindsay

  5. I love the irony of real bees replacing the “beehive” shaped pods!

    Also, the building with stepped stories is fascinating. This was quite a popular design in 70s and 80s modernist architecture (there are various examples all over India), and here it is adorned with Mughal multi-pointed arches (albeit in concrete)!

    Does anyone know if the “Z” design in the perforated screens has any specific meaning?

  6. Hi Varun,

    That’s interesting about the stepped storeys being popular in the 70s and 80s – is that when this first appeared? And did you ever find out about the “Z” design in the screens? I’m curious!


  7. Hello, 

    The ashram was abandoned in 1984 because the supreme court of India turned the whole place into a national park called the Shahaji National park. The Maharishi did not own this place and had it on lease. Once the ruling was passed, there was little the Maharishi could do but abandon the land. Just weeks before the place had to be abandoned, the local forest authorities told the ashram workers that they could take with them all that they could before the deadline and because of this there are no switchboards, taps, furniture and metal parts left in the ashram. Everything was ransacked and sold off in the local market.

    The meditation halls were aircondtioned… In the 1960’s n that too in an Indian forest! There was a helipad, a post office and a bank inside the ashram. All this made the place pretty remarkable. 

    A lot of private companies are interested in acquiring this property and turning it into a meditation resort but the Indian forest act does not allow this. Only government bodies are allowed to touch the place and Indian government being corrupt and lethargic, you can expect this place to rot and crumple one day for sure. 

    There is only one guard looking after the place. By law, no on is allowed to enter this ruins but the guards are lenient and let people inside if you just hand them some money. 

    If anyone wants to get there, get to rishikesh and ask for ‘chaurasi kuti’ which means 84 huts in Hindi. The ashram had roughly 84 huts, hence the name. 

    Also, there is a ‘Vithal ashram’ in rishikesh. The locals might guide you to that ashram because vithal and beatles sound the same to them. Just ask them to take you to chaurasi kuti across the ‘barage’ which means a dam. So if you want to get to the ashram, cross the dam over the Ganga and get to the other side. There is a ferry service too.    

    Ok.. Take care all.

  8. Hi Lindsay,

    Apologies for taking this long to respond. I’m not sure when these stepped buildings first appeared – I’ll have to go back to the history books to check on that, but there are various examples that come to me offhand.

    Here’s a government office building in Delhi:

    And a beach resort in Kovalam (Kerela in south India):

    As you can see, these are variations on a theme.

    I can think of two other structures, one of which is another Delhi government office building, and the other is an apartment building in Cochin (Kerela), but I couldn’t find images for those. I’m sure there are other examples around India as well, and I don’t know the history of such stepped buildings within an international modernist framework. It’ll be an interesting topic to look into!

    About the screen design, I was interested because it’s typical of the style of cement “jali” (screen) design from that period. We don’t really find such designs anymore. Below is another example of such a screen, used in a balcony railing in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), probably from sometime in the mid-20th c. and linked, in my opinion, with the Indian flavor of Art Deco. This is from a collection of images of Old Delhi that I hope to put up soon. The balcony is on the top right of the image.


  9. Gday paul
    Thanks for the pics.Going there soon,…just wondering if anyone’s ever checked out the old beatles ashram photos and tried to match them up with some current sites at rishikesh.
    ta mick

  10. Just returned from a very brief visit to the ashram. It was about a 7 hour drive from Delhi. The only way to find anyone who knew the location was to ask for chaurasi kuti, so thanks for the info. I arrived early in the morning and the “guard” charged 300 rupees for admission since I was arriving before 10:00. I am sure he knows he can name his price for foreign visitors.

    Most of the photos on this page look about the same, except for more plant overgrowth.

  11. Visited ashram recently and found the spot where the photos of john and paul where playing their guitars together. Ringo is also in a photo here with some visitors.
    Tis pretty overgrown but its definitely the spot. Its right up in the left hand corner of the ashram…about as far as you can go up the hill.
    mick willis

  12. Gday steve, tried both and both worked ok. Maybe just go to picasa home and search “beatles rishikesh.” My user name of mick47willis. will be under a photo …hit that and you will get the lot.
    let us know
    re mick

  13. I’m going to Rishikesh this February or March 2012. Thanks everyone for your contributions.
    @ Mick: we can’t see your photos on Picasa without downloading the program, as far as I can tell. It doesn’t seem to be like Flickr, where even non-members can view images if they are designated public. Sorry!
    – Lindsay

  14. Thats good duchess…the rooms seem to be at the top of the hill veering left[away from the ganges].Its hard to know with all the overgrowth thats there.Its past the 3 story building by a fair way.We need an aerial photo and i could point it out .
    Just glad we can open these photos.There is another one with donovan and freinds in the same spot somewhere on the web.
    re mick

  15. Hi Mick:

    Thanks so much for the photos. I was just there with my wife over the New Year and we couldn’t find that house for the life of us (went twice as well). We found another house (off to the right as you go up the path, just before the massive guesthouse… had a dried up rectangular fountain pool in the back) that was slightly less overgrown. Most of the roaming guides we bumped into said that was where the Beatles stayed. I knew it wasn’t the same house in the picture looking at the details of the architecture. Do you have any more detailed insights about the ashram you could share with us? Loved the Rishikesh area.


  16. Gday william,
    As i have said earlier it was like it was at the very top of the ashram away from the ganges.I did find the other house aswell you speak of.
    I cant argue with the locals but the photos of the beatles at the spot i found seems like it was” recreation” time…where they hung out.There is quite large bedrooms at that spot aswell.I do have some video footage.
    Thanks for the link will check it out.
    re mick

  17. Cheers Mick. If you could find a way to share the vid footage, that would be great!

    Yes, it would be an asset if we could get some more reliable information about the buildings (who stayed where, what went on etc.). Fascinating place.

    Anyway, I think this is a great blog for those about to make the pilgrimage. Wish I had of stumbled on it just a bit earlier and read about your directions.

    One thing that really spooked us during our first time to the site was a visitation from a seemingly disgruntled wild elephant (no kidding!)…It emerged mid-way up the path….one of the local guides that was talking to us said that the odd elephant is known to roam around the ruins from time to time. That sort of tamed my desire to delve too deep into the hinterland.

  18. Not to burst anyone’s bubble!! Did anyone read Paul Saltzman’s book about his time spent there in 1968 with the Beatles?? He took lots of pictures of the Beatles there in 1968 and he went back to visit the Ashram in 2000. He said MOST of the original buildings other than the lecture hall and Maharishi’s quarters and Bank are GONE.. Those Igloo Stone meditation capsules were built AFTER the Beatles were long gone! He said the property was expanded over the years and he didnot recognise most of what was there from 1968!! The long table near the cliff where the Beatles ate near the edge of the river Ganges was also gone!! Check out Paul Saltzman’s book!! Lots of GREAT photos from 1968!

    1. Thanks Jay! Very useful especially since I’m in India right now and had been tempted to make the trek up there. It explains a lot – I was wondering why I couldn’t make the archival photos match up to present-day ones.

  19. Thanks Mick for uploading the video! Much appreciated!

    Hi Jay. No worries about bursting bubbles…I had no real bubbles to begin with…just looking for some interesting nostalgia and facts…regardless, many thanks for your input! I know about Saltzman’s book (a fellow Canadian I’m proud to say), but unfortunately I couldn’t get a copy from where I am at the moment (in the Middle East). I did see samples online before I went to Rishikesh though….looks like a beautiful collection and would certainly love a copy.

    One thing I am almost 100% sure of is that the one house I visited seems to be the same one that is in the short YouTube video doc I posted above. There is another clip (somewhere on Youtube) that shows Mia Farrow walking toward the fountain pool (unless of course they had duplicate houses built).

    I’ll post my photo of the house and the video again sometime this week and please let me know if you agree.

  20. Thanks jay,i remember reading a post somewhere else that those igloo buildings where not there in ’68.
    I know the place i found to match the old beatles photos is genuine though.If you go to the flickr photos there is a girl at the right of the picture looking at the camera.Behind her legs next to the steps is a pattern in the cement wall.I took a photo of that when i was there to make sure i was in the right place . It matches perfectly.

  21. Hey everone!! Thanks for all the info and picture posts..I know some of the buildings from 1968 are still there but crumbling!! Too bad about that. Wish i could go to Rishikesh to see first hand but thats a long trip from Boston! So thanks for all your pictures posted..If anyone else goes please take LOTS of pictures to post. Also would love to see a picture from today of where the covered table use to be near the cliff where everyone ate breakfast back in 1968!! I know its no longer there and the area is probably over-run by jungle now??!! Have a good time there whoevers going and good luck in finding things!! Jay Usher..Boston..Massachusetts

  22. Here is a link to some of my photos from the other house (the one that the guide said was the Beatle’s guest house):


    Not sure about that, but it is definitely not the house where the Beatles pics (jamming on the front porch) were taken (where Mick visited). The house, however, shares a similar architecture (particularly the foundation designs) and figures prominently in the old film clip that you can see below:


    The rear windows and fountain (which is totally overgrown now) match perfectly. Was definitely around when the Beatles were there and looked great at the time. I’d really like to find out more about this place. It is one of the more well preserved structures.

    The local guide who followed us said that the Beatles stayed in the basement rooms (again, I doubt it….why would the Beatles stay in dark basement rooms). Just in case, I took a photo of the main room in the basement (at the end of the slideshow). Pretty dark and spooky down there.

  23. Yeah,agree with you william.I thought i had found the jamming pic place when i found the place of your pic’s.Quite similair.
    Thanks to your video and pic’s we know that place was definitely there in ’68.

  24. thanx a lot for all of this info…
    i am at rishikesh…
    so far i have been told this place is beyond parmarth ashram… is that right?
    i have asked a few people around here but not much luck…
    if anyone else is planning a visit there n dont mind company… do get in touch…

  25. thanx mick…
    my geography is real weird (?) so please may i confirm this with u again…
    when we say bridge do we mean ram jhoola?
    and when we cross all buildings, we are talking the parmarth niketan side, right?
    thats the place they do the fanciest ganga aartis

    woke up to howling winds n rain.. actually started last night…
    its beautiful…

  26. Yeah, ram jhulia bridge [walk bridge]. Turn right down the FIRST street full of shops and keep going till the end. I do remember going past a large temple where they where chanting. It just opens to a rocky beach area and the ashram entrance is on the left about a 100 yards

  27. Hi Anju:

    The ashram is fairly close to the Parmarth Ashram. We took the main road up from the bridge (as Mick noted). I remember that there was a big “Parmarth” sign on the left side of the road. The entrance to the Maharishi ashram was on the opposite (right) side of the road just past the taxi stand (usually a group of tuk tuk drivers were there hanging out). Do not expect to find a sign or anything on the road. It was just a slightly overgrown dirt road when I went there. We made a mistake the first time and found ourselves on the way to the mountain temple. The taxi drivers should be able to tell you. Try to get some more pictures of the house Mick found (if you can) and please post them for us!

    Good luck!

  28. Am on my way to this place, starting tomorrow from Goa…hopefully should be there in a few days so will post some pics.
    So much cooler than walking over that bloody zebra crossing in London.

  29. hello… thanx Mick n William… did go see the place… but did not find ‘the’ house… have got quite a few pics… it all looks the same ‘cept for more forest in the ruins… got one of what used to be a washroom – now has plants growing in the tub. 🙂 anybody know how to upload pics from a camera into an ipad? love the place… can spend an entire day there… then they ask u to leave by evening as its part of the forest and an elephant corridor… have fun Dan 🙂

  30. I went to the ashram in early 1995. The place seemed to be pretty active then and definately not abandoned. I tried to get in through the front gate but was told I had to make an appointment. The next day, I found a gate right at the back and snuck in. Just as I was getting close to where I was sure the famous photo of the Beatles, Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love was taken, and armed with a yellow cheesecloth shirt (like Donovan’s) from Varanasi,this guy comes up to me and says, “You have to leave…NOW!” I went out the back again past an old bloke who seemed to be going off his nut in hindi! Running water was being fetched from a tap on the back wall as I left. I wish I’d seen the domes. I’d love to go back.

  31. Thanks geoff..interesting you know where that group photo was taken.Can you describe where it was.I thought of that when i was there but the old photo doesnt seem to give any reference points.
    re mick

  32. I visited the ashram in April 2012. The acoustics were so amazing inside the little meditation domes! Can anyone tell me if there are particular proportions or arcs that must be considered if i would like to construct a similar one myself? I’d like to build one nearly identical, primarily for the acoustic effects.

  33. I was here just some days ago, and its still a wonderful place, but its very sad, that no one uses it. Although its already a little bit different to what you see in these pics. In the main performing place, there is a lot of paintings of the Beatles and lyrics in the wall. It is really really nice.. 🙂

  34. I visited this place on 5th Jan. It is amazing. People are still coming to this place and one should see this before its too late because it is loosing its beauty day by day.May be one fine you will see that nobody is allowed to enter there.
    Please tell how to put pics here.Guard told us that those rooms where beatels stayed are not there.You can see that pic on the net,which has got geeen wooden jali/grill behind with the beatles sitting in front.
    They tried to find out but they got nothing. It is still a mistry.

    1. You can send pics to me and I’ll upload them (ounodesign at gmail dot com) or if you put them on Flickr or a photo hosting service that allows me to embed photos, that would work too. You’re lucky you saw it!

  35. Thanks for the post Rohan. They say a lot of things (often completely innaccurate) when you are there. I still think it is possible that Mick was onto something when he sent his pictures from last year (I would still like to see a few more angles and close-ups to be sure). I foolishly listened to the guides (that there were no other buildings) when I wanted to explore a little further, but clearly there was at least one house/building that I did not see (refer to Mick’s pictures above). A roaming wild elephant in the bushes dissuaded me from venturing too far off the beaten trail….beware, some not so friendly wild elephants inhabit the old ashram from time to time….the guides were certainly telling the truth about that! I think the house Mick saw was far down the main lane towards the left (that is my guess anyway, maybe he can confirm if he is still monitoring this site).

    The house that I did see was in more or less the best condition and was definitely around in the Beatles days (you can clearly see it in its glory in the documentary footage from the era on YouTube…and I think I posted it somewhere above before). The guides like to say that that is the house they all stayed in, but I have seen no direct photo evidence to confirm that…and it is most definitely not the house with the green latticed grill behind John, Paul and Ringo in the famous pictures. Should be a heritage site with a museum…but I like it wild for now as it feels more authentic and seems to connect more directly to a time long passed.

  36. Thanks rohan/william.Will try and load another video i done.The real problem was the courtyard was so overgrown and i couldnt get back far enough to get a good perspective.William i notice on the end of your you tube video link the same white entrance pillars to where the beatles where going as to what is in one blurry photo i have put on the picasa link

  37. Yes, please upload that video if you can. I want to check out that picasa link as well….is that the one you posted before? I’ll give things a check over the weekend. Hope all is going well for you Mick-Cheers!

  38. Ta william ..the post on jan 10th has the right link
    Went to put my video on picasa but wouldnt load.Seems it cant be over 90 seconds which it is.I will have to try and cut it into 2 programs on nero or something.Not real good at that sort of thing but will try soon.

  39. I went to Rishikesh in 1977. There was a large sign by the road with a welcome to Rishikesh, to the ashram home of the English Beatles. When I went back in 1982, it had gone!

  40. I was here about a week ago, totally fascinating as a place to visit. Takes about ten minutes from the Rum Jhula bridge. Even if you dont go into the compound the spot at the river (with the building with four windows slightly downstream on the same side) is amazing – plenty of you tube Bealtes vision taken from this spot. Take a guide who as a speaker of Indian will tell them that you are a guest (there are Sadhu squatters who dont like to be distrubed). Also the jungle is taking over so get in fast. Truly fascinating place!!!

  41. Hello all,

    I guess this discussion/comments posted here stopped long ago..it is now 2015!!
    Brings back old memories of my visits there…I’m actually related to Maharishis family. Maharishi left Rishikesh years ago – moved to Switzerland then back to India and set up a another ashram out side new Delhi called Maharishi Nagar (In NOIDA UP). Until 1985-86 I would visit this place and spend a few days there. I pretty much had a run of the place. Tourists were generally discouraged from visiting. It was mostly populated by people from the movement. I very well remember the domes – 84 of them and also a small helipad. They were not used any longer. There was also this long stone stairway that would go all the way down to the river Ganges (a small private spot accessible only from the Ashram). I spent many hours down by the river. The person in charge of the Ashram was Swami Satayanand Gaur (Also related to me) – he was the second in command after Maharishi – he was Maharishi’s “Guru Bhai (Brother)” which means they had the same “Guru” teacher (He was a wonderful wonderful man very discreet. Died around 10 years or so ago). I last met him in 1992 at the new commune in NOIDA when Maharishi was celebrating his birthday Swamiji was also with Maharishi when the Beatles visited Rishikesh. He is mentioned in a few articles written on this… Gosh!! it really saddens me to see what has become of this place…lots have changed..very good memories indeed..but also very warming that a lot of people still remember this! It was lovely reading all your comments. Stay blessed!

  42. hey! i read the article, pictures and comments and i really like the beatles as well. this place has got me quiet interested. but i have something that i needed help with.

    i am a student of interior architecture and i have to start my final year in july. For this, i have to select a project that interests me and i have to design it as a part of the semester for 6 months. This project is ideal for me, and i am super excited to design a beatles ashram if everything works out. surely it would be a hypothetical project, but the site and the program is real. i would be visiting rishiskesh soon to document the place, but my project would only be approved if i am able to produce the measured plans of the whole site. i know its really big and difficult, hence i am looking for someone who might have already measured the place, or might have the slightest idea of how i could find any technical drawings.

    it would be of great help if anyone can help me with finding some architectural drawings of this place or maybe any contacts for the same. i am really hopeful for any progress. i would be extremely thankful if anyone could help me with this project!

    thank you!

  43. Hey, Riddhi.
    I am also doing the same as I am also in my final year and selected it as a project. If you have found any architectural data or drawings in it. please do help.

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