The Indian retreat where the Beatles wrote many of the songs that would end up The White Album has officially been reopened to the public, nearly 50 years after the Fab Four journeyed to the Rishikesh, India ashram to learn meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Although the retreat was abandoned and considered derelict since the Seventies, Beatles fanatics continued to sojourn to the Rishikesh site, which was taken over in 2003 by the local forestry department. Department officials have since revitalized the retreat's grounds and opened it back up to tourists.
"We have cleaned up the place and lined the pathways with flowers. We are making some gardens and putting some benches for visitors," senior forestry official Rajendra Nautiyal told the BBC. "We are introducing a nature trail and bird walk. We also plan to set up a cafeteria and a souvenir shop at some point. We want to retain the place's rustic look."
The Beatles ventured to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as part of a planned three-month stay in February 1968 prior to recording The White Album. While the trip proved to be fruitful creatively – roughly 48 songs were written at the ashram, many of which landed on The White Album, Abbey Road and various Beatles solo projects – the stay itself didn't last as long as planned.
Ringo Starr left after 10 days because he found the food "impossible" to eat – the drummer did pen "Don't Pass Me By" in his time there, however – while Paul McCartney left after a month due to other obligations. John Lennon and George Harrison both departed after six weeks. In the ensuing decades, however, the retreat continued to be an exotic destination for Beatles fans, even though Maharishi Mahesh Yogi abandoned the ashram soon after the Beatles' visit to practice Transcendental Meditation around the world.
The forestry department will charge between $2.50 and $10 for tourists who wish to explore the retreat. Although the main mediation hall has been an epicenter for colorful Beatles-inspired graffiti in the past decades, tourists will not be allowed to add their own art to the walls without permission.