Beatles' spiritual retreat in India opens to the public

(Dehradun, India) - An abandoned spiritual retreat in northern India where The Beatles famously learned to meditate has been opened to the public, with plans to turn it into a touristy yoga centre.

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The ashram, located in the town of Rishikesh on the banks of the holy Ganges River, became derelict after its flamboyant guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi abandoned the place in the 1970s.

But authorities in the state of Uttarakhand began cleaning up the place several months ago for Tuesday's opening, exactly 35 years after John Lennon was assassinated in New York.

"We want to conserve the place and retain its original charm," D.V.S. Khati, Uttarakhand's chief wildlife warden, told AFP on Wednesday.

"We plan to have a yoga centre here as well soon. We hope the ashram in its new avatar will give a major boost to tourism in the region."

Indian tourists are being charged an entry fee of 150 rupees ($2.24) and 700 rupees ($10.50) for foreigners.

Located on the edge of a reserve, the ashram remained a popular pilgrimage for hardcore Beatles fans despite becoming derelict and being taken over by the wildlife department in 2003.

Fans could sneak in by climbing over the perimeter walls, with a meditation hall decorated with colourful graffiti the main attraction.

The Beatles stayed at the ashram, spread over nearly 18 acres (7.2 hectares) and located in the Himalayan foothills, in 1968 to learn transcendental meditation from the guru Maharishi.

But the Fab Four and the guru fell out during their visit, for various reasons. Ringo Starr reportedly objected to the vegetarian diet, while John Lennon felt that the Maharishi's claim to celibacy was a lie.

However the group wrote many of their songs for their famous "White Album" during and immediately after their stint at the ashram.

The guru later moved to Europe where he died in 2008.



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