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Beatles fans will be treated with rare photos at Chaurasi Kutia from today

Fans visiting the Beatles ashram in Rishikesh from Monday will be have a chance to see rare and unpublished photographs of the British rock band, taken during their stay at the ashram on the banks of the Ganga River.

dehradun Updated: Feb 18, 2018 22:04 IST
Anupam Trivedi 
Anupam Trivedi 
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand news,Beatles fans,Rare photos
A Canadian artist, who is a Beatles fan, gives final touches to a wall painting of the music legends. (Rajeev Kala /HT Photo)

Fans visiting the Beatles ashram in Rishikesh from Monday will be have a chance to see rare and unpublished photographs of the British rock band, taken during their stay at the ashram on the banks of the Ganga River.

The state forest minister will inaugurate a photo exhibition that will become a permanent feature at the ashram popularly known as “Chaurasi Kutia–the 84 igloo-shaped huts, spread over 14-acre on the fringe of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve--where the “Fab Four” spent time in 1968.

The photo gallery will be part of the year-long celebration to mark the 50 years of the Beatles’ visit to India.

The members of the band--George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon--arrived in Rishikesh in February 1968 to attend an advanced “Transcendental Meditation” training course at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The Beatles stayed at the retreat for nearly two months, meditating and writing songs.

According to Paul Saltzman, the author of “The Beatles in Rishikesh”, the band wrote as many as 48 songs, many of which made it to the band’s iconic “White Album” and “The Yellow Submarine and a few songs also featured in the album “Abbey Road”.

Though the Beatles had planned a three-month retreat at the estate, but, according to some accounts, it descended into farce with Ringo Starr went home after 10 days complaining about the spicy food. Paul McCartney, however, stayed for a month, while John Lennon and George Harrison left abruptly after six weeks.

The retreat itself--leased to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a flamboyant self-styled Indian guru by the then Uttar Pradesh forest department in 1957 where he set up an ashram with igloo-shaped huts - was gradually reclaimed by nature after being abandoned.

The ashram was run by until 1970s and was later abandoned by the guru and his followers and was gradually reclaimed by nature after being abandoned.

The lease of the ashram expired in 1981 and in 2003 the complex surrounded by the jungle across the Ganga , came under the jurisdiction of the Rajaji National Park now known as the Rajaji Tiger Rreserve.

The ashram was reopened for fans in 2015 and in 2017 the RTR earned ₹20 lakh as entry fee from the visitors, most of who are foreigners.

The reserve authority charges an entry fee of ₹150 from Indian visitors and ₹ 700 from foreigners.

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Trust has provided 40 odd rare photographs to be displayed at the “Chaurashi Kutia”, says Rajaji Tiger Reserve director, Sanatan Sonkar.

“Every photo to be displayed, tells a unique story,” he says.

“Our effort is to provide a glimpse of the 1960s when the Beatles visited and also provide livelihood opportunities for the locals. The photo exhibition and few other tourist facilities are being set up and we are set to make the ashram a livelier and happening place.”

For the Beatles fans, a visit to the ashram on the outskirts of Rishikesh is nothing short of a “pilgrimage”, their devotion can be seen in the graffiti on the walls of igloo-shaped huts at the meditation hall within the ashram complex along with the murals of the Beatles themselves.

The Beatles Story, a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that tells the story about the Beatles and their history and their rise to fame, set up in Liverpool—the Fab Four’s hometown--will also hold a special exhibition on the Beatles’ visit to Rishikesh.

A sitar used by Indian classical musician Ravi Shankar, loaned to The Beatles Story by the Ravi Shankar Foundation, is on display in the renovated meditation hall within the ashram premises.

As George Harrison’s mentor, Ravi Shankar’s influence on the Beatle, helped to popularise the use of Indian musical instruments in pop music in the 1960s.

Ravi Shankar used the particular “Rikhi Ram” sitar that he fondly referred to as “Shyama” for practice and composing music, has been taken from his personal collection of sitars.

“The exhibit also includes photographs by film-maker and author Paul Saltzman, then a sound engineer with the National Film Board of Canada, who photographed the Beatles during their stay” says Diane Glover, manager at The Beatles Story, in an email statement.

Pattie Boyd, former wife of George Harrison, and her sister Jenny Boyd, who were among the star-studded list of attendees at the ashram, will provide their personal insight of the time of the celebrity group’s stay at the ashram through exclusive video interviews, says Glover.

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 22:04 IST