In 1968, The Beatles and a crew of hangers-on traded hip London threads for kurtas and wreaths of marigold, trudging through dense forest to an ashram in Rishikesh, India, where they spent weeks writing songs.
There was George Harrison, a devoted follower of Transcendental Meditation; John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who had started to feud over the band’s direction; and Ringo Starr, the band’s drummer, who was so perturbed by India’s famously spicy food that he packed a reserve of beans for his stay at the ashram. He lasted 10 days.
“Scan all the photographs of Ringo in Rishikesh, and you’ll find few in which he’s smiling,” says Raju Gusain, a local journalist who has become something of an expert on the band’s trip to India.
These days, the forest has swallowed up the ashram’s crumbling buildings, obscuring traces of celebrity from their halls. But the complex is set for a revival, with renovations planned for many of the structures, long unused and only recently reopened to the public.