These are photographs taken at the decaying ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi situated on a slight hill on the outskirts of Rishikesh several months ago. It is a large sprawling site, partially reclaimed by nature, though the combination of decay and psychedelic art provides a compelling sense of its former importance and gestalt. From here the iconic Transcendental Meditation movement spawned across the western world, partially supported by visitations from cultural luminaries such as The Beatles. Its promise of a better world based on love and devotion to a spiritual pathway was a powerful counter-message to a world which seemed divisive and to be destroying itself.
Walking through it several months ago, in the blistering Indian sun, I was free to explore where I wanted. The site is divided up into meditation pods, built out of stones from the river Ganges which the ashram overlooks, large futuristic accommodation for visiting students, extensive teaching and meditation rooms, dining quarters and even a post office to better communicate with the outside world. All of the buildings were crumbling, and most of the exposed wall space had been used for expressing something of the nature of the teachings and aspirations.
Beside the cafe there is an exhibition space where the history of the Transcendental Meditation movement is presented together with photographs of its leading international proponents. In the room next to it is a collection of photographs of members of The Beatles, some photographs feature the Maharishi.
I went to the ashram with a long time follower of the Maharishi. Initially she felt defrauded of an authentic experience, feeling there was little there remaining of his global message. For me I felt the nature of that message had survived, and it was fascinating to visit an environment which had successfully exported so much of Eastern spiritual sentiment to a western world tiring of hard politics and mono-theistic religions.
Through the overgrown trees and vegetation, the Ganges could be seen below glinting as it hurried along its journey towards the plains of India. Although it has travelled down to Rishikesh from its Himalayan heights, it is still a young river. Stones and rocks taken from it had built many of the ashram’s structures which can still be visited. Just underneath the complex, along the banks of the Ganges, is an ashram owned by the Gita press, reputedly the largest publishers of Hindu religious texts in the world. This ashram is dedicated exclusively to sadhus, the ascetic travellers of India who follow a monastic, spiritual and socially detached existence.
More images from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram can be found as a Gallery here. These images are available as digital downloads and clicking on an image will reveal a choice of image resolution for purchase. Alternatively a reduced number of images are available on a digital download page here where other images from India can be found and downloaded.