vasamsi jirnani yatha vihayaBhagvad Gita – Chapter 2 Text 22
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
According to Vedas there are 84 Lakh species of life and the conditioned soul is continuously passing through the different species based on karma, under devine supervision. The Bhagvad Gita (2.22) says that just as one gives up old shirt to put on a new one, the soul gives up a old body to acquire a new kind of a body. Thus there are 84 Lakh types of bodies (84 Lakh Yonis), out of which soul assumes a body at the time of death.
“Chaurasi” means 84 and it is a number that represents the base numeral of the number of species we believe to exists on earth 84 Lakhs. “Chaurasi Kutiya” means 84 huts. What are these huts? Where are they? And why they exists? Who built it and what for? And what’s the connection with Indian mythology?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who was known for developing and popularising Transcendental Meditation visited the land of Ganges in 1960. He requested Uttar Pradesh (UP) forest department to lease him 15 acres of land overlooking the Ganga to build the Ashram. The land was leased for 40 years in 1961. This land is part of Rajaji National Park. 84 Kutiya is located across the Ganga River in Rishikesh in the Swarg Ashram area. I walked all the way from Tapovan crossing Jhula’s, Parmarth Niketan, Vaan Prasth Ashram, Ved Niketan Ashram and I must say it’s an amazing walk passing through all these places and noticing the change in vibes around. It is surrounded by the forest and when you walk around you can feel the forest around you with the sounds. The Ganga flows next to the Ashram but since you hike a bit to reach the ashram, you get a top-down view of the Ganga.
As I started walking from the ticket counter, the first thing noticed was the graffiti on the walls. We Love Rishikesh. On one side was the graffiti-filled wall and on the other the neat lines of benches with trees hanging on them. The small pod-like huts covered with raw stones started making an appearance. So, these are the Kutiyas or huts that lend the place its name. I was awestuck, these huts are really beautiful and the surroundings are mesmerizing. Then I spotted double story Kutiyas, with a small basic staircase joining the two levels. My imagination is now on swing! Sadhus sitting here with closed eyes and listening to the forest sounds and the sound of Ganga – Aw! What a peace it would have been. My another imagination was these cute little huts probably be 84 and hence the name Chaurasi Kutiya – Finally cracked the code!!
The building in the front had a small café and 3 huge halls with photo exhibits. One hall talks about Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Another one talks about the famous visitors to the ashram – I will disclose the visitors at end. And the third one introduces you to the residents of Rajaji Tiger Reserve – wild animals.
Later, I spotted a small Shiva temple with two Shiva Lingas and a Nandi. The ruined buildings started appearing after this. On my left was the Kitchen which the board said fed as many as 500 residents of the Ashram. Then comes the Ved Bhavan – A lecture hall used to conduct classes. The walls are full of spiritual graffiti.
Then comes the Anand Bhavan. The slanting pyramidal walls were really intriguing. It felt they were designed to concentrate energy in the building. There was something mystical about this unusual shape and it felt like a haunting house. Reluctantly I stepped inside the building and was lost in the maze of rooms. I did not dare to step on the upper floors. I could see these are residential units but there was something that looks mysterious. This is an interesting building. You enter the door and the place divides itself into two, you can take any one path and enter. The two long corridors on each side with light reflecting at equal intervals. As you walk in this corridor you realise there are small chambers with a small window for people to sit and meditate. There are 84 such chambers next to each other. As per the board here, these are based on 84 poses of Yoga. Now the code is cracked 😀 these are Chaurasi Kutiya and not the huts!
Now is the time to reveal the popularized name of Chaurasi Kutiya! This is the so called Beatles Ashram as this is the place where the Beatles stayed when they visited Rishikesh to learn Transcendental Meditation from the Maharishi. It is believed their stay in early 1968 at the Ashram was one of their most productive periods as musicians. George Harrison learned to play the Sitar. In fact, their name is perennially attached to this Ashram. Not sure, if they made the place popular with the western world or the Ashram used their name to reach out to the larger audience in the west.
- Timings: 9 AM to 4 PM
- This premises is maintained by forest department and entry ticket is mandatory.
- A small cafe with limited food choices available inside ashram
- Good to spend minimum half a day walking around and to feel the vibe of place. A peaceful location at the banks of Ganges surrounded by forest.
PS as I always say, respect nature and it’s resources and don’t leave any trash on trails.