Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh Uttarakhand
Beatles Ashram also known as Chaurasi Kutia is a northern Indian Ashram. It is located on the eastern side of the River Ganges, in the foothills of the Himalayas, opposite the Muni Ki Reti area in Rishikesh.
It was the training facility for students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who developed the technique of Transcendental Meditation during 1960s and 1970s, as the International Academy of Meditation.
From February to April 1968, when the Beatles of the English rock band and celebrities such as Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love studied meditation there, the ashram received international attention. The setting in which this band was producing most of their songs as songwriters was their self-titled double album, which was also known as “The White Album.”
The area was abandoned in the 1990s and returned to the local forestry department in 2003, which became a popular tourist destination for Beatles fans. The site was officially open to the public in December 2015, although it was abandoned and overrun by jungle. It has been known since then as the Beatles Ashram and held an exhibition on the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in Rishikesh in February 2018.
The site was leased from the State Department of Forestry of Uttar Pradesh in 1961 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. On a hill called Manikoot, 150 feet high above the Ganges River, it is a 14-acre land surrounded by jungles. The facility was constructed in 1963 with the US Doris Duke $100,000 donation.
It was named the “International Meditation Academy” by the maharishi, locally referred to as the ashram of Chaurasi Kutia and by some meditators such as Shankaracharya Nagar. This was one of the many ashrams of the Rishikesh area, known as the “capital of yoga of the world,” which is of religious significance.
The training centre was designed to adapt to Western habits and was variously described as ‘luxurious’ and ‘lavishing. It was build to welcome people from every corner with five rooms in each of its stone bungalows. The facility was “constantly under construction” in the words of the author Susan Shumsky, a devotee of TM, whose first ashram retreat was in 1970. There were also several stone lodges, known as puri, that each contain six self-contained rooms.
A long, modern residence, which was located away from the other buildings, was the Maharishi’s residence. The resident was simple and lavish. It’s a very special place for the construction of the building. Shumsky writes that the bungalow of the Maharishi was a “simple building in brick, concrete, and stone,” far from the splash of the media after the Beatles’ ashram.
The Chaurasi Kutia name is Hindi for “84 Huts,” according to journalist Raymond Zhong, who has visited the site in 2015. “A four-story building has a staggering pyramid design and multifoil arches over the doors and massive white structures like stubble eggs are on the roof.
The decision of the Beatles to study Transcendental Meditation in India brought the Ashram to international fame. Electric heaters, running water, toilets and mobilising in English were all included in the bungalows allocated to Beatles.
The Maharishi obtained many special “special items” from a nearby town in order that the rooms in the Beatles could have mirrors, wall-to-wall tapestry, coverings, foam mattresses and bed-linen according to Nancy Cooke de Herrera, an American devotee assigned to look after Western celebrations. Ringo Starr later compared the ashram with a low-cost British holiday camp.
In the 1970s, the maharishi ceased to use the ashram. With the lease expiring in 1981, the government reclaimed the land for what was now the Rajaji Tiger Reserve in the middle of the 1990s. In the aftermath of the vandalism and the jungle, the former ashram disappeared.
The Ashram is filled with artwork contribution of the trespassers and artist nearby.
From the 1990s, the intrusions on the site of the Ashram had left the Beatles with graffiti. I n 2012, street artist Pan Trinity Das founded the Beatles Gallery to “reactivate” Satsang Hall, the former lecture hall but officials from the forestry department restricted his efforts and those of others.
In February 2016 Toland visited the Rishikesh Ashram and made beautiful art pieces of the once dilapidated walls. A globe-trotting artist who has visited India and even lived here on several occasions, Toland’s no foreigner has attracted the attention of Indian audiences through his wall wall paintings in Pune.
So I was just hypnotised by the arwork done inside the Beatles Ashram. From the random art on the walls to the amazing structures of people inside the rooms, it was just amazing. It was like if you are a art lover you cannot leave any artwork without giving it a stare of atleast 10 minutes. Such amazing the art was all around.
There is a small canteen too inside the ashram which serves very basic refreshments like samosa, chow mein and some snacks with tea/ coffee.
The Beatles Ashram took me to the colourful world of history and I would like to visit this place again whenever possible, my love for this place is still fresh and this is definitely one of the star places of my “Visit Again” list.