Rishikesh is known as ‘Yoga Nagari’ across the world but you will be surprised to know that ‘Chaurasi Kuti’, the place that got Rishikesh recognition as Yoga City, itself remained in obscurity for 29-long years.
We are talking about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the pioneer of transcendental meditation who founded Chaurasi Kuti, 84 igloo-shaped huts at Rishikesh in 1963.
After Rajaji Tiger Reserve was established, entry of common man was prohibited in Shankaracharya Nagar (Chaurasi Kuti). Over the time forest grew there and the heritage structure lay in the state of ruins. But, after 29 years, when it was reopened for tourists, it gradually became their favourite destination.
In 1961, Mahesh Yogi had taken 15 acres of land near Swarg Ashram Rishikesh on lease from the forest department. Here, he built 84 small huts and more than 100 caves with wonderful architecture and developed this place as yoga centre for meditation.
These huts are wonderful specimens of architecture and are earthquake resistant too.
Besides Mahesh Yogi, Dr Swami Ram and Swami Shivanand were also known for imparting yoga education here. However, Chaurasi Kuti developed into a unique centre for meditation.
In 1968, world-famous music band Beatles group visited this place to attend an advanced ‘Transcendental Meditation’ training course. Four members of the Beatles group — George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon stayed here for a long time and composed many tunes and songs. After this, Rishikesh became a centre of attraction for foreign tourists and got recognition on the world stage as the international capital of Yoga.
After Rajaji National Park came up and its boundaries were expanded in 1986, Chaurasi Kuti was just at the fringe of the park area.
Due to strict rules for traffic movement, and inability to get resources, Mahesh Yogi went to the Netherlands and handed over the Kuti to the Forest department. At the same time, entry of common man to the Kuti was prohibited. Due to lack of maintenance, the huts and caves were gradually reclaimed by nature after being abandoned and the entire campus lay in the state of ruins.
Fro almost 29 years, this heritage structure remained in darkness. Many tourists used to come here to see this heritage associated with the Beatles group but they returned disappointed as they were not allowed to enter. On December 8, 2015, the Forest department cleaned and repaired this complex and reopened it for tourists. Since then, domestic and foreign tourist, students and elders are visiting the place after paying fee. After reopening of Chaurasi Kuti, the influx of tourists increased manifold.
Recently, when record of last five years was presented by the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, it was found that this heritage campus is no less than a treasure.
In the past six years, 1,39,176 foreign and Indian tourists visited Chaurasi Kuti and the Rajaji park administration has earned Rs 2,33,29,685 from the tourist fee.
The coronavirus has also cast its shadow on the Kuti. When Churasi Kuti was opened for the first time in 2015, a total of 4,975 tourists arrived there by March 2016.
In the financial year 2016-2017, a total 9,675 tourist footfalls were recorded, in 2017-18, a total 18,313 tourist footfalls while in 2018-19, a total 30,047 tourist footfalls were recorded.
In 2019-20, highest number, 42,233 tourists visited the Kuti but in March 2020, it was closed due to coronavirus scare.
On October 16, 2020, when the campus was reopened, the number of tourists visiting here declined.
After reopening the Kuti, tourists facilities were expanded. Range officer Dheer Singh informed that Herbal Garden and Navgrah Vatika were recently established in the Chaurasi Kuti. Besides this, arrangements have been made for drinking water, nature path, bio toilet, bamboo hut, solar street light and music system.