MEHER BABA'S LAST SAHAVAS (Excerpts)
Dr. H. P. Bharucha
We sat down under a tree and heard the long story ... from Eruch and the other members of the Mandali
On the 3rd of December, 1968, Baba got a muscular spasm while He sat on His toilet seat. This was a muscular contraction which was sudden, rapid and very painful. The Mandali noticed that Baba looked pale. He went off food, not to say that Baba ever ate much. The Mandali would often request Baba to eat well so that His body would sustain the strain of the 1969 darshan. Whenever the darshan was referred to, Baba seemed very unconcerned about it and would remark that giving darshan was not a big thing! He would always emphasize that He would give darshan. Day by day anaemia seemed to be taking a firm grip on Baba. At last, a blood report was called for and the result was shocking. Baba's haemoglobin had dropped to 5 gms % (normal 14 gms) and His blood urea was 148 mgms % (normal 20 to 40 mgms). When the waste products of metabolism are not excreted from the body by the kidneys, the blood urea rises. Dr. Grant, a well known physician of Poona, was consulted and he could not believe his eyes on seeing the report. A second blood report was called for thinking that there had been a mistake with the first one. This wishful thinking had to be abandoned when the second report came.
Dr. Grant now decided that Baba would need a blood transfusion. The Mandali recalled that a month back when Baba had been told about Eruch's uncle who needed a blood transfusion, Baba had jokingly said, "Why not give me a transfusion!" The Mandali had taken this remark very lightly and had hardly dreamt what Baba was referring to. One of them had even told Baba, "How can the Godman take another man's blood?" Baba had replied, "Why not? The Godman will not change in any way if he takes human blood." When Eruch's uncle had to be given a second transfusion, Baba again jokingly asked why He was not being given one. Mysterious are His ways and even though broad as daylight hints were given, no one understood them. Baba was given the first blood transfusion on the 15th of December, 1968, at 7:30 a.m. Dr. Grant had come personally from Poona to attend on Baba.
After the blood transfusion, Baba's blood was again checked. The haemoglobin had risen to 8 gms % while the urea had gone down to 90 mgms %. Baba was given a second blood transfusion on the 19th of December. (Baba's blood group is AB1, meaning Universal recipient). Dr. Grant took Baba's E.K.G. and said it was normal. Dr. Goher was kept on her toes day and night attending Baba and so one of the Mandali suggested to Baba to call Hoshang from Navsari. Baba replied, "Not now. He will come on his own at the right time." Eruch suggested calling Dr. R. Ginde from Bombay. Dr. Ginde came to see Baba on the 19th of December. He says, "I saw Beloved Baba again on December 19, 1968, as by then His health had deteriorated further. Beloved Baba had become pale due to anaemia. There was swelling around his feet and ankles. He was unable to sit up. He was getting spasms of His limbs. His blood urea had gone up to 146 mgms %, Haemoglobin had gone down to 6.5 gms %. (By then He had already been given one packed cell transfusion.) Still while I was with Him, He sat up for half an hour and soon brightened up, looking almost His usual Self."
When Dr. Hirji of Trichur came to see Baba, he did not see a single spasm. Dr. Hirji suggested that Baba be shifted to Poona and a thorough checkup be given. But Baba said that He would drop His body if He were taken to Poona!
The shop will now be opened!
On the 22nd of December, Mehera's birthday was celebrated in the usual manner. About 200 lovers from Bombay had been called for the occasion. On 23rd December Dara, Baba's nephew, and his wife Amrit, daughter of Shatrugna Kumar of Dehradun were blessed at Meherazad. Baba had taken a great interest in this wedding. In fact, Baba had suggested that Amrit would be a very suitable wife for Dara. Adi (junior), Baba's brother, who lives in England, first fixed Dara's wedding in November, 1968. Later, he wrote that December would be more convenient for him as his daughter Shirin would then get Christmas holidays from school. Adi suggested 23rd December for the wedding. Though Baba agreed to the postponement of the wedding, He said, "I will have to adjust my work." Baba took part in the functions on both the days. He took interest in both the functions and expressed His satisfaction and happiness after the functions ended.
From 26th December, the spasms increased. Movements would sometimes precipitate a spasm. His haemoglobin remained constant and His blood urea began to come down gradually. Whenever the Mandali talked about the Poona darshan, Baba would tell them most casually not to worry about it. On some days Baba would get no spasms at all but the feeling of elation on this score was short-lived. Often Baba would tell the Mandali, "The time is very near."
New Year marched in but Baba's health fluctuated like a barometer with His Universal work. On the 9th of January, 1969, Adi's (Baba's brother) wife came to see Baba before her departure for England. While talking to Baba about His health, He said, "Don't worry. All will be well by the end of this month."
Till the 12th of January, 1969, Baba used to come to the men Mandali room as usual in the mornings and afternoons. After the 12th, Baba never left His room. A few days before the 12th, Padri (his real name is Faredoon Driver but Baba had nicknamed him Padri) came from Meherabad to see Baba. During the course of his conversation with Baba, he casually remarked, "Baba, the Mandali has become old and it is better to close this shop." Baba replied, "No, the shop will now be opened!"
Carry out every command of the Master
On 30th January, the spasms increased manifold. Even finger movements would precipitate a spasm making it very difficult to read Baba's gestures. Dr. Grant was called from Poona. He felt Baba's health was improving and so asked Baba to take a high protein diet. Baba asked him whether he ate meat and fish. The doctor replied that he had only one meal a day and that he ate a non-vegetarian diet. Baba agreed to take the diet suggested by the doctor. Just before Dr. Grant left for Poona, Baba told him, "My time has come." After his departure, the spasms increased!
Baba called Padri from Meherabad to help the Mandali at Meherazad. Several persons had to attend on Baba all day and night as they held His legs tight while a spasm shook His body. The excruciating pain during each spasm was his crucifixion. Padri arrived in the evening at Meherazad on the 30th of January. Padri had been called for a seven days stay. On his arrival at Meherazad, he went to Baba's room. Baba was lying with His eyes closed on His surgical bed. When He opened His eyes, Bhau Kalchuri told Baba that Padri had arrived. Baba asked Padri to go to his room and said that he would be given day duty. It seems that after Padri left Meherabad, Mohammed, the only mast at Meherabad, asked Sidhuji where Padri had gone. Sidhuji told Mohammed that Padri had been called to Meherazad to assist the Mandali as Baba was not well. On hearing this, Mohammed, who mostly talks in a language understandable to himself alone said, "Tomorrow (31st) Dada (Baba) is coming here and is going to join Gustadji (one of the Mandali who passed away some years back)!"
Baba had asked Adi to phone Dr. Ginde on the 27th. Dr. Ginde writes, "I received a trunk call from brother Adi from Ahmednagar. He asked me to try and be ready as Beloved Baba was likely to call me soon to spend two or three days at Meherazad. Next day I phoned him back and told Adi that I could be there on Saturday, the 1st February, 1969. However, again on the 29th January I had another call from brother Adi. He said that Beloved Baba had said as to why I could not see the urgency and be with Him on Friday the 31st January, 1969. After arranging for relief for my work, I phoned back and informed that I would leave for Meherazad on Friday early morning to be with Beloved Baba by noon as desired by Him. But I got another call on Thursday, the 30th January about 9:30 p.m. that I should see Dr. Grant in Poona and discuss Beloved Baba's case with him before proceeding further to Ahmednagar."
Baba asked Aloba (Ali Akbar) to bring a board from the Mandali room on Friday the 31st morning on which the following three couplets of Hafiz were written:
I am the slave of the Master
Befitting a fortunate slave,
About what you hear from the Master,
Little did anyone realise the significance of bringing this board until Baba dropped His body. Baba knew how much confusion there would be and how many tongues would wag after He dropped His body and these three couplets seem to clear every doubt.
This is my crucifixion
Bhau Kalchuri, who was constantly near Baba on the last night said that at 9:30 p.m. Baba told him, "I am not this body." At 10:30 p.m. and again at 12:30 a.m. Baba told him, "Don't Worry."
At 3:45 a.m. on Friday, 31st January, 1969, the following from the Mandali were called to be near Baba: Eruch, Bhau, Pendu (A. R. Irani), Padri and Dr. Goher. All of them nursed Baba with love and tried to relieve Him of His self-imposed suffering. At dawn, the men were relieved by the women Mandali. At 8:00 a.m. Mani, Rano, Francis, Pendu, Bhau, Chhagan, Padri and Eruch took up duty by Baba's bedside.
Baba enquired whether Dr. Ginde had arrived. When informed in the negative, He asked Adi to phone and inform Dr. Grant at Poona that he should not delay Dr. Ginde as he was wanted at Meherazad. That morning, Baba often asked for Dr. Ginde and each time He would gesture a "G," he would rock with a severe spasm and wince at the unbearable pain. Baba also developed severe pain in His back. Baba had said on 25th February, 1964, "I have suffered much and will have to suffer much more till I break my silence." On another occasion He had said, "I suffer every second of my life untold agony." Had it not been said, "The blood of the lamb washeth away the sins of the world." Baba's greatness lies not in His manifestation but in suffering for the cause of humanity. While working for the spiritual upliftment of humanity, the Avatar has to take upon himself the entire suffering of the world clamouring for its deliverance. This suffering for the world steeped in ignorance becomes the Avatar's crucifixion. Baba's life on earth was a crucifixion at each moment. Baba, referring to His suffering, had told Dr. Donkin on Thursday, 30th January, "This is my crucifixion."
Seeing that allopathic medicines seemed to give Baba no relief, Padri gave some biochemic pills for relieving spasms. The drug had to be administered every ten minutes. At 12 noon, Padri gave the fourth dose of his medicine. After this dose, Baba remarked that the pill was not helping Him at all. Baba asked Dr. Goher to stop giving Him injections and even reminded the Mandali, "Do not forget that I am God." Baba had once said, "I am God, God the Beyond and God in human form. I draw you ever closer to me by giving you frequent occasions of my companionship. But familiarity often makes you forget that I am God. I know all what happens and will happen. Whatever happens does not happen without My will. Knowingly I allow things to happen in their natural course."
After Padri gave Baba the fourth dose, Baba for the last time then enquired whether Dr. Ginde had come. He was answered in the negative. Baba gestured, "By this time he should have come, it is getting late." The Mandali were too busy attending to Baba's needs and this statement did not make them suspect anything. Padri asked Eruch to give Baba the next dose of his medicine after ten minutes.
Before he could leave the room, Baba got a very very severe spasm at 12:15 p.m. He was sitting on His surgical bed with His back and head raised. Baba flexed His arms and closed His mouth tightly. His respiration suddenly stopped. There was no relaxation after the spasm and Baba became motionless. Eruch, using his wits, tried to open Baba's mouth. He found that Baba's tongue had fallen back. Eruch put his mouth on Baba's mouth and began to breathe into Baba's lungs forcibly. This mouth to mouth resuscitation was carried on for nearly thirty minutes. Francis and Bhau relieved him for a short while. Adi was immediately phoned to bring Dr. Brieseman and an oxygen cylinder from the Mission hospital at Ahmednagar. Pendu kept his hand on Baba's pulse. Dr. Goher was busy giving several injections in an attempt to revive Baba.
At about 12:40 p.m. Dr. Ginde arrived followed by Adi and Dr. Brieseman. They brought an oxygen cylinder with them. Eruch had collapsed on the floor out of sheer exhaustion. Dr. Brieseman gave a cardiac massage. He then checked Baba's heart with a stethoscope and passed it on to Dr. Donkin, who after examining Baba gave it to Dr. Ginde. The three doctors discussed something which the Mandali did not understand. Dr. Ginde checked Baba's eye reflexes. The heart had stopped, the reflexes were gone and life was extinct! Dr. Goher asked whether she could give an intra-cardiac injection. She was permitted but it was too late. He had given His life and made it available to all. Baba had said, "The dropping of the physical body of the Avatar or by the Sadguru is not death, for even while he uses the body he is in no way attached to it and has no sanskaric link with it. Nor does the dropping of the body in these instances involve the usual survival of the limited individuality of ego-mind, for these are simply non-existent in the Sadguru and Avatar."
To live eternally in the hearts of all his lovers
The Mandali around Baba now realised that Baba had dropped His physical body. The reaction of the women Mandali was as womanly as it was heart-achingly understandable. They just could not bring themselves to believe that Baba had dropped His body. Mehera came into Baba's room when He choked and had the severe spasm at 12:15 p.m. A hot water bag was brought by the women Mandali for Baba at about 12:20 p.m. The news of Baba dropping His body did not take long to spread to all the inmates at Meherazad. Dr. Brieseman left. The women Mandali shed tears as did Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, when He breathed His last.
The men Mandali left Baba's room and gathered in Francis' room. They first discussed the wording of the telegram to be sent to all Baba Centres in the world. Finally it was decided: "Avatar Meher Baba dropped His physical body at 12:15 p.m on 31st January 1969 at Meherazad to live eternally in the hearts of all His lovers. Beloved Baba's body will be interred at Meherabad Arangaon on 1st February at 10:00 a.m. in the Tomb He had ordered to be built long ago."
All minds seemed to have come to a standstill. Dr. Ginde composed the Mandali by saying that Baba is eternal. The women Mandali, particularly Mehera, were greatly shocked and grieved. Dr. Ginde asked the men Mandali not to be sentimental but to become practical. He wrote Baba's death certificate. Eruch, who had by now recovered, recalled that Baba had told him several times, "Wherever my body drops, bring me and put me in the crypt at Meherabad." He had also asked the Mandali to play the record "Begin the Beguine" after He dropped His body. Eruch had once asked Baba, "Suppose the circumstances are such that we cannot bring your body to the crypt, what shall we do?" Baba had said that in that case (after having tried best for 15 days) His body should be cremated and the ashes brought to Meherabad and put in the crypt.
Dr. Ginde suggested that Baba's body should be removed to Meherabad within six hours. Mehera and the other women Mandali wanted to keep Baba's body at Meherazad. Mani argued with Dr. Ginde, "Baba had once told me that if He goes into coma some day, He would revive after seven days." Dr. Ginde explained that this was not coma, for a person in coma has his heart beating while his respiration and pulse have not stopped. He tried to explain that Baba was not in coma. Mani would not agree with Dr. Ginde's argument. Someone suggested that Baba's body be kept in the hall at lower Meherabad for three days. Dr. Ginde said that it would be very difficult to remove a decomposed body to the crypt after three days.
Only after Eruch explained that Baba's body must be removed to the Meherabad Tomb as instructed by Baba Himself, all, including the women Mandali, agreed to remove Baba's body to the crypt. Mehera and Mani requested Dr. Ginde that Baba's body be kept at Meherazad till 5:00 p.m. Dr. Ginde then suddenly asked, "Where is the crypt? What is the floor made of?" When he was told that the floor was of stone, he quickly said that the stones would have to be removed. Padri was asked to remove the stone floor in the crypt. Padri went to Meherabad and began the task of getting the stone slab in the crypt removed. The clanging noise of the digging made the Arangaon villagers prick up their ears and they felt something was amiss. They were still ignorant that Baba had dropped His body. The crypt floor was ready by 7:00 p.m.
Chhagan was urgently packed off to Ahmednagar to get a wooden board made on which Baba's body would be kept and then lowered in the crypt. He was to get a cover made for the coffin which would be placed over Baba. Chhagan rushed off and gave urgent orders at Ahmednagar for the cover and the board to be made.
At Meherazad, after the initial shock had been overcome, Baba's surgical bed was straightened out to a horizontal position. Baba's sadra and underwear were changed. The Mandali quickly decided not to give Baba a bath as He had been averse to bathing and had had no bath for nearly two years! Yet, Baba's body and skin were always fresh and fragrant. Baba's body was wrapped up from His shoulders to His toes in two bed sheets that were on His bed. On the carpet, near Baba's bed, a plastic sheet was placed and over it a quilt. Baba was gently lifted by the Mandali and placed on the quilt. He was again wrapped up in the quilt, plastic and the carpet. A chequered scarf was tied around His head going over His chin.
For Baba there is no goodbye
While the record "Begin the Beguine" was being played several times, Dr. Donkin arrived with an ambulance. Baba was lifted on a stretcher from His room in Meherabad and brought to the men Mandali room. The stretcher was placed on His aluminium bed. The Mandali came one by one and bowed down for the last time in Meherazad.
It was time to say goodbye, though for Baba there is no goodbye. Though Baba was leaving them physically, He was not really leaving them for He has said: "If you maintain a tight and lasting grip on my daaman, you will remain with me on the highest of levels, or the lowest, wherever I am, wherever I may be...." All were quiet at this parting time. Even the birds seemed to have stopped chirping. The bougainvillea and the jasmine bowers in the garden seemed to be drooping, bidding farewell to their Beloved. The roses must have shriveled for, now, whom would they adorn? But they were lucky for they were carried daily to Meherabad and placed on His feet by the women Mandali....
Having lived for so many years in Meherazad, Baba was now leaving. After all had bowed down, the ambulance was dusted and the stretcher carrying Baba was placed inside it on the seat. Eruch and Bhau sat inside the ambulance next to Baba's stretcher. When the ambulance started, all shouted: "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" When the ambulance reached lower Meherabad, Padri sat next to the driver to guide him to the Tomb. At six in the evening, the ambulance slowly climbed Meherabad hill. Arangaon villagers who had already got suspicious with the noise of digging in the Tomb now knew for certain that their Beloved was no longer with them. The news flashed through the village like a forest fire. The ambulance came and stopped just opposite Baba's cabin....
After the ambulance arrived at Baba's cabin, the stretcher was lifted from it and placed in the cabin just opposite its door. The crypt floor had been dug one foot deep after the stone slabs forming its floor had been removed. Padri announced at 7:00 p.m. that the Tomb was ready.
Amid shouts of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" Baba's stretcher was lifted from the cabin and taken to the entrance of the Tomb. With head first, Baba was taken inside on the stretcher and placed on the side of the crypt. The wooden board on which Baba was to be placed was first put in the crypt. Baba had once asked the Mandali whether it would be alright if He gave His darshan lying down. The Mandali had not the faintest idea of what Baba really meant by this and so had agreed thinking that His health would not permit Him to sit up for darshan. Baba had asked them to raise His head so that His lovers could see Him from a distance. The true meaning of these words was now understood when the board was being placed in the crypt. Eruch placed three stone slabs that had been removed from the crypt floor under the board where Baba's head would be placed. The board was thus at a slant with Baba's head raised by about four inches.
Baba was lifted with the carpet on which He lay. Amid loud cheers of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" the carpet was lowered onto the board. Baba now lay in the crypt with His eyes closed, His head to the North and His feet facing the steps that take one down into the crypt. A pillow was placed under Baba's head. The scarf tied around His head and over His ears and chin was rearranged. Baba's hair was gently brushed. The bed sheets wrapped around Baba were made tidy and then blocks of ice were put in the small space between the board and the crypt wall. The ice surrounded Baba on all sides and yet did not touch His body. A flower garland was put around Baba's head and He now seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Baba, who was never at rest though always divinely at Rest and who was motion in stillness and peace, was now really resting. A petromax light was initially hung in the Tomb but was later replaced by a fluorescent light, an electric generator being provided by the Vijayawada group. The gramophone record "Begin the Beguine" was played several times in the Tomb while the inmates of upper Meherabad looked at Beloved Baba, drinking in as much as they could of His loving presence.
With the news of Baba's return to Meherabad, life was again revived in the quiet colony and activities of various kinds began preparatory to Baba's arrival. The Tomb had to be got ready, water and food for those who were going to come for Baba's darshan and many other details had to be looked after.
There were scores of people waiting for the Tomb door to be opened. They had come to have Baba's last darshan. The women Mandali returned to Meherazad at midnight. Adi was busy sending wires and cables to lovers and Baba Centres in India and abroad. The All India Radio was informed and they announced Baba's passing away at 10:00 p.m. on the 31st of January. The next day, announcements were being made on the AIR several times during the day. At times, even a short life sketch of Baba was announced. The BBC also announced the passing away of Meher Baba.
They were tears of love
News had already reached Bombay by the evening of the 31st. Lovers rushed to the station to catch a train or a bus or got into cars and taxies to leave for Meherabad. Some arrived soon after Baba's body had been placed in the Tomb. Padri and Chhagan stayed the whole night in the Tomb on Friday the 31st.
On Saturday, the 1st of February, the shocking news spread the world over. It was unbelievable. Some lovers wondered, "Had there been a mistake?" If it was a shock for Baba's Mandali, how intense would be its impact on others who were far away! The sudden news was like a strong blow that literally stunned all. Many telegrams and phone calls were sent to Adi but unfortunately, replies were greatly delayed. The small telegraph office at Ahmednagar was busy only with Baba traffic. Those who heard the dreadful news and were destined to come for His final darshan left their homes immediately. Their love brought them to Baba. They needed no miracles to keep their faith whole and unswerving. Many came without official leave, many without clothes or cash. Only on arrival at Meherabad did they realise that their brush or soap or shaving set or some such thing had been forgotten....
At Meherabad, the trustees of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust had to wrack their brains to make arrangements for the thousands who were flocking in every day. A makeshift awning a white cloth stretched over bamboo poles was erected in front of the Tomb which served to give a little shade from the scorching sun. No food was available at first. To get a cup of tea or a biscuit, one would have to go six miles to Ahmednagar by transport which was far from regular.
Chhagan came to the rescue of all by getting vegetable "pulav" (rice with vegetables) cooked on Sunday, 2nd February, at Ahmednagar and brought to Meherabad. It was really a blessing for most lovers who had been living only on water and His love. On the 6th of February he got "puris" and a vegetable cooked which was served to all. Luckily, a small canteen sprang up a lower Meherabad which provided tea and snacks for those who could pay for them.
The hall at lower Meherabad was filled with lovers to the bursting point. There was hardly an inch of space to walk on the verandas around the hall. Not caring for the cold weather, many had baths with cold water in the early hours of the morning. Many had nothing to lie on nor cover themselves with at night. Padri was on his toes trying to provide bedding to the lovers from his meagre supplies.
At night, those whose hearts poured forth love alone, sat around the Tomb singing or glorifying their Beloved. While, down at the Meherabad hall, clusters of intellectuals would be talking about matters like Baba's silence, His promises, sudden dropping of His body and other things....
Some became emotional and wept bitterly. An old lover who had taught the boys of the Prem Ashram could hardly stand for he was shaking so much as he sobbed aloud amidst profuse tears that were rapidly rolling down his cheeks in an unbreakable chain. He banged his head against the stone walls of the Tomb and had to be prevented from bashing his head. He was the only one who could control the Prem Ashram boys when they sobbed for Baba. Now, he had lost control over his heart. Baba has told this lover that he would die only after Baba had dropped His body. He cried, "Take me now! Take me now!" To say that he loved Baba was not enough. He was ready to wash those Beloved feet of Baba with the blood of his heart.
Two girls from Andhra Pradesh came in singing and weeping. They could not help giving vent to the sorrowful throbs of their hearts through soul stirring sobs. They were tears of love. The old and the crippled were brought into the Tomb on chairs lifted by four persons. They could not go down into the crypt but could see Baba from a distance. They too shed tears of love. Some fainted and had to be carried out. Each lover who entered the Tomb would not want to leave and they had to be requested to leave so that others could come inside. Not all were lucky enough to enter the Tomb. Thousands bowed down only on the doorstep and tried to catch a glimpse of their Beloved in the crypt. Before their eyes could accommodate the darkness in the crypt, they were pushed aside by the volunteers at the door. It was a pity to see so many being thus moved away even before they could set their eyes on Baba. But, if they did not see Baba, Baba definitely saw them and accepted their loving bow to Him. He gave them more, far more, in the space of a few seconds than what they had gained in years of earnest seeking, for Baba can bestow Divine Love, whereas others can only talk about it.
Baba was sleeping on a bed of roses
Two volunteers remained in the Tomb all the time. One would fan Baba while he sat on the landing of the crypt, the other would be busy collecting flowers at the door and swabbing the floor with a wet cloth to remove the dust that flew inside in plenty with thousands stamping and bowing at the door. The windows of the Tomb had to be cleared of lovers who tried to have a peep of their Beloved. This was necessary to maintain fresh air circulating inside the Tomb. Eau de Cologne was sprinkled lavishly on the floor at hourly intervals to clear the floor of ants, insects, flies and mosquitoes. Baba had always liked lavender and Chanel and so these were sprinkled on Him.
Lovers would want to take turns in fanning Baba so as to remove flies and mosquitoes which invariably came on the clothing of the villagers who entered the Tomb. At first this was done with a fly swatter, later with a small fan and lastly with a stick on which a scarf had been tied. Their fanning helped to fan the flames of love in their hearts and make it aglow, enabling them to help others in darkness. While fanning Baba, many lovers had wonderful experiences. One felt he saw tears roll down Baba's cheeks; another felt that he saw Baba's eyelid flicker; another said that he saw Baba smile. While they sat there, they were composed with the balm of Baba's healing presence, but when they left the Tomb, tears flowed down their cheeks, purifying tears in which joy and pain strangely mingled.
Mansari, one of the women Mandali living for many years on Meherabad hill, would come regularly to keep aglow a small oil lamp. Thrice a day the doors of the Tomb were closed while Eruch and a couple of other lovers changed the blocks of ice surrounding Baba. It was a difficult task for Eruch to balance himself on the ice blocks and remove the ones that had melted and were not stable. New blocks were arranged and fitted snugly in all the crevices. Saw dust was sprinkled on the ice blocks. As roses were brought daily in abundance, rose petals were sprinkled on the saw dust covering the ice blocks. The effect was that it appeared Baba was sleeping on a bed of roses.
From the time that Eruch had tried mouth to mouth resuscitation on the 31st, he worked night and day in the Tomb, not caring for food, drink or sleep. He had brought no clothes from Meherazad and hardly had time for a bath. Day and night one could see him in the Tomb consoling some lover, showing someone down into the crypt, taking flowers and putting them on Baba, arranging ice blocks, cleaning saw dust from Baba's clothes, pouring Eau de Cologne or lavender on Baba and doing many other things....
Beloved Baba's sheet was not changed but a new one was put daily over the one in which He was wrapped up. Flowers were arranged and changed two or three times a day. Around Baba's head was the scarf tied at Meherazad. Surrounding this a pink piece of cloth was placed around His head, the tail ends of which covered His chest. Roses made into wonderful garlands woven according to each one's imagination adorned His chest. Roses from Meherazad, so loved by Baba because of the tender care taken by Mehera for them, were placed on His heart by the women Mandali. From the door it seemed Baba was wearing a pink coat and lying on a bed or roses.
As evening approached and it became a little dark inside the crypt, one volunteer would flash a torch light on Baba's face while he sat on the landing above the crypt. The effect was gorgeous. From the door Baba's face seemed to be lighted up with a halo. Baba never liked incense sticks being burnt near Him and so these were avoided inside the Tomb. Just outside the East window on the platform where the Prem Ashram boys used to sit, was kept an urn in which sandalwood was burnt. Many came inside the Tomb and clicked their cameras, both movie and still. Meelan studio of Poona, which has probably taken thousands of photos of Baba by now, came daily to picture Baba from different angles. As a result of these pictures, lovers could see how natural Baba's face looked even though His body remained in the open crypt for seven days.
When Eruch was busy arranging ice blocks around Baba, Dr. Goher went down into the crypt and examined Baba's body for signs of deterioration. Surprisingly, the abdomen did bloat a very little on the first day but after that there were no signs of abdominal distension. Only the skin of the face was visible as it was not wrapped in His bed sheet. It remained smooth, shining and lustrous for all seven days. The face looked natural and Baba seemed to be sleeping. In fact, when a high ranking Government officer came to see Baba on the sixth day, he spontaneously exclaimed, "He looks as if He is sleeping." In short, changes that should have occurred in a dead body did not occur with Baba's body. When the lovers realised this, there were strong rumours that the body would be kept indefinitely. One person even suggested that a glass coffin be made and this should cover Baba so that Baba's darshan could be had for all times by posterity!
Would there be a resurrection today?
The women Mandali occupied the empty rooms on Meherabad hill. They would come several times each day to see Baba in the Tomb. The long queues of men, women and children would then be temporarily stopped and the Tomb vacated. Mehera and the other women Mandali would then enter the Tomb. To see Mehera walking from her room to the Tomb in a dazed condition and crying was very touching. She would come to the North window of the Tomb and touch her head to the window. She would then bow at the West window. When she arrived at the entrance, someone would remove her slippers. She would stand at the door step as if dazed, with tears rolling down her cheeks, hands raised a little in adoration and completely oblivious of the thousands watching her. She would step inside the Tomb to be followed by the other women Mandali. The doors would then be closed and all we could then hear was sobbing.
Just before the door opened for her to come out, "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" would be shouted by all. She would come out of the door and again turn towards Baba, completely lost in her sorrow. Someone would help her with her slippers. She would bow once, twice and again and again. She would not like to miss a glimpse of Baba for a second. She would take a step and turn back, look at Baba and shed a fresh deluge of tears and then slowly move on. The parting from Baba was an extremely painful one. In her farewell moments we could see how deeply she was moved. In thoughts or deeds, in stillness or action, alone or in multitudes, she will remain one with her Beloved Baba....
The Westerners were lodged at Ahmednagar where Sarosh Irani and his wife Villoo catered to their needs. They would come each morning and evening and sit inside the Tomb or move around. Dr. Harry Kenmore knew the dimensions and all that the Tomb contained after Eruch had made him feel the walls, taken him round the crypt on the landing and down the steps to touch Baba's feet. He would sit on the landing often singing "Begin the Beguine." He would daily want a thorough medical report of Baba's "health" which he would be careful to register on his wire recorder. He would say the Parvardigar prayer and the Repentance prayer when requested to do so. Once, Mehera and the women Mandali came to the Tomb specially to hear him say these prayers.
Each day began and ended with Baba's arti in which all participated. Sometimes, in the evenings, beside the usual arti, one in Marathi would be sung. Very often during the day a lover would enter the Tomb and say the two prayers. Keshav Nigum, the backbone of the Hamirpur Centre, though now suffering from Parkinson's disease, would stand in the Tomb and say the "Meher Chalisa" (forty verses written by him in praise of Baba).
The Tomb was kept open all twenty four hours for seven days but for a couple of hours on two nights. No one can judge how many lovers came for this final sahavas. Each evening Sarosh Irani would apologise on behalf of the trustees of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust for not being able to provide even the bare necessities of life to the lovers. He would then request the lovers to leave Meherabad after having had Baba's darshan so that new-comers could find place for accommodation. As the lovers left, with hearts full of love that Baba had awakened in them, they carried Baba's message of hope for mankind now on the verge of despair in all walks of life. Once an inner contact is established with Baba, the Divine Shepherd feeds His sheep with His love, wherever He is, wherever they are, irrespective of time or space.
Each evening at sunset the electric generator would go into action lighting up about forty fluorescent lights. The normal lighting system had to rely on kerosene lamps. In the dark background, Meherabad hill would seem brilliantly lit like a fairyland not only by the lights but by the love of His lovers. Passengers from trains and buses passing along the road would watch the feast of love on the hill. They would bow reverentially to the One without a second. Trains would whistle as they passed the hill the drivers were saluting the Avatar of the Age.
Every morning all would be eager to know Dr. Goher's report about Baba's health. No one could speculate when Baba's body would be interred for the trustees had declared that they would do so on the first signs of decomposition. When the medical report was known, all felt very happy that they could be with their Beloved for one more day. On the third day, there were soft murmurs and whisperings amongst the lovers, "Would there be a resurrection today?" The feeling of expectancy, of seeing Baba rise, walk and talk sustained the lovers through the day. Then, on the fourth day some were heard saying, "Maybe He will rise today!"
After dawn there was a tremendous rush
Some of Baba's old treasures were shown by the Mandali to the lovers. One was an old patched coat, originally black but practically covered with patches of blue and black. Baba had said that this coat was the most sacred of His possessions. He had worn it steadily for eight years from 1921. Referring to the coat, Baba had said, "What it has in it will be revealed after I drop the body. Then thousands of men and women will come to worship it." Eruch told us that after Baba had stopped wearing this coat, He used to change His clothes frequently, and then would give them away, but these things (coat, sandals and a white sadra) Baba would not part with. The white sadra was worn by Baba when He wore the coat. The sandals were very old and Baba discarded them a couple of years after His silence....
The eighth day, Friday 7th February, dawned. Lovers were awake from three in the night. This was the last day of the sahavas as Baba's body was to be interred at 12:15 p.m. The trustees had decided on this issue at a meeting. Coincidentally, it was Baba's birthday according to the Zoroastrian calender. Ladies were dressed in fine clothes and seemed quite gay. By 4:30 a.m. all had collected at the Tomb. Eruch and a few others were busy arranging blocks of ice, changing the covers placed over Baba and rearranging roses in the crypt. It was announced that exactly at 5:00 a.m., Baba's birth time, all should call "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" three times. Eruch said that when Baba was with them physically, He always celebrated His birthday in this simple manner by asking the Mandali to shout "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" at 5:00 a.m.
Mehera, Mani and the women Mandali went inside the Tomb at 4:50 a.m. All stood around the Tomb singing Baba's name, "Sat Chit Ananda Paramananda, Meher Baba Vidyanand." At exactly 5:00 a.m. all joined in three loud cheers of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" Soon after the women Mandali had garlanded Baba, the doors of the Tomb were opened and they left. The darshan programme started.
On this birthday, the last one in His physical presence, the Mandali recalled the times they used to celebrate Baba's birthday in the early years at Meherabad. The day would start at 4:30 a.m. Baba would be clad in a new white sadra and chappals (sandals). Over the sadra, there was sure to be a new coloured silk coat such as Baba always wore. Before long, however, Baba would take off the new coat and put on His old, patched but comfortable coat. The gramophone would strike up one of Baba's favourite tunes or songs. Then would follow, sung by all, "Happy birthday to You." Baba standing, Mehera would place around His neck a simple garland of flowers from the garden.
The traditional fare would be brought to the breakfast table, "rava," a sweet preparation made from cream of wheat). Baba would then call everyone to come in turn with her individual plate and He ladled out a lavish portion of "rava," giving each a look or a smile. Next, the servants were called to come with their plates. Lastly, Baba would call for a large container in which to put the remainder of the "rava," to take down the hill for the men Mandali. In less than five minutes, however, Baba would be restless to be on the move and down the hill to give His prasad to the men, and Baba was not seen till late afternoon.
Immediately after His return, he would order lunch to be brought in the traditional fare of rice, dal, curd and spiced vegetables. Baba served Himself and His plate was put aside. All came forward with their plates and were served by Baba. After all were served, Baba would begin to eat and all followed suit. Lunch over, Baba sent all to rest for an hour. Tea time, the bell would ring. All assembled in the refectory and saw Baba standing beside a cake a gift from one of the devotees from Bombay. Baba would cut the cake, giving each a slice, and to the children an extra large slice.
Soon Baba was off again down the hill accompanied by Masi, the gate-keeper, and she ran beside Him with quick steps as she carried the remainder of the cake on a platter and tried to keep pace with Baba, who, umbrella in hand, led the way. Baba would return up the hill tired, but happy, and the day closed with a few spiritual songs on the gramophone. Lastly, arti was performed with lighted camphor, and all sang the song of worship.
How different it was on this day, 7th February, 1969. The darshan programme began at 5:00 a.m. Everyone bowed down at the threshold and looked at their Beloved for the last time. Only groupheads and a few others were allowed inside the Tomb. A very few lucky ones got the chance of going down to the crypt and touching Baba. After 7:00 a.m. no one was permitted to enter the Tomb except the two on duty, one at the door and the one fanning Baba. Almost all the women and many men came inside to offer their last service of fanning their Beloved. Each one was given the fan for about two minutes. After dawn there was a tremendous rush. Newspapers in Poona, Ahmednagar and in other areas has announced that today would be the last darshan and that Baba's body would be interred at 12:15 p.m., exactly seven days after He dropped His body.
Adi K. Irani, Baba's secretary and disciple for over four decades, came inside the Tomb at about 9:00 a.m. He sat on the landing of the crypt intently gazing at Baba for whom he had given his all. There was not a sacrifice which he had not made in the cause of His Beloved. His money, his lands, his property, his body, mind and heart all had been sacrificed in His love for Baba. Not only this life but millions of lives he would sacrifice at the feet of Baba.
He sat there with his elbow on his thigh and his hand supporting his head while he remained unmindful of the rush of lovers at the door. He was lost in the memories of his past with Baba: the hard work Baba had extracted from him; the fun he had had playing, eating and moving about with Baba; the mast tours on which he had been with Baba; the days when he had heard Baba sing and talk; the days when Baba had taken him on world tours and tours to the West; the days he had spent working, toiling in his office in the cause of Baba.
All this and much more came into his mind. Now, he would be deprived of his Beloved's company, His warm embrace and His smile that would remove the fatigue of days. As all these memories came back to him, his eyes were filled with tears which overflowed from a heart that knows real love. One could see him wiping away those love tears every few minutes. Saying farewell to Baba was especially very poignant after spending so many years with Him.
Some lovers who had heard that Baba's body had not yet been interred, rushed to Ahmednagar and came on the last day. An Irani family was one of them. They came inside the Tomb and the flood-gates of their hearts opened and suffused their eyes with tears. These fortunate ones had a chance to see Baba before He was taken away from our physical sight for all times.
Baba had once said: "My lovers and fortunate to have God in human form in their presence. Just a glance from me can give you all you need. You will be sitting here without any outward change, but you will become what you really are you have to wait for that moment. That moment is near and for that you have to love me whole-heartedly... In Avataric periods, one does not necessarily have to make the inward journeys by stages. If you have the Grace of the Avatar, He just takes you from where you are to where you should be, where God wants you to be."...
On the last day someone remembered Mohammed, the mast at Meherabad. He was brought to the Tomb by Padri and Sidhuji. Though bent at his waist, having dug 'deesh' all his life, he can stand erect for some time. He stood at the threshold of the Tomb and would not come in even when asked to do so. He said, "Pahile, pahile" meaning "Seen, seen." He meant he had seen Baba. He then said "Bus, bus" meaning "Enough, enough." He went back with his guardians to his room.
Kekobad, one of the Mandali, was bought on a chair by four strong men. He had broken his hip and so was unable to walk. Baba had said that Kekobad can see Him continuously all day and night in a small flame. Kekobad repeats Baba's name 100,000 times daily since many years!
Once, an old lady, completely bent at right angles at her waist, came in. She would put her hand on her forehead to avoid the glare on her eyes so that she could see Baba in the crypt. When asked whether she could see Baba, she just shook her head in the negative. She seemed to have got hypermature cataracts in both eyes! She was led to the landing of the crypt and only after she had sat down there and a torch light focused on Baba's face, could she see Him. It was then that Eruch told us that she was Valu, an old and faithful devotee of Baba from the early twenties. She was very dear to Baba and though she could not see Baba well, Baba saw her and acknowledged her long, sincere, unselfish and loving services for the Avatar of the Age. Tears came into her eyes as she remembered the years she had spent with Baba. They were tears of love.
Thousands came from Ahmednagar and from the nearby villages. All bowed at the threshold, folded their hands and moved on. They left, but the silent inner voice of their loving, aching hearts raised a cry. "When shall we behold that Beloved face again!" Their only solace was Baba's words, "I am always with you, taking care of you; wherever I am, wherever you are, I am with you helping you." Those who came received His love in silence.
Baba has said, "Devotees spend their lifetime savings and even risk life itself in pilgrimages to bow down before God in forms sanctified by tradition, and their rewards are according to tradition. But you have journeyed to bow down before God who has taken human form because of love and your reward will be according to your love."
At 11:20 a.m. all had taken Baba's darshan. The trustees came in the Tomb and finalised plans. A movie cameraman and his assistant were permitted inside. Exactly at 12:00 noon, Dr. H. Kenmore said the Parvardigar prayer. At 12:15 three loud cheers of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" rang out. The doors of the Tomb were temporarily closed and Baba was covered with a clean sheet. Eruch then removed the ice blocks, passing them on to the Mandali who stood around. These, in turn, passed the blocks to the Westerners who stood outside the Tomb. When all the blocks were removed, the pink cloth round His head was changed for the last time. His hair was brushed, the scarf round His head made tidy, dust particles on His face softly wiped away and new roses adorned Him.
It marked the beginning of an endless new story>
Mehera and the women Mandali came for their last darshan. All stood silently around the Tomb. In the pin-drop silence, only the loud sobs could be heard of the one who loved the only One as He should be loved. The women Mandali put a garland round Baba and with eyes that betrayed the sorrow in their hearts, they stepped out of the Tomb.
Baba's men Mandali now collected in the Tomb. The coffin lid was passed on by lovers to the door of the Tomb. The lid was brought inside and ropes tied to the four handles on its corners. Just before it was placed over Baba, Eruch went down in the crypt and placed over Beloved Baba's face a very fine scarf given by Mehera. The coffin lid was then lifted by the Mandali standing on the crypt landing. Amongst loud shouts of "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" the lid was slowly lowered over Baba with the help of the ropes, hiding Him from our sight for all time. Was Baba now teaching us to see Him not physically but in our hearts? Many tears were shed as the lid was lowered. Mehera and the women Mandali watched the lid being lowered from the North window. Baba was now taken away from our physical sight but will live in the hearts of His lovers forever.
After the coffin lid was placed over Baba, the Mandali came out of the Tomb. Mehera and the women Mandali once again went in. Over the lid of the coffin they placed a huge garland of roses. Though Baba was gone physically, He could not go away from their hearts as they now feel His presence all the more.
After Mehera and the others left, flowers were put by the men Mandali on the coffin. Thousands were waiting outside the Tomb. A "ghamela" (pan) full of earth was then brought inside the Tomb and each of the Mandali put a handful of earth on the coffin very solemnly. The trustees decided that each lover instead of coming inside the Tomb and placing some earth on the coffin, should only touch the earth kept at the threshold and this would then be emptied over the coffin. The long queue began and one after another each one came to the door, touched the earth, bowed and left. When all had had this privilege, the "ghamela" was picked up and the earth emptied on the coffin.
Later, earth was filled in "ghamelas" and passed from one lover to another and these were emptied very quickly in the crypt. The crypt was soon full to the level of the landing. A stone slab was put between the crypt and the steps leading to it. The steps were even covered with earth. As it was Baba's birthday according to the Zoroastrian calendar, prasad was distributed to all who had come for the last darshan.
At 5:00 p.m. the crypt was full of earth and the Tomb was swept and cleaned. Baba's seven coloured flag was put on the earth in the crypt. Mehera, Mani and the women Mandali went inside and placed a garland on the flag. Only a few lovers were left at Meherabad by now. Most of them had departed and were on their way home. Very soon the sun could be seen setting on the horizon throwing its rays on the Tomb. The rays lit up the four emblems of the four religions standing at the four corners of the Tomb and the words "Mastery in Servitude" written over the door.
Blessed are they who recognized Him as God in human form, loved and surrendered their all unto Him. Meher Baba's last sahavas and the long story of the Ancient One had now come to a close, but it marked the beginning of an endless new story!
MEHER BABA'S LAST SAHAVAS, Dr. H. P. Bharucha, pp. 4-45
1969 © Dr. H. P. Bharucha