PILGRIMAGE TO BABA-SITES IN PUNE
The event on Sunday the 29th December 2013 was one more first in the 51-year history of the Avatar Meher Baba Bombay Centre. The event, a day-pilgrimage to Baba-sites in Pune. For more than the last five years, the Centre had been arranging pilgrimage to Meherabad and Meherazad in Ahmednagar and the route taken by the bus bypasses Pune and hence most of the lovers had not seen Baba House, Bhopla (Pumkin) House and other Baba-sites in Pune.
Here is a brief Report:
63 of us joined the trip in two Volvo buses. Rs. 800 charged with lunch, a subsidized trip by the Centre.
Our first stop was at Baba House and Bhopla House which are diagonally opposite to each other. Sohrab Irani, Babas nephew welcomed us at Baba House and Cyrus Irani, born in a born Baba-lover family, welcomed us at Bhopla House. The crowd was split between the two houses. The group was informed that Bhopla House is where Baba was brought straight from the hospital after He was born and Baba House, a bigger house with a well was bought by Sheriarji, at Shireenmais behest, much later around 1919 during Manijas birth, to accommodate a larger family. The Baba House has a Baba Room where Baba artifacts are displayed along with the stone on which Baba would bang His head during His coming down period. Baba House is retained with its old-world charm just the way it was when Baba used to live in and later frequent His home while visiting Pune. Bhopla House is not what it used to be earlier, as Dara and Amrit, the present owners, had to re-do the house, since it was falling apart. There is hardly any trace of the old left.
We then proceeded to Hazrat Babajans Samadhi which was originally funded by Meher Baba. The Samadhi is built adjoining the neem tree where Babajan would sit most of the time. It is the same spot where Babajan planted a kiss on young Merwans forehead, a 100 years ago and made Him realize His Godhood. The relic of the neem tree, by way of the truncated girth standing at about 10 feet height only, is painted and retained. There are several fascinating stories about Baba, Babajan and Shireenmai, one of them being a spiritual duel between Shireenmai and Babajan for the biological beta and the spiritual beta.
Close to Hazrat Babajans Samadhi is the St. Vincents School, where Baba had His schooling. We saw the school from outside.
Meandering our way through the narrow alleys of that area, Sheriar Café was pointed out from the bus. This was once owned by Sheriarji, the father of the Father of all in creation. The Café was closed, but the adjoining paan shop bore the name Sheriar Paan Shop in Devnagri script. The location of Bindra House where the Jessawala family Behramsha, Gaimai, Eruch, Manu and Meherwan and others lived, was also shown from the bus.
Thereafter, the group moved on to the Avatar Meher Baba Poona Centre which Baba Himself had inaugurated on 1st May 1964. The Centre completes its 50th year in May 2014. The Centre has already brought in the landmark year with a whole lot of activities commemorating its Golden Jubilee from May 2013 onwards. The Centre was under renovation and the pleasure of seeing all the photo frames and artifacts was missed out. Pratap Ahir, the present Hon. Secretary of the Centre, who has been a Baba-lover since 1949 when he was around 14, gave a talk at the Centre on its history, and Prashant Ahir who was instrumental in helping us out with logistics, manned the Literature and Lockets stall.
The hungry and tired pilgrims then filled their bellies with a vegetarian thali lunch.
Post-lunch we were taken to the location of Kasba Peth, which was once the hub of Baba- activities a hundred years ago. Many of the Kasba Peth mandali had joined Baba in His first ashram – Manzil-e-Meem – at Mumbai in 1922-23. During Babas coming down period around 1913 to 1922, Shireenmai, not realizing the spiritual status and role of her Son, Merog, was worried that Merog did no work to settle down in life and hence got Him in partnership with Behramjee at a pitha (toddy shop) where Baba filled the bottles from the drum, washed the glasses, swapped the floors and served at the tables. Baba would discourage the customers from getting hooked to toddy and would give sermons about its ill-effects, proving to be a poor salesman for the business! No such shop is standing today on that location.
We then proceeded to Patalewshwar Caves (patal means underground; and Ishwar means God). It is a cluster of caves and is now a tourist attraction. There is a Shivling in one of the caves and Lord Shivas mount, the Nandi baail (bull) carved in stone at several places around the cave area. We were informed that for a certain period, Baba would spend hours in one of the caves there. Shireenmai would send Babas food to the caves with His brother Jal. The exact cave and the spot where Baba sat was anybodys guess.
Thereafter, the buses moved towards Guru Prasad Memorial our last halt and on the way the David Sassoon Hospital was pointed out from the bus. It was in this Hospital that Baba was born on Sunday, 25th February 1894. The Hospital was under renovation, and we were informed that with the effort of the Trust (AMBPPCT) and the Poona Centre, the Hospital authorities have dedicated a place in honour of Baba, on its first floor, right above the ward where He was born.
The Guru Prasad Memorial was erected after the original mansion of Guru Prasad was razed to the ground. The material from Babas bedroom was salvaged along with other items like the marble staircase, marble pillars and the black and white checkered floor tiles, and reused to re-create the Memorial, that was once the beloved summer-abode of the Avatar of the Age. Although, it was redone quite recently by the Trust who owns it; it is a poor and sad shadow of the original Guru Prasad, the limited land space being one of the reasons. Except for the bricks, cement and concrete all else is almost original. One of the Chairs used by Beloved Baba during Guru Prasad days while giving darshan is the center-piece of the Memorial and all had the darshan.
On the way back home we saw the Bund Garden from our buses. The Bund Garden Road and Bund Garden during Babas days and now is like cheese and chalk. From the bus, we were also shown the Deccan College campus where Baba was pursuing His intermediate college in the Arts faculty. We were told that during this period of His life, around 1913 -14, Baba and His family were residing in Bhagwadas Chawl in the Bhawani Peth area of Pune. And one day en-route to Deccan College, young Merwan was beckoned by the grand old lady, Hazrat Babajan, one of the five Perfect Masters to unveil Him and initiate Him to conduct His Ministry on earth as the Avatar of the Age..
Commentaries of the Baba-sites and anecdotes connected with them were given by Pratap Ahir and Cyrus Khambata. Cyrus also fielded Qs and spoke during our journey back home. Two young Baba lovers, Abhijit Anasane and Ganesh Parthasathi from Poona Centre, acting as pilots on their motorbike, guided the buses throughout the way and the narrow alleyways of Pune.
We came back home safe and in one piece albeit at 11.30 p.m.
All in all it was a tiring but great experience.
Our thanks go to the Poona Centre for partnering this expedition, to Jimmy Khan for taking the initiative and the organization and to the Avatar Meher Baba Bombay Centre for subsidizing this pilgrimage.
AVATAR MEHER BABA KI JAI !!!