Construction of Vehicular Approach Road to the Top of Meherabad Hill
(This is the ninth article in the Trust Objects and Purposes series.) This article discusses the construction of the all-weather vehicular approach road up to the top of Meherabad Hill.
The Trust Deed states:
“(F) In the course of developments according to the availability of funds, preference shall be given to objects and works in the following order . . . (iv) All-weather vehicular approach road right up to the top of Meherabad Hill.”
When the Trust Deed was written in 1959, only a small piece of land on Meherabad Hill was owned by the Trust. In order to be able to construct the approach road, it was necessary for the Trust to acquire more land. Over the years, the Trust acquired the necessary land, and Bhauji enlisted the help of the government to get the project done. Through his legal expertise, Bhauji brought the road construction project “under the Law,” as he would say.
In the late seventies, Padri supervised the road-building. He was the main engineer on the project, and Ted Judson assisted him. Padri and Ted designed the road, making sure that the alignment was right and ensuring that the road was properly built so that all vehicles could negotiate the ascent. Government workers did the digging, cutting, and filling.
Peter Nordeen brought a level transit from the States when he came to live at Meherabad, and the men used this to shoot the levels for the roadbed. Besides Padri, Ted, and Peter, residents Eric Nadel and Alan Wagner were also there on the day of laying out the roadbed. Excavation of rock and filling was required, which was done by local people. Of course, Padri commanded great respect from all the local people, and there was no problem in their taking directions from him. Padri would visit the site from time to time to make sure the work was proceeding properly. At that time there were few mature trees at Meherabad, so most of the work site could be seen from Padri’s verandah. In 1979, the work on the approach road was finished, except for the paving. The roadbed was allowed to settle before it was ultimately paved.
During the construction of the road, workers discovered the location of the Panchvati Cave, a man-made cave where Baba had secluded Himself for a period of time in November 1930. The cave had been dug out on Baba’s order by Pendu, Chhagan, Sailor, and Beram, under Jal’s supervision. The work took a total of forty days to complete. They cleared out a deep pit and covered it over with tin sheets. Opposite this pit, a raised earthen seat was created where the mandali would sit in the evening. Baba was in Bijapur while the work was being done. He returned to Meherabad when the cave was complete and began His seclusion there on 15 November 1930. Subsequently, the cave was covered over, and its exact location remained something of a mystery until the road-building project got underway in the nineteen seventies. The Trust has since placed a marker to designate the location of the cave for pilgrims.
At the 80th meeting of the Board of Trustees, on 17th March 1991, per Resolution 10, the Trustees sanctioned the paving of the road. In preparation, Ted Judson discussed this part of the project with Sri Syamala Rao of Vizakhapalnam, a retired civil engineer from the Andhra Government Road Building Department. Mr. Rao possessed the requisite technical expertise, and it was felt that his knowledge would be helpful. Mr. Rao himself volunteered to supervise the project.
On 3rd October 1991, Jal wrote to Mr. Rao:
“As you have so lovingly offered to help and supervise this project, we would like you to come to Meherbad as early as possible so that we may meet the contractors and discuss with them your requirements . . .” Consequently, Mr. Rao and his wife came to stay at Lower Meherabad for a few months and contributed their time and energy to the completion of this most important project. On 1st November 1991, the contract for the paving of the road was signed. The goal was to finish the work before Amartithi at the end of January 1992, when large numbers of pilgrims would come to take darshan at Beloved Baba’s Samadhi. By Baba’s Grace, this deadline was met. On 12th January 1992, the Trustees received a message from the contractor, V.Y. Bhandare that the road at Upper Meherabad had been “successfully completed.”
The approach road to the top of the Hill has stood the test of time. Through all seasons, wet or dry, to this day it continues to provide a comfortable and scenic way for pilgrims to ascend the Hill, whether by vehicle or on foot.
The construction of the vehicular approach road to the top of Meherabad Hill marks only the beginning of the development of the road network that will be needed around Meherabad. Much work remains to be done. A network of roads has been designed by the Trust and approved by the government and, as it is necessary to develop these roads, the Trust will do so.
The next article in this series will deal with the fifth object enumerated in the Trust deed: maintenance of the existing cemetery for female disciples to the west of the Tomb proper and provision for the burial of the physical body at the spot already dug out, of Adi K. Irani’s mother Gulmai Kaikhushru Irani after her death.