The Old Dharamshala
The Old Dharamshala is one of the oldest structures of Meherabad. When Meher Baba and the men mandali first stayed in Meherabad, the place was an abandoned army camp, a barren area infested with snakes and scorpions.
The first major work done by Baba and the mandali in May 1923 was to clean and refurbish what had been the dining area for the British troops. In 1924, when they settled in Meherabad, this “Mess Quarters” became the dormitory for the men mandali and was called the “Bungalow”. This is when the “ghamela yoga” or “physical labor” phase started. Under Baba’s instructions, the disciples demolished what was in ruin, repaired what was still standing, and built the new Jhopdi (the hut used by Baba as His room). This backbreaking work is what Baba Himself called “ghamela yoga”. A ghamela is an iron pan used to carry stones, bricks, mortar—everything needed on a construction site. The mandali were laboring like coolies and masons, in total obedience to the One whom very few knew to be God in human form.
The Old Dharamshala has witnessed so many of the activities of the early ashram years, when Baba was still speaking and singing. Baba used to grind millet sitting in the southwest corner, using the grinding stone that is now in the Museum on Meherabad Hill. The kitchen, of bamboo matting, used to be next to the north end of the building, where a huge peepal tree (Bodhi tree) stands today.
Baba would meet visitors on the east verandah. The northeast corner was turned into a stable for Sufi, the white horse that gave so much trouble to the mandali . . .
In March 1925 the building became “Meher Charitable Dispensary and Hospital”. A room was added by enclosing the north end of the verandah. Cataract surgeries were performed in that room. Pendu used to tell how the mandali would tie sheets under the rafters to catch the dust, bird feathers and all things that otherwise would fall from the roof on the patients.
Over the years the building has gone through various partial reconstructions. After Baba dropped His body, it was used as a dharamshala (rest house for pilgrims). In 1984 the south end was demolished and rebuilt as the “New Dharamshala”. Hence the present name of the original building is the “Old Dharamshala”.
Today we have our own Hospital at Meherabad where cataract surgeries are provided free as part of Trust charitable activities. Baba Himself stipulated in His instructions for the Trustees (in the 1960’s) that medical services be one of the objects of the Trust. But isn’t it remarkable to note that much, much earlier, in the oldest of buildings at lower Meherabad, Baba began a charitable hospital where cataract surgeries were performed?
—Anne Moreigne for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 26 February 2015