“Readers should note that a revised/updated Master Plan is currently being prepared and some of the information in this section is outdated”
Development Since 1969
After Meher Baba passed away on January 31st, 1969, the Trust began to function actively. Since that time, the Trustees of Avatar Meher Baba Trust have been carrying out their responsibilities to develop Trust properties. A Pilgrim center, Dharamshala, Hostels, Amartithi site, High School, Hospital, Health Centre, Staff quarters, Music and Arts Centre, Physical Education Centre, Veterinary Aid Clinic, and Archive building have been constructed at Meherabad, along with initial development of the infrastructure for water, electric power, roads, and forestation.
In 1998 the Trustees recognized that development of the Trust properties needed to proceed at a more rapid rate due to the increasing number of pilgrims, and began to execute its Development Plan. The Development Plan has already born visible fruits. The Meher Pilgrim Retreat, accommodating 200 pilgrims, opened in June 2006. As the number of pilgrims increase, future plans indicate two similar retreat buildings to be built on either side. The Meher English School and Meher Health Centre have been expanded. A meeting hall for spiritual trainees and 5 more staff quarters have been constructed. Roads, water pipelines, and electrical lines have been completed to support this growth, which reaches into new areas of Meherabad. Also, thousands of new trees have been planted on Meherabad Hill itself. To provide for the increasing number of pilgrims who come to Meherabad to commemorate 31st January, the day that Avatar Meher Baba set aside His human form, a new expanded Amartithi site is in preparation. At present It can accommodate an additional thousands overnight visitors. But this area is a vast area of land that as the crowd increases can accommodate large numbers of pilgrims.
The Master Plan
The Avatar Meher Baba Trust has established a Master Plan for the large-scale development of its estate. This is based on the fact that Meherabad would eventually become the greatest centre of pilgrimage in the world. Mandali and trustees have long been aware of the need to prepare for the large crowds and continuous streams of pilgrims in the decades ahead. There are also long-range plans for creation of a park-like environment around the Meherazad property, as well as facilities for Meherazad’s charitable activities.
The Four Zones
The Master Plan for Meherabad divides the Trust Estate into four zones, as marked on the accompanying map. These are: (A) Meherabad Hill, (B) Lower Meherabad, (C) Outer Meherabad, and (D) the New Pilgrim Site.
Avatar Meher Baba’s Samadhi located on Meherabad Hill (Zone A) is and will always be the heart and soul of Meherabad and the main focus of pilgrimage. Although the Trust Deed calls for the eventual construction of a superstructure over the Tomb, detailed planning in this regard would, according to the mandali and trustees, be premature at this juncture. Attention has centered rather on the creation of a larger Meherabad Hill environment, particularly in view of the crowds which the Hill must accommodate at Amartithi time. The major thrust in this regard is toward the “greening” of the Hill: Extensive tree planting will help to create an atmosphere of quietude and serenity and, during gatherings, will provide shade for pilgrims during the heat of midday.
During a future phase of development six large pedestrian boulevards (in addition to the original path) will provide sight lines toward the Samadhi from various directions. In the future the stage and entertainment area, now located at the amphitheater, will be shifted to a new site about 300 meters to the north of the Samadhi. Pavilions to be erected at various locations on the Hill will provide their own small stages as well as video screens on which audiences can watch darshan at the Samadhi and activities at the main entertainment centre. By these means the crowds will be dispersed over a wider area, and a peaceful atmosphere can be maintained at the Samadhi itself. The circumference of this entire hill zone will be girded by a wall with seven entrances. Vehicular traffic will not be permitted inside this walled enclosure. The creation of a pilgrim education site (D on the map) will encompass extensive new Amartithi accommodations. This area is over one kilometer to the west of the Samadhi on opposite sides of a water catchment area. This site has a particularly serene and lovely atmosphere and afford scenic vistas of Meherabad Hill and the Samadhi. What makes this site especially suitable is its quietude and removal from urban sprawl along the Ahmednagar-Daund highway.
The two remaining zones, Lower and Outer Meherabad (B and C), will, under the Master Plan, play widely differing roles. Lower Meherabad, which encompasses Mandali Hall, the Dharamshala, and other buildings immediately to the east of the Ahmednagar-Daund highway as well as the strip of land to the west of the highway as far as the railway tracks, is of signal historical importance, since it was a major hub of Meher Baba’s activities from the early 1920s on. This part of Meherabad will witness only limited development, so that pilgrims and visitors in the future can savour the scene and atmosphere that Beloved Baba Himself created. Outer Meherabad (C), which extends to the east of Lower Meherabad, has been designated as the primary site for charitable activities, particularly educational and medical. At present the education building (housing the Meher English School), the hospital, the hostels, and most of the staff quarters are located in this zone. In the future the plan calls for additions to the education building, the beginnings of construction of a Meherabad college facility, and medical facilities. These major developments will come in a later phase.
A Master Plan for Meherazad
A year or two before he passed a way, Eruch recalled a very striking comment of Baba’s on the relation between the two major sites of his working in this Advent. Meherabad and Meherazad, Baba had said, were like His two eyes: they exist independently of each other, yet they function jointly to create one image—the image of Him. His primary ashram between 1923 and the early 1940s, Meherabad represents growth, dynamism, projects and plans, fertility, the bursting forth of activity. Here Baba is God in His unbounded aspect. Crowned by the Samadhi on Meherabad Hill—the great site of world pilgrimage—its spaces are public and expansive, inviting and encompassing the seas of humanity.
Meherazad, by contrast, is Baba’s home, a place for intimacy with Him. Baba first visited there in 1943, and for most of the next quarter century, its simple buildings and gardened walkways, bordered with flower pots and shaded with babul and tamarind and gulmor trees, provided the environment for much of His universal work and His association with close ones in the later years. Meherazad will always be remembered particularly in connection with Baba’s beloved Mehera, for it was here that her love for Him found its fullest and freest amplitude of expression: and the perfume of that love, like the fragrant neem and jasmine and frangipani that she helped to cultivate, permeates the place as a kind of timeless essence, reminding us all of the sweetness and immediacy of God’s presence in our every moment and breath.
Formation of a Master Plan
During Baba’s lifetime, Meherazad was primarily a place of residence. But immediately after He dropped His body in 1969, pilgrims from around the world began to pour in, availing themselves of treasured moments in the company of the Avatar’s disciples and partaking of Baba’s matchless atmosphere there.
But as the years wore on and many of His mandali returned to Him, those remaining came to feel that provision should be made for the posterity of this “sanctified site,” as Eruch once called it, for the benefit of generations to come.
A series of meetings on this subject in 1999 resulted two years later in the Meherazad Master Plan, a 200-page document signed and approved by the mandali and outlining a roadmap for Meherazad’s future. At the heart of the plan is the love for the original Meherazad of Baba’s time, in all its simple splendor. This will remain unchanged. The purpose of the plan is, in preserving Meherazad, to make it available to the greater world in a manner that is true to its nature, so that visitors and lovers of God in the future can have a taste of what the intimacy of living with Him, the God Man and beloved of all humanity, must have been like.
Under the Plan, Meherazad divides into two zones, inner and outer. The inner or historical Meherazad is comprised of those properties that Baba Himself resided in and used. It has three sections: the core residential property, Seclusion Hill, and the mile-long approach road. Collectively, these comprise 12.6 acres.
Inner Meherazad will never be developed or modified, but kept as it was in 1969—or, in the case of some spaces like Mandali Hall, 1999. It will be a place where pilgrims and lovers of God, like the mandali in their time, can sip the wine of Beloved Baba’s immediate nearness—away from the darshan crowds and bustle of programs and activities. So that visitors can enjoy this experience of intimacy with Him in ages when the masses come on pilgrimage, access will be limited to a few at a time.
Outer Meherazad will provide centers where visitors can gather to watch films and videos, listen to tapes, read literature, converse, eat, sing songs, and engage in other activities that help cultivate and sustain the mood and feeling of the place. They can take walks through the extensive gardens and woods and landscaped grounds. Outer Meherazad will also provide research facilities for persons studying Meher Baba’s life and message. The Meher Free Dispensary and other medical and educational facilities, rendering assistance to the poor, sick, and needy, will be concentrated in an area near the west border of the Meherazad Estate.
For now, the Plan has no timetable. Present efforts are concentrated on purchasing the essential lands, which will total something like 500 acres. Now and in the future, Meherazad needs workers in residence with skills in various departments. Staff accommodation for eight persons have already been constructed and are ready for use. More staff quarters and related facilities will be constructed in Outer Meherazad in due course.