The Wedding of Rustom and Freiny 1923

In April 1923, Meher Baba uprooted His ashram in Bombay (Manzil-e-Meem), and traveled by train to Ahmednagar with thirteen disciples. Baba had hinted that they might settle in nearby Arangaon village, and the Muslim saint Gilori Shah had predicted His coming. But the first purpose of their journey to Ahmednagar was to attend a wedding. What a remarkable and seminal event it was!

Baba and His mandali in Quetta (now Pakistan) soon after the wedding in 1923.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Baba Himself had arranged the match and the festive betrothal while still at Manzil-e-Meem. Rustom, the groom, was Baba’s handsome and dynamic disciple, brother of Adi K. Irani and son of Baba’s “spiritual mother” Gulmai and her husband Kaikhushru, a successful Zoroastrian businessman of Ahmednagar.

The bride Piroja (whom Baba re-named Freiny) was the beautiful daughter of His devotee Daulat and the late Jehangir Irani, who had been a wealthy Forest Officer. She was also the older sister of Baba’s beloved Mehera.

Piroja (Freiny), Daulat, Mehera, and Jehangir in 1910.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

On arrival in Ahmednagar, Meher Baba and His mandali were guests at Khushru Quarters (now Meher Nazar Trust Compound), the home of Kaikhushru’s extended family. During this time Baba kept a seven-day seclusion in one room. Afterward, Baba took the men for a few days to Happy Valley (near present-day Meherazad) where they celebrated Perfect Master Upasni Maharaj’s birthday.

Khushru Quarters today.

Back at Khushru Quarters, Baba learned of criticism and gossip against Him by some Zoroastrian guests. He stormed out of the gate, as the Mandali scrambled to follow. Passing the railway station, He walked on for miles. … When He stopped to rest under a neem tree, He pointed out the newly-built tomb of Gilori Shah, and the remains of a British military camp nearby.

The mandali were surprised—Meher Baba had led them to Arangaon! (Gulmai had invited Baba to settle on her husband’s property near this village—but they did not anticipate a visit before the wedding.) Baba and the men slept near the well that night, and spent the next four days arranging living quarters. It was the bare beginning of what would soon become “Meherabad.”

Meanwhile, the groom had heard of Baba’s sudden departure from Khushru Quarters. Rustom began a desperate search and found the party camped near Arangaon. He pleaded with Baba to return to Ahmednagar for his wedding.

Baba returned, but remained secluded in the “bird’s eye view” cupola of Sarosh Manzil, Gulmai’s family’s other residence up the lane from Khushru Quarters.

A 1921 photo of Sarosh Manzil—Kaikhushru and Gulmai’s family residence in Ahmednagar.
The “birds eye view cupola” is at the top. The building was torn down in the 1980s.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

On 9th May, the wedding festivities began at Sarosh Manzil with puja (a prayer ritual) before Baba, who wore a new suit of clothes. Rustom and Freiny were blessed by His embrace.

The Zoroastrian wedding ceremony was performed later that day at the nearby Parsi Agyari (fire temple), which is still in use today. Baba did not attend this ceremony.

Outside the fire temple, the garlanded couple was photographed with relatives and guests, including Baba’s mother, Shirinmai.

The wedding party outside the Agyari (Fire Temple) in Ahmednagar. Rustom and Freiny are
garlanded at center. Among the children are some future mandali, including Goher and Mani.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

One of the couple’s children-to-be—Meheru—would become one of Baba’s closest women mandali and a New Life Companion.

But where in the photo are the mandali, and where is the bride’s sister, Mehera? According to Baba’s instruction, the men mandali were busy at Khushru Quarters, cleaning and chopping vegetables for the wedding feast! Mehera missed her only sister’s wedding, staying back at Sakori with Upasni Maharaj because her knee had mysteriously become swollen.

The celebration in the garden courtyard of Khushru Quarters was a grand and stylish affair for two hundred guests. Under a colorful canopy, there was music by a European band and a delicious feast. But the Mandali were forbidden by Baba to eat! The next day there were qawaali singing programs in Baba’s presence.

What a story! How the Beloved bound His earliest faithful few ever more tightly, and led them in one dramatic sweep to these sacred grounds: Meher Nazar, Meherazad, and Meherabad!

—Janice Rieman for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 21 April 2016