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Before It Was the Samadhi

During June of 1927, on the spot where His Samadhi now stands, Meher Baba had a small structure with walls built of tatta (bamboo matting) covered by a tin sheet roof. He spent the night there on June 30th and again on some following days. During July, at Baba’s order, the structure was dismantled and a pit 40 inches wide, 80 inches long, and 60 inches deep was dug and lined with stone. Steps were also constructed leading down into the pit and it became known as the khadda (pit) or crypt.

Another cabin was then built above and wooden boards were placed over the pit leaving the steps accessible. There was a doorway on the south side, two window-like openings in the east wall and one in the north. One of the openings on the east side was screened in and the other became a passageway to a stone platform constructed so that the Meher Ashram School boys and others could listen while Baba discoursed from inside.

On August 16, 1927, Baba began residing there day and night, sleeping in the crypt. Later that year, on November 10th, He started a fast there which would last for 5½ months. He also began giving spiritual talks in the evenings, using His alphabet board and hand gestures, sitting inside while the mandali and boys sat outside on the platform.

This photo of Baba was probably taken in the doorway of the crypt-cabin in late 1927 or early 1928 during Baba's fast and seclusion.

Around this time, six small tatta cells were constructed behind the north wall of the crypt-cabin, and on December 2, 1927 Baba ordered a group of men representing different religions and castes to occupy five of these cells, calling it the Sadhak Ashram. They were instructed to stay there day and night, to meditate and to only take liquids.

Diagram showing the orientation of the structures near the crypt-cabin.

Near the end of the year Baba began a seclusion inside the crypt-cabin, sleeping and bathing in the pit itself. The nightly spiritual discourses continued and those gathered there would become intoxicated as the words touched their hearts. In his diary, Chanji referred to these sessions as the nightly "love injections."

On December 28th, Baba gathered the Meher Ashram boys and disclosed, "At first, it was my intention to advance you gradually on the Path, but considering the spiritual outburst that takes place in the world during certain ages, I have changed my mind as that time is very near."

January 1, 1928 was particularly momentous. Because Baba spent much time in seclusion in the crypt-cabin, the ashram women, who resided down the Hill, rarely got to see Him. It was Mehera's birthday according to the Zoroastrian calendar, so she and the others were called to have Baba's darshan; then arti was performed and sweets distributed.

Also on the 1st, many of the boys had spells of crying throughout the day and by evening they were all weeping uncontrollably. Baba came to the window of the crypt-cabin to calm them saying, "Your weeping means love, my love for you; but also obey my orders. When I order you to stop crying, you should stop. Don’t check your love—increase it; but obey my orders."

On January 6th, after a group of soldiers had come for Baba's darshan, He dictated a declaration and had it read out, saying that at about 2:00 a.m. the previous night a secret conference of Spiritual Masters had been held in the crypt and it was decided that a great war would soon begin. Baba concluded His declaration by repeating, "A great war will shortly take place, and when it is raging furiously, I will come forward and manifest as the Avatar!"

Baba in the east window-passage opening of the crypt-cabin in January of 1928 during His long seclusion and fast.

The space between the crypt-cabin and the Sadhak Ashram was enclosed and from January 25th two of the boys who were having intense, blissful inner experiences of Baba, Chhota Baba and Rajaram, were allowed to stay there, with only a cloth curtain separating their space from Baba's inside. Chhota Baba was also permitted to sleep there, a very rare privilege, as the mandali had never known Baba to allow anyone to sleep near Him. Only a few of the mandali were even allowed inside the crypt-cabin and, then, just when called for some specific work.

Baba with some of the Meher Ashram boys, including Chhota Baba on His left, in the crypt-cabin on 22 January, 1928.

On February 18th, in response to some of His followers who had travelled a long distance to be with Him, Baba gave permission for His birthday to be celebrated. The women mandali were again allowed to leave their secluded compound and they, as well as the others, were permitted to wash Baba's feet as He sat in the doorway of the crypt-cabin.

Baba is standing next to the platform, which abuts the crypt-cabin on the left, probably in March or April 1928. The structure behind Baba's shadow in the middle is where Chhota Baba and Rajaram would stay. On the right is part of the Sadhak Ashram. (Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Later, in June, Baba had most of the Meherabad residents relocated to Toka where all the ashram activities continued until nearly the end of the year, shifting back to Meherabad again on December 9, 1928.

At the end of 1928, when the Ashram resettled at Meherabad from Toka, the intense activity surrounding the crypt area lessened as Baba came and went, traveling to other parts of India as well as abroad.
In early March of 1929, He had the tatta crypt structure dismantled and reconstructed in the same location with soft rock walls. On the 9th afternoon there was an opening ceremony for this new room with gramophone records played and tea with sweets distributed.

Baba is sitting on the platform with some of the Meher Ashram boys between March and May of 1929. The crypt-room, with soft rock walls, is behind Him. (Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Over the following months Baba stayed in this crypt-room on some nights and Gustadji, a very close mandali, slept inside with Him. During this period Baba also slept in other rooms in both Lower and Upper Meherabad.
On July 10th 1930 for the fifth anniversary of Baba's Silence, there was a celebration on the Hill in the environs of the crypt-room, during which the mandali were allowed to wash Baba's feet.
In mid-1933 the corrugated roof, the planks covering the crypt and even the door were stolen. Baba called Satya Mang, a well-known local criminal who had also earlier worked as a Meherabad watchman, and ordered him to find the guilty party. Another thief accused Satya and so they both decided on a challenge to eat dhuni ash, agreeing that the true culprit would die within 8 days. In fact, the accuser did die and it was later learned that he was indeed the perpetrator. This event so impressed Satya's criminal associates that they all ceased thieving.
Later, during some other construction and repair work on the Hill, the door from Baba's cabin in Toka was installed in the crypt-room. After returning from Europe in November, Baba began staying there for a while again, having His night watchmen remain on the outside platform, which was covered with tatta and canvas for protection in the winter. During the warmer months, Baba also slept outside on the platform.
In May of 1934 an altercation between some of the men mandali left Baba angry with them. That night, as He slept in the crypt-room, there was a severe storm with high winds. Some of the same men, along with Baba, had to hold the purlins (horizontal supports) to keep the roof of the crypt-room from blowing off. They then sought other shelter, thinking that perhaps the intensity of the earlier clash had saved them from harm during this violent weather event.
In mid-1935, to provide a sturdier place for Him to stay and in anticipation of a long seclusion starting in July, Baba had Padri build a tin cabin to the east of the crypt platform. During this time it served as His bedroom.

The crypt-room (door to the left), covered platform and Baba's Tin Cabin during His 1935 seclusion. (Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)

The next year, the area around the crypt-room was enclosed with barbed-wire on three sides (with the fence of the Meher Retreat compound forming the fourth side). There was a gate on the south and a henna hedge also planted along the barbed-wire.
In 1938, Baba had the soft stone crypt-room taken down and a new, stronger building constructed in its place, using stones from the dismantled Lower Meherabad Post Office building, with a dome above and symbols from four major religions fitted atop the upper corners.

Workers building the dome of the newly re-constructed crypt building, August, 1938. (Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)

A view of the Dome, Tin Cabin and buildings behind at Upper Meherabad, probably late August or September, 1938. (Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)

The Dome, as it came to be called, was inaugurated on August 28th. In the following months Baba had Helen Dahm, a famous Swiss artist living in the women's ashram, paint murals on the inside walls and ceiling.
During the 1940s, Baba occasionally resided in the Dome building and used the surrounding compound to hold small programmes. In May of 1943, during the Divine Theme Sahavas, the attendees would gather with Baba in the compound every evening for discourses and light entertainment.
In May of 1947, the Dome was broken into and Baba’s belongings rifled through, but nothing was taken. Baba was in Satara at the time and He sent a letter instructing that more night watchmen be employed, saying, "If anything again happens on the Hill, Meherabad will be doomed."
In the ensuing years Baba would occasionally visit the Dome, bringing people there to see it, telling them of how He had lived in the crypt structures in the early years and reminding His mandali to bring His body to be interred there on His passing. On January 31st 1969, when He dropped His body, this did happen and Avatar Meher Baba's Samadhi became the central place of pilgrimage for His lovers, who now stream from all over the world to Meherabad for His darshan.

This photo of Baba's Samadhi at Upper Meherabad was taken in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)