Merwan Irani - mid-1910s Poona. Image trimmed, enhanced & colourized by Anthony Zois.
Merwan Irani - mid-1910s Poona. Image trimmed, enhanced & colourized by Anthony Zois.

 

 

SPIRITUAL  AWAKENING  -  Pt. 2

 

 

1.                                INTRODUCTION

 

This web page follows Merwan Irani's spiritual contact with Perfect Master Upasni Maharaj in 1915, including his important continual meetings with the other 4 Perfect Masters.

This page concludes, that after a 7 years stay and guidance with Perfect Master Upasni Maharaj.

 

There is a dedicated folder on this website which features each of the Perfect Masters individually, where more information is available.

 

Click on images and maps to enlarge them, also click on the under-scored names to visit their web-pages.

 

CONTENT :  1. INTRODUCTION

                     2. MERWAN  GOES TO  UPASNI MAHARAJ

                   

 

 

2.              MERWAN GOES TO UPASNI MAHARAJ

 

UPASNI  MAHARAJ

Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
Image colourized by Anthony Zois.

December 1915

 

The story of Merwan Irani 'Spiritually Awakening' continues from Pt 1.

 

 

Merwan ( Meher Baba ) felt drawn to visit an old Hindu temple on the outskirts of the village, where they were informed that Sai Baba's chief disciple was staying. It was the Khandoba Temple and where Upasni Maharaj lived, this was 3 miles / 5 kms away from Sai Baba's temple.

 

Upasni was seated on its steps, naked and virtually as thin as a skeleton. As Merwan approached, Upasni picked up a stone, stood up, and threw it with all his strength at Merwan, striking him on the forehead exactly on the spot where Babajan had kissed him. The force of that holy blow was so strong it drew blood and left a permanent scar on Merwan's forehead.

 

 Lord Meher on-line p.170 / V1 p.218

 

 

Merwan regained gross consciousness for the first time in about 2 years.

 

Meher Baba later stated that the striking of the stone to his forehead made him know that he was the Ancient One. He also stated that it took nearly 7 years for him to come back down to gross human consciousness.

 

Upasni Maharaj lived at Khandoba Temple for 4 years & when he met Merwan he was under the guidance of Sai Baba.

 

Khandoba Temple

Khandoba Temple - restored present day. Colourized by Anthony Zois.
Khandoba Temple - restored present day. Colourized by Anthony Zois.

 

After been struck by the stone, Merwan walked to Upasni Maharaj and embraced him. Upasni kissed the bleeding wound and took into the snake and scorpion infested small temple. Khodu stood some distance ans was startled by what he witnessed.

He was concerned for Merwan and what his mother might say about the wound. The hours went by and through the cold shivering night.

After 2 days and nights, Merwan came out with Upasni by his side, Upasni saying to Khodu "Take care of your friend, make certain you see that he gets back to Poona safely".

 

Merwan had some money for them to get back, after Khodu gave all of his to Sai Baba.

Once in Poona Khodu took Merwan to his home and cleaned Merwan's wound and then took him home to his home. He told Shireen that he had fallen and hit his head.

 

 Lord Meher  V1 p.223-4

 

Upasni's Khandoba Temple - Courtesy of Lord Meher  Vol.1  p. 99
Upasni's Khandoba Temple - Courtesy of Lord Meher Vol.1 p. 99

 

 

 

KOPARGAON

 **Click on images to see map details

1916

 

Merwan resumed visiting Babajan 2-3 hours nightly.

Once a month Merwan travelled to Shirdi by train to Kopargaon Railway Station and then by road, to see Sai Baba at his temple and then to stay with Upasni Maharaj at the Khandoba Temple for a few days.

Sometimes Behramji or Khodu would accompany him, but only Merwan would be with Upasni.

 

 Lord Meher  V1 p.224

 

 **Click on images to see place names details

 

Pushed by his mother Shireen, Merwan took a job as a clerk with a brick contractor in Poona.

One day Merwan was seated next to the driver when their truck struck an old lady. The contractor who was in the back , told the driver to proceed. Later he was arrested and Merwan was summoned. The contractor was fined by the court. Later on, Merwan was asked by the contractor to falsify invoices, he refused and left his job.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.225-6

 

INDIAN BRICK WORKS
INDIAN BRICK WORKS

 

 

NARGOL, GUJARAT

 **Click on images to see map details & locations

 

Merwan's next job was as a school teacher in Nargol village in Gujarat state. Merwan took the train to this town. The village has a strong Parsi community. He taught English and Persian, his salary he would send half to his mother. This position only lasted a few months, it's unknown why he left.

But, during this time here he originated the 'Divine Theme Chart' . The explanation and publication was done in May 1943 in India.

 

This chart is found in "God Speaks" book - p. 241-3

 

** see previous chapter for the Book links, etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nargol

 

Meher Baba directed chart from the "God Speaks" book. The chart flows from left to right.
Meher Baba directed chart from the "God Speaks" book. The chart flows from left to right.

 

 

Merwan during this time in 1916, would confide with his aunty Piroja & her husband Rustom, who later was nicknamed Masaji. They soon decided to move to Calcutta ( Kolkata ) for business and Merwan was sent with them along with their children, a son called Aspandiar

( later nicknamed Pendu ) and daughter Naja.

 

Both later were part of Meher Baba's inner circle of devotees.

 

The rail distance between Poona ( Pune ) & Calcutta ( Kolkata ) via Ahmednagar is 2,015 kms / 1,252 miles. It takes between 33 - 35 hrs present-day to complete this journey.

 

 **Click on images to see names details, etc.

1915 Train route : Poona to Calcutta. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
1915 Train route : Poona to Calcutta. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.

 

Early 1916

 

After 3 months Merwan returned to Poona, but prior to leaving Merwan was approached by Cavas Khatao, a wealthy business man who wanted Merwan to manage his theatrical touring troupe that gave performances throughout India. Khatao tried repeatedly, but Merwan wasn't interested. 

Merwan returned to Poona and was reprimanded by his mother when she found out about the offer. With her insistence he wrote to Khatao accepting the position as manager.

After a short while, Merwan returned to Calcutta by train.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.229

 

Kavasji Palanji Khatau, also spelled Cowasji Palanji Khatao, (1857 – 16 August 1916)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavasji_Palanji_Khatau There is no image found of Khatao.

 

 

1916 : Merwan wearing a  business suit, managing  a theatrical troup. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
1916 : Merwan wearing a business suit, managing a theatrical troup. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
A typical Parsi Theatrical company early 1900s.
A typical Parsi Theatrical company early 1900s.

 

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Sorabji Katrak of the New Alfred Theatrical Company singing.

Kavasji Palanji Khatau owned this theatrical company at the same time & Sorabji Katrak was one of his performers.

 

1916 - Mid

 

Merwan's first outing with the troupe was to Lahore ( now in Pakistan ). The train journey was 1,943 kms / 1,207 miles and took almost a day to arrive.

 

Merwan was now dressed as a business man wearing a suit and tie as shown in the previous image of him above. After several weeks, the owner Mr. Khatao died on 16th August 1916 in Lahore whilst touring with his theatre company. The company disbanded and Merwan returned to Poona and relieved to be back.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.230-1

**It's not clear from which location Merwan travelled from, back to Poona.

 

1913 Map showing the rail route from Calcutta to Lahore. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
1913 Map showing the rail route from Calcutta to Lahore. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.

 

1916 - Late

 

After returning to Poona, Merwan's father fell ill and had to go to Bombay for an operation. Merwan took over running Sheriar Cafe in his absence. He was also writing ghazals during this time.

Lord Meher  V1 p.235

 

1917

 

In the beginning of the year, Sheriar sold his tea-shop, obtained a liquor license and opened a toddy-shop in Sachapir St, Poona.  Exact location is not known.

** see previous chapter's Poona maps for the location .

 

Merwan would work for a couple of days per week, doing all chores required.

 

During this year Merwan mailed some of his ghazals to Sohrab Muncherji Desai also known as "Soma".

At some time in the year, Merwan suggested he and Beheramji go into business together, but it didn't happen  due to misunderstandings by Beheramji.

 

In April, Upasni Maharaj was invited by one of his devotees in Sion, Bombay to open his medical dispensary. Many were invited, Upasni messaged Merwan to meet him there. It was here Merwan first met Gustadji N. Hansotia who was a disciple of Upasni. They got along very well. Merwan left for Poona the same day by train.

 

Upasni was still living at the Khandoba Temple in Shirdi.

 

**It's not known whether Upasni was driven or took the train to Bombay. If he did take the rail route, the shortest journey was to go North to Manmad and change trains for Bomabay. The same applies for the return journey.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.238

**Click on images to see names details

 

1917- Mid

 

Soon afterwards, Merwan settled into a steady work routine of working 2 hours daily at his father's toddy-shop.

Merwan's old school friend Bailey had joined the British Royal Navy years earlier and had recently been posted to Poona and had become re-acquainted with Merwan.

 

Merwan was persuaded by him to join the Royal Navy. Merwan signed the required documents, but his family knew nothing of his plans. An acquaintance came to Sheriar's shop and to told him Merwan's plans. Sheriar became very upset and refused to sign the papers. He then went to the Navy office in Poona and had Merwan's name removed from the list. Bailey was now not in favour with Sheriar's family.

Baily was soon transferred to Aden ( Yemen ).

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.240-1

 **Click on images to see names & map details, etc.

 

Since meeting Sai Baba & Upasni Maharaj in December 1915, Merwan began a grim habit of striking his forehead against the hard floor surface of his bedroom. He would collapse, wipe away the blood and cover his forehead with a cloth so not to alert his family and friends of the torment and pain he was suffering in his spiritual state. This went on for a very long time.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.232

 

In July 1917, Upasni Maharaj moved from Shirdi to Sakori and Merwan became a regular visitor. Merwan was still taking the train to Kopargaon Railway Station and often walked to Sakori, seeing Sai Baba prior briefly and then proceeded to Sakori by foot.

On one occasion, Merwan was attacked by multiple groups of 4 ferocious dogs at Nimgaon south of Kopargaon, ( but near to Shirdi ) that ripped his clothing multiple times, but they did not bite him. He finally dashed off, out-running them by the time he came to Shirdi at 3:30 am. He decided not to go to Sai Baba.

After a resting for a few hours on the side of the road unti daybreak before proceeding to Upasni's location in Sakori village, covering the 7 miles / 11 kms distance.

 

When he arrived, Upasni's chief female devotee - Durgabai was carrying a large dead dog that had fallen in a nearby well and died. She handed the carcass to Merwan and promptly  ran off far away and threw it into a pit. He then ran back and joined Upasni Maharaj. No-one knew of his previous encounter with the dogs.

 

Merwan stayed for 8 days, then returned to Poona by train still wearing his torn clothes.

His friends gave him fresh clothing so not to alarm his mother - Shireen.

 

During this time and afterwards, both Merwan and Upasni regularly sent each other letters and parcels which for most of the time, the contents of these correspondences were incomprehensible and meaningless to everyone else.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.245-6

 

Historical World Time-line - July 1917

 

Jul 1 Race riots in East St Louis, Illinois (40 to 200 reported killed)

Jul 2 Labor disputes lead to race riot in East St Louis, Illinois - Black neighborhood attacked and burned, 40-200 killed and 6000 left homeless.

Jul 4 Troops of the Russian Provisional Government open fire on protesters in Petrograd during the 'July Days' of unrest.

Jul 6 T. E. Lawrence captures port of Aqaba from Turks

Jul 13 Vision of Virgin Mary appears to children of Fatima, Portugal

Jul 22 British bomb German lines at Ypres, 4,250,000 grenades

Jul 28 Silent Parade organised by James Weldon Johnson of 10,000 African-Americans who march on 5th Ave in NYC to protest against lynching.

Jul 31 World War I: Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) begins, goes on to cause approximately 500,000 casualties.

Map showing the dog attack area at Nimgaon. Other references refer to it as Limbgaon-incorrect. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
Map showing the dog attack area at Nimgaon. Other references refer to it as Limbgaon-incorrect. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.

1917 cont.

 

Rustom ( Masaji ) and his family returned from Calcutta and moved into a house next Bhopal House, Merwan's home.

Rustom's wife Piroja died soon afterwards from complications of her asthmatic condition.

 

Merwan insisted that he was to take care of their 2 children Naja ( 10 ) and Aspandiar - [ later known as Pendu ] ( 14 ) and that they were his responsibilty and informed Rustom of his decision.

 

** Image of these individuals appear towards the start of this webpage.

Lord Meher  V1 p.247

 

Merwan continued to visit Babajan and she would often tell her followers how great Merwan was, saying " He is my son, my beloved son......He is why I am here in Poona..... One day my son will shake the world. You have no idea of his greatness."

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.248

 

 

Map showing the close-up of the Shirdi-Sakori area. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
Map showing the close-up of the Shirdi-Sakori area. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.

When Upansi Maharaj moved to Sakori, Merwan would take the train to Chitali most often as this was the nearest to Sakori village, especially after Sai Baba passed away on 15th October 1918.

 

 

1918

 

 On 1st February, Khodu and his wife Naja had a son - Dinshaw.

Merwan visited them in hospital and he called Dinshaw his "First disciple".

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.249

 

Khodu and his wife Naja with their baby boy - Dinshaw. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
Khodu and his wife Naja with their baby boy - Dinshaw. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.

 

In mid-1918, Merwan's mother - Shireen offered to advance half the money to start another toddy shop, if Beheramji was Merwan's partner. Beheramji accepted the offer and on the 1st August he procured a liquor license in his name and in partnership with Merwan.

 

The new shop was at 723 Kasha Peth Road on a fishing wharf next to the Mutha River.

It was in the neighbourhood of the fishermen.

Merwan worked from 6am till noon, doing all the jobs required, but would question the worth of money, Beheramji did not argue.

 

Their toddy shop became a refuge for alcoholics, vagrants and beggars with Merwan handing out money to many of them. He started to become popular and he was now referred to as "Merwanji" signifying respect.

 

Meanwhile, Merwanji was coming down through the subtle planes to normal gross consciousness.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.249-50

 

 KASHA PETH ROAD SHOP MAPS

 1976 : Vacant site of the Kasba Peth Toddy Shop in Poona -Original B/W photo taken by John Connor. Colourization by Anthony Zois.
1976 : Vacant site of the Kasba Peth Toddy Shop in Poona -Original B/W photo taken by John Connor. Colourization by Anthony Zois.

continued .....

 

Two men started to frequent Merwanji's life ; Patel ( Sadashiv G. Shelke aka Sadashiv Patel ) & Sayyed Saheb Pirzade. Patel was 5 years older and lived upstairs of the toddy shop. He didn't realize that Merwan was spiritually inclined, but, Merwan started to take either of them to Upasni Maharaj and they soon became their messengers, delivering letters, parcels, etc.

 

Merwan's head pounding continued and eventually his mother caught him in the act and she was terribly upset. She cursed the holy people who had made her son act in this way.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.252

 

continued...

 

Merwanji started to go to the home of Munshi Shaikh Abdur Rahim ( pictured far right above) who was 42 y.o. and a storekeeper at the Public Government Department in Poona and his assistant was Sayyed Saheb who had introduced him to Merwanji. Munshi became increasingly close to him. 

 

A room was rented 'near' their toddy shop, so they could use it for worship. It had a small altar with images of the spiritual masters especially of Upasni Maharaj. ( see image below )

The Hindus and Muslims would perform the artis and qawalli songs and Merwanji would often accompany them on an Indian drum - dholak.

 

 1922 Kasha Peth, Poona : Feb25, 1922 - Merwanji seated wearing turban. Glow Int. mag. 2012 Spring p 18. Image enhanced by Anthony Zois.
1922 Kasha Peth, Poona : Feb25, 1922 - Merwanji seated wearing turban. Glow Int. mag. 2012 Spring p 18. Image enhanced by Anthony Zois.
 1976 : Kasba Peth bhajan room in Poona. Original B/W image taken by John Connor. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
1976 : Kasba Peth bhajan room in Poona. Original B/W image taken by John Connor. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.

 

Sai Baba died on 15th October 1918.

 

At that time, Gustadji was living with Upasni Maharaj who was a Perfect Master and heir to Sai Baba's spiritual charge.

 

 

 Historical Time-line

October 15, 1918 (Tuesday)

 

 SAI BABA'S FUNERAL PROCESSION IN SHIRDI

 

In December, Upasni told Gustadji to leave him and to go to Merwanji and only to take orders from Merwanji.

Once he came to Poona, Gustadji was assigned duties and one of these was to take care of Babajan full-time.

 

Because Babajan was seated without shelter and exposed to all weather elements, Gustadji suggested to Merwanji they needed a better place to rest and so Merwanji paid for a wood platform and a mattress later for her, which eventually rotted after a drenching of rain.

Gustadji's brother Ardesiar N. Hansotia ( Slamson ) also joined Merwanji's 'circle of friends'.

 

Merwanji's sister Mani was born on the 15th December 1918. Merwanji was 24 years old.

He visited his mother Shireen in hospital and he said " She is fortunate, she is mine ".

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.256-8

 

 

continued....

 

Merwanji's brother Jamshed married his 1st cousin Khorshed Rawatmani Irani. Jamshed was working for the government at the Military Accounts Department in Poona.

 

Merwanji's cousin Shah had died in Bombay, he was Sheriar's elder brother - Khodadad's son. Merwanji reluctantly went to pay his family's respect in Bombay.

 

Lord Meher  V1 p.263 & 266

 

Jamshed S. Irani & his wife Khorshed R. Irani. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
Jamshed S. Irani & his wife Khorshed R. Irani. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
Map showing the railway & road routes to Sakori. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
Map showing the railway & road routes to Sakori. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
Perfect Master Upasni Maharaj. Image trimmed & colourized by Anthony Zois.
Perfect Master Upasni Maharaj. Image trimmed & colourized by Anthony Zois.
 1918 : Close-up of Merwan from the family photo. Image enhanced & colourized by Anthony Zois.
1918 : Close-up of Merwan from the family photo. Image enhanced & colourized by Anthony Zois.
 1918 : ( L-R) Merwan ( Meher Baba ), Beheram (standing), Uncle Khodadad (Baba's paternal uncle), Jal ( standing ), Adi Jrn, Shireen and Jamshed.
1918 : ( L-R) Merwan ( Meher Baba ), Beheram (standing), Uncle Khodadad (Baba's paternal uncle), Jal ( standing ), Adi Jrn, Shireen and Jamshed.

 

 

 

BUND GARDENS  &  MUTHA MULA RIVER

The Bund Gardens, Poona in the 1890s. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.
The Bund Gardens, Poona in the 1890s. Image colourized by Anthony Zois.

 

1952

 

Meher Baba toured the spiritual locations for 3 of the Perfect Masters who played a major role in him becoming Avatar of the Age.

 

Baba was then led to Upasni Maharaj's samadhi, which he touched with his forehead. Baba pointed to himself and stated, "Maharaj is here, and not there." The mandali, too, bowed at Maharaj's tomb. Baba was taken to a small building, where formerly there had been a straw hut in which he and Maharaj had sat for hours together late into the night. There Baba disclosed, "This is the place where one night Maharaj addressed me as the Avatar."After refreshments, Baba and the group proceeded to Shirdi. Baba bowed his head on the marble tomb of Sai Baba, as did the mandali. Then all visited the old mosque which was Sai Baba's seat and where he used to listen to the Koran for half an hour daily. Baba pointed out the brick on which Sai Baba used to rest his head. The brick had broken just before he dropped his body.
Baba next drove to the Khandoba Temple, where Upasni Maharaj had remained confined for almost three years without food, according to Sai Baba's instructions, and where Baba had seen him first. He entered the temple and, mentioning to the mandali about Maharaj's fasting without food or water, observed, "In those days, Sai Baba was eating a lot and still complaining that he was very hungry."

 

LM online
pp.3187...3189

 

 

The reference books that were used on this webpage : 

 

Lord Meher Vol.1          - Bhau Kalchuri

The Perfect Master       - Charles B. Purdom

The God-Man                - Charles B. Purdom

The Joyous Path          - Heather Nadel

&

Lord Meher on-line      - David Fenster

 

 

 

LINKS TO THE OTHER PAGES OF MEHER BABA'S LIFE

 

Click on the following buttons to visit those webpages.