|On Sacred Ground|
|The Ghyara Cottage, Part 1|
In the earliest days of Meherazad, even before the women mandali stayed there and when it was still known only as Pimpalgaon Malvi, Meher Baba would take a walk down the approach road with Eruch every morning. Just a few minutes' walk from the gate, in some farmland to the north of the road, Baba noticed an unfinished farm cottage with no roof. One day He asked Eruch to inquire about it.
As Meherwan Jessawala recalls, Eruch learned that the cottage was built by Ratanshah Ghyara,* an engineer who owned a machine shop in Pune and had purchased a large tract of farmland adjacent to Meherazad. He had originally built a farmer’s hut in the middle of his land, and had started to build this larger cottage nearer the road for his retirement, but had run out of money and thus could not complete it.
Baba, through Eruch, offered to complete the construction for Ghyara in exchange for use of the cottage for some time. Ghyara readily agreed—he was delighted in fact, as he already recognized Baba as God. So it was that Baba stayed in this cottage whenever he was at Meherazad from early 1946 through at least the middle of 1948.
|A recent photo of the Ghyara cottage, near Meherazad.|
It was in the Ghyara cottage on 7 January 1948 that Ivy Duce, the newly appointed Murshida of Sufism Reoriented, and her daughter Charmian first met Meher Baba. Charmian recalls , "We walked up to the door, walked inside, and there was Baba down at the end of the room sitting on the bed. Before we even got in the door, my mother was in tears."
Charmian was 18 at the time, and she felt humiliated when her mother burst into tears at the mere sight of Baba. She followed Ivy into the Ghyara cottage, "… absolutely determined that I won’t be hypnotized by anybody!" She describes herself as having been grumpy, and holding herself rigidly aloof as Baba talked to Ivy. Suddenly, Baba looked across the room, met her eyes, and said simply, "Innocent."
Charmian says, "And I dissolved. In the biggest puddle of humiliating tears that you have ever seen in your life. I just had them swarming down my cheeks. Trying hard not to make a sound, just blubbering away in the corner. Because of course, when Baba looked at you like that, it was as if, for the first time, you glimpsed your essential self."
Charmian confesses that it can feel unsettling to approach God: "…you have all these pre-conceived ideas about yourself. Guilt feelings that you had had, things that you’d done wrong. 'Maybe He is God, what’s He going to see when He looks at me?' I mean you were scared."
For the next three years or so Charmian questioned her experience, often wondering, "God in human form? Now? Here?" And a voice inside replied, "Yep, that’s the way it is."
|Charmian (middle) with Goher, Mani, Mehera and Meheru at Meherazad, January 1948.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)
As it turned out, the meeting between Baba and Murshida Duce and Charmian was the only occasion when Baba was known to have invited individuals to meet Him at the Ghyara cottage.
—David McNeely for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 6 August 2015
* Ghyara is the spelling in documents of the period; Ghiara is the spelling preferred by Ratanshah's son; Gyara is favored by Lord Meher.
 The quotes from Charmian are transcribed from a video interview which is part of the Witness Series.