The Meher Pilgrim Retreat (MPR) is an accommodation facility in Meherabad, India in the state of Maharashtra. People from all over the world come here for a spiritual pilgrimage. Followers and those curious about Meher Baba will cross oceans and take the road from Mumbai to this place of pilgrimage. I can vouch, from everywhere I’ve been, this is the most peaceful place in the world.
The nearest city a few miles away is Ahmednagar, and Ahmednagar is about 2 hours from the bigger city of Pune. Most fly into Mumbai and take the 6 hour drive to Meherabad.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of staying here until you experience it but whether you need a break from hectic life, or need to a place to dig digger spiritually, and get closer to God, this is the place.
Men and women cannot stay in the same room. But this ever feels like a problem. There is a women’s side and a men’s side; each is allowed on each other’s premises until 10 pm but never allowed inside each other’s rooms.
But the main dining hall is where men and women mingle and share each other’s happiness and peacefullness.
Here in Meherbabad is the only place in the world I don’t mind waking up at 5am and go out for a walk to Meher Baba’s Samadhi, say Arti (prayers and songs), and enjoy the wonderful music.
The retreat is quite a beautiful and peaceful place.
There isn’t much around. A lot of land which can get dry, muddy or very green depending on the season. There’s a few shops around, and not too far, one can venture into town if needed to go shopping or dining.
People that stay at the MPR are called pilgrims.
Even though Meherabad is completely rural, there are quite a few activities to partake in during your stay.
1. Ride around
Many pilgrims (mostly the men and a few brave women) rent motorcycles or scooters and take them for rides. There isn’t a lot of traffic in Meherabad, and if they’re up for it, they take it all the way to town, Ahmednagar.
2. Play Volleyball
Volleyball games usually happen after afternoon tea.
3. Visit the local shops and internet café
There are a couple of stores nearby where you can buy snacks, buy some essentials, like toilet paper, and even get on the internet at their internet café area. Everything is really cheap.
To get there you can ride the motorcyle, or a rented bike, walk (30 min walk), or grab an auto rickshaw.
Sometimes there are rickshaws outside the MPR, or you can call one at the reception.
Tip: Bring a scarf or bandana to cover up from the dust when you ride rickshaws. Especially on longer trips.
4. Go to town (Ahmednagar)
You can go have some ice cream and sweets, eat at a restaurant, and shop around the markets.
Like mentioned before, you can take a rickshaw, ride a motorcycle or take the blue bus that departs from the MPR on Tuesdays and Thursdays which drops you off in town and picks you up a few hours later. (Double check schedules when you are there.)
I will write about Ahmednagar in more detail in a separate post.
To go from the MPR to the main road, you have to cross the railroad tracks which are often closed for safety reasons about 15 minutes before the train passes. I guess they can’t know exactly when it comes.
5. Socialize, eat and have tea at the MPR Main Dining Hall
One of the pilgrims’ favorite activities is hanging out in the dining hall.
In this big space, meals are served three times a day: 8am, 1pm and 8pm. And tea is served at 5:30 am and 4pm. On Fridays, a yummy snack accompanies the tea. By the way, this is the best tea I’ve had anywhere in my life. It’s real chai.
Pilgrims get to know each other and have long talks at the dining hall. Card games also take place often after dinner, but gambling is not allowed on the premises, so no poker.
The food is 100% vegetarian and any meat of any kind is not allowed on the premises. You are allowed to bring your own food from town but no pepperoni pizza or chicken tikka leftovers. The menu is different every day of the week, but then repeats itself. So every Monday is the same menu and so on. If you stay long enough, you soon find out which days are your favorite.
6. Meher Baba’s Samadhi
This is one of the main reasons why pilgrims come to Meherabad; to visit Meher Baba’s Samadhi (tomb.) Prayers and songs occur daily from 7am – 8am and 7pm – 8pm. The Samadhi is also open between those times for those who want some peace and quiet and enjoy some alone time near the tomb. The spiritual energy there is really strong.
Also, the Samadhi is open for visitors year long, unlike the MPR which is closed during the Indian summer.
The Samadhi is about a 15-minute walk from the MPR which is a really pleasant walk. It will look different every month depending on the season.
Who is Meher Baba?
Meher Baba is a spiritual master who is an Avatar, one of God’s human forms.
He had many messages but His main one was: “I have come not to teach, but to awaken.”
Meher Baba gave numerous teachings on the cause and purpose of life, including teaching reincarnation and that the world is an illusion. He taught that the Universe is illusion, that God is what really exists, and that each soul is really God passing through imagination to realize individually His own divinity. In addition he gave practical advice for the aspirant who wishes to attain Self-realization and thereby escape the wheel of births and deaths. He also taught about the concept of Perfect Masters, the Avatar, and those on the various stages of the spiritual path that he called involution. His teachings are most importantly recorded in his principal books Discourses and God Speaks. (source)
Meher Baba on religion: “I am not come to establish any cult, society, or organization; nor even to establish a new religion. The religion that I shall give teaches the knowledge of the One behind the many. The book that I shall make people read is the book of the heart that holds the key to the mystery of life. I shall bring about a happy blending of the head and the heart. I shall revitalize all religions and cults, and bring them together like beads on one string.”
7. Celebrations, festivals, theater, concerts, and Dhuni
Throughout the year there are several interesting events going on in Meherabad. Including:
Amartithi – January 29-31:
The town of Meherabad hosts 10,000 – 12,000 overnight visitors, and 25,000 – 30,000 daytime visitors, from all over the world during a three-day program in celebration of Amartithi. There are lots of things going on during the three days including music and concerts, food stands and people gathering. The climax of this event is when the crowd gathers around the Samadhi and keeps silence for fifteen minutes in honor of the physical passing of Meher Baba at 12:15 p.m. on 31 January 1969.
Dhuni – The 12th of each month:
Dhuni is the only ritual that is done related to Meher Baba and consists of lighting up a fire and throwing in a stick of sandalwood which represents an offering of giving up an attachment that you wish to be consumed by the fire. The ritual thus symbolizes surrendering and giving up desires and limitations to God. (read more)
Plays, music, talks, and movies at the Meherabad theater – during pilgrim seasons:
programs are planned for entertaining and spiritual occasions.
Other big events include Meher Baba’s birthday on February 25 and Silence Day.
Silence Day – July 10
Meher Baba kept silent for about 40 years of His life; this is what he wrote about it: “Man’s inability to live God’s words makes the Avatar’s teaching a mockery. Instead of practicing the compassion he taught, man has waged wars in his name. Instead of living the humility, purity, and truth of his words, man has given way to hatred, greed, and violence. Because man has been deaf to the principles and precepts laid down by God in the past, in this present Avataric form, I observe silence.”
There are a few more activities to do around here including: exploring King Ahmed’s Tomb outside of Meherabad, getting invited to local’s birthday parties and homes, visiting Meherazad, grabbing a book from the library and reading at the reading rooms, visiting Pune (2 1/2 hours away), and day trips to the amazing Ellora or Ajanta caves.
Reservations are made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and should be made about 6 weeks in advance.
Pilgrim Season: 15 June – 15 March (all other times, MPR is closed)
Rates: May vary but it’s around INR 170 for a room a day, and INR 130 per meal (x3). About INR 560 total a day which is just about 10 USD.
Children under seven years of age cannot be accommodated at Meherabad.
Dress code: clothing should be conservative. No bare knees or shoulders.
Cleaning: rooms are cleaned every day and laundry service is available for a cheap rate twice a week.
Rooms and bathrooms: you may request your choice of room size, but you might often share with someone else. Rooms have 1 bed, 2 beds, 4 beds and 6 beds. Bathrooms are shared. Showers work on a solar heating system. Daily showers are discouraged and sometimes not even allowed depending on drought cases. Towels and clean bedding are provided. Each person gets its own closet with lock and key and a desk.
Meherabad is located on Daund Road, six kilometers outside the city of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra State, India.
•Travel by Air. The nearest airports are at Pune and Aurangabad, both approximately two and one-half hours from Ahmednagar by road. The nearest international airport is Mumbai, approximately five hours by road to Ahmednagar.
•Travel by Car. Buses and taxis reach Ahmednagar from Pune, Aurangabad, Sholapur, and Nasik. A direct road from Mumbai, which bypasses Pune, takes about five hours in light traffic. Trusted car services. These cars will pick you up all the way from Mumbai at any time and take you exactly to the right place.
•Travel by Rail. Located on the Daund/Manmad railway line, Ahmednagar is accessible by rail from many Indian cities, both to the north and south, including Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
Click on the image below for a very useful guide for Westerners and First-Timers:
If you are looking to go on a spiritual adventure, are curious about staying at a pilgrim center, want to touch with your spiritual roots, or just are curious about Meher Baba, I recommend a trip to Meherabad.
Would you be interested in taking a trip here? Have you ever been to any place like it?