Nov 10 at 11:23 PM
FAREWELL TO BHAU
“I was swept into the air after becoming the dust at Your feet.
I was not afraid, knowing this breeze would bring me to Your threshold.”
– Bhau –
On 23rd October 2013, the last of Baba’s intimate mandali, Bhau Kalchuri, slipped into the waiting arms of his Lord and Master Avatar Meher Baba, in the ICU of Jehangir Hospital in Pune, his family nearby taking Baba’s name.
Because three of Bhau’s grandsons were abroad, it was decided to delay his funeral until their arrival. Thus, two days later, on Friday, 25th October 2013, at 5 A.M., Baba’s lovers gathered at the Jehangir Hospital in Pune for prayers and to bid farewell to the ambulance bearing dearest Bhauji’s body as it began its journey home. The final destination for his physical form, among the graves of the intimate men mandali at Lower Meherabad, had been ordained by Meher Baba long ago.
The cortege of ambulance and four cars arrived in Ahmednagar at about 8 AM, pausing first at the Avatar Meher Baba Trust Compound. Still entirely covered in a white shroud, Bhau’s body was taken from the ambulance and tenderly placed on the simple draped stretcher that had carried many of the Meherazad mandali at the time of their reunion with Beloved Baba.
The stretcher was brought into the family quarters of Bhau’s wife, Rama, son Mehernath and his wife, Raj, accompanied by Bhau’s daughter, Sheela, and her husband David, grandsons Amman and his wife Stephanie, Adeem, and Jetin, for prayers and “Hari Paramatma…” In a silent salute, the bearers crossed the Compound, passing before dearest Mani and Eruch’s office and the other Avatar Meher Baba Trust Offices, where Bhau served since 1973 as Trustee and then Chairman. Also included in this symbolic crossing, were the rooms where he lived, wrote, worked and met joyfully with thousands of pilgrims, after moving from Meherazad in 1977.
The walking procession entered the Ahmednagar Meher Baba Centre on the other side of the Compound. Bhau’s body was placed briefly before Beloved Baba’s photograph, where the office staff led chanting and the singing of the cycle of prayers from all religions, as they had done at the end of each workday with their Chairman. Bhau’s “Japu Tumhara Nam, Meher” was sung wholeheartedly, as the family adorned the stretcher with flowers. Bhauji’s body was then taken by ambulance for his final darshan at Avatar Meher Baba’s Samadhi in Meherabad.
By 9:30 a.m., the sun shone from a brilliant blue sky with billowing white clouds above this most holy place; the morning air was cool and fresh. About a hundred pilgrims from East and West, trustees, residents and villagers surrounded the portico in a respectful circle of honour and love-laced mourning as Bhau’s body was carried into the Samadhi. Inside, Bhauji’s family offered prayers and red-rose garlands.
The stretcher rested in the portico for some time, in sight of all. Bhau’s face had been uncovered, showing signs of the suffering of his final illness. As the family paid their last respects, there was silence. This was followed by the singing of “Satchitananda Paramananda,” the Gujarati Arti, Australian Arti, and the Seven Names of God.
In June, just before he fell seriously ill, Bhau had visited Baba’s Samadhi a number of times. He made a supreme effort in his weakened, elderly state to bow down to His Beloved. He also made several poignant visits to Meherazad that same month, after which he said, “Now it is finished; no need to bring my body to Meherazad after I die.” The resonance of those precious moments was now felt, as the bittersweet mood of finality fell upon all.
“Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” rang out as the stretcher carrying Bhau’s body left Beloved Baba’s Samadhi after this final farewell. As the ambulance drove slowly away, the wide vista of Meherabad Hill invoked memories of the panorama of Bhau’s service to the Avatar’s Trust in the flourishing of Meherabad, of his tireless travels around India and the world spreading Baba’s message of love and truth, and his oft-repeated invitations to new and old lovers, “Come, come to India, come to Amartithi, come to His Samadhi! When are you coming? This is the place, this is the time when He is pouring out His Treasure!”
The funeral cortege wound its way down the hill, while Baba’s lovers followed in their rickshaws, bicycles, motorbikes or cars. Others hurried down the path and across Dhond Road to meet the ambulance as it approached the front of Mandali Hall in lower Meherabad.
Now amid the atmosphere of grief and joy, unceasing music and sweetly fragrant flowers, Baba’s humble and devoted servant, poet and inspired author, night watchman and companion, His “John” – Bhau – rested before his Beloved’s chair.
Bhau’s family and close ones were seated nearby; the musicians, singers and others were on the other side, seated Indian-style on the floor. The rest of Mandali Hall beyond the pink-cordoned central aisle was packed with Baba’s lovers, Bhauji’s friends, who sat singing or in silence, faces full of tears, smiles or lost in thought and poignant remembrance. One by one people of all description from many places came forward to say their last goodbyes to Bhauji, to whom they offered roses and chrysanthemums, jasmine flower-nets and garlands, passing hurriedly on in sorrow or kneeling at his side for one last kiss, whisper, smile or touch, and then on to bow at Beloved Baba’s chair in gratitude and praise.
Music of harmonium, tabla, daf, guitar and mandolin with songs from heartfelt voices uplifted those who were gathered. Waves of Baba’s Love and memories of Bhauji and all the mandali now with Him, rocked and washed over all with lively bhajans, “I Walk with the King,” “Victory Unto Thee,” “Open up the Door,” “Salaam Salaam Bhauji,” and the “Beloved God” prayer sung in Spanish, along with the sweet singing of the children from Pumpkin House Orphanage. From every corner also poured forth, in many languages, the immortal ghazals and songs that Baba instructed and inspired Bhau to write: “Tumha Hita Ho” (You Alone Exist), “Japu Tumhara Nam, Meher,” the Hindi arti “Adi Sachetana,” ghazals from Meher Roshani, “Now, When I Even Hear Love’s Name,” “Meher Come!” “O Moon!”
The wake continued into the afternoon as travelers arrived from far places – Hamirpur, Kerala, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Wardha, Amrawati, England – including Bhau’s grandson, Zubin, from Australia. Perhaps a thousand attended, some returning again and again for Baba’s darshan and one last farewell to dear Bhau.
At about 5 pm, Jal Dastoor lovingly asked for all to disperse and proceed to the burial site. Family and helpers remained to remove the rainbow mound of flowers and to move Bhauji’s body into the blue decorated coffin. In front of the Mandali Hall verandah, the crowd parted for the bearers to rest the heavy coffin on a platform attached to a red tractor, festooned with bright yellow marigolds and a smiling picture of Bhau. The surprise sight of the tractor could not help but bring smiles to all those who have heard Bhau’s hilarious story of his first and last driving experience for an agriculture exam – on a tractor, ending in disaster! Baba’s touch of humour and His Divine Game lifted spirits in this penultimate moment.
As the throng ran alongside Bhauji on his final ride, a lightness and sense of onward speed to the Goal filled the air. Past the old iron gates and early “Meherabad” sign, past the sacred Dhuni, Baba’s Table House, the Jhopdi and the great banyan tree, between the tomb of saint Gilori Shah and the Meher Pilgrim Centre where Baba gave shelter and Bhau gave hundreds of talks for pilgrims, the funeral parade approached the quiet grassy area of the men mandali’s graves.
The two long rows of white marble-covered graves of the men mandali are enclosed by tall green shrubs at Mehera’s request. Bhau’s grave is the last in the north row and was lovingly prepared by Ted Judson and his crew according to careful plans made years before. A small pandal facing the grave gave much-needed shade for the dear family and others. In the early evening light, Baba’s lovers surged peacefully all around, stretching for a view, keeping the company of the departed ones, while the children’s choir sat on the grass, cradling all with song after song.
The coffin rested on wooden planks next to the grave. Family members along with those gathered at the site, bade loving farewell with garlands and a rousing shout of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” as the coffin was closed. Carefully, hand over hand, as one team the men of Bhauji’s family Mehernath, Amman, Adeem, Zubin and Jetin Kalchuri and David Fenster, with two helpers, gently lowered the casket into the earth with cries of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” Handfuls of soil and roses were thrown by the family on the coffin, now deep below the surface of the earth. Then in the dusky light, the queue, which wound towards the Pilgrim Centre and spiraled back near the Table House, moved quickly forward as each one offered a handful of earth or roses. As darkness fell, the queue ended, most people departed, and the family and lines of love-workers formed on both sides of the grave for “gamela yoga” – filling of the grave with black earth. Finally the earthen mound was blanketed with purple and yellow flowers and red-rose garlands. The flame of a single candle burned brightly in the dark as it was “time to depart with Baba.”
Stars and moon shone in the night sky. “O Moon! You are and will be; Meher, You shine in me!” How Bhau and all Baba’s matchless mandali have reflected the light of Meher’s Sun in the darkness of Maya’s night! We honour you and rejoice in your long-awaited reunion of 45 years, dearest Bhau, loved and loving slave of our Beloved Compassionate Father, Meher Baba.
Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!
What grace! This empty life became an offering at His feet.”
==Avatar Meher Baba Trust