Dhuni (Meher Baba)
The Dhuni (a word that literally means “fire”) is a fire ritual that Meher Baba co-opted from other religious traditions and made his own. Thus his use of the word and modification of its practice is not precisely analogous to its traditional form as found in Hinduism.
Meher Baba's Dhuni was first lit on November 10, 1925, when some villagers approached Meher Baba about a severe drought that threatened their crops. Baba told them to return home and ordered his mandali to build a Dhuni. Within minutes of its lighting, rain began to fall. In later years, Meher Baba invited His followers to throw attachments, symbolized by sandalwood sticks, into the fire. By Meher Baba’s order, the Dhuni continues to be lit on the 12th of each month at sunset at Lower Meherabad, Ahmednagar, India. Baba instructed one of his close disciples to ensure that this Dhuni be lit on the twelfth of every month. According to The Master's Glossary, the Dhuni fire symbolizes the purifying inner fire of Divine Love.
The modified Dhuni fire ritual observed by Meher Baba was nearly the only, if not only, bona fide religious ritual that Meher Baba performed during his lifetime. It is still performed on the 12th of each month, in accordance with conventions established by Baba, near the Meher Pilgrim Center in Lower Meherabad, and is one of the important focal points of the Amartithi celebration in January of each year which attracts up to 30,000 pilgrims annually in India. Because he generally discouraged placing what he often perceived to be undue emphasis on rituals for their own sake, Meher Baba's Dhuni ritual has attained a unique status among activities at his centers in India and around the world.
After the Dhuni fire is lit and prayers, bhajans, and devotional songs are sung, people line up and take a piece of sandalwood. In turn they dip the sandalwood stick into ghee (clarified butter) and toss it into the fire, intending the offering to represent the relinquishing of some attachment or psychological limitation that they wish to be consumed by the fire. The ritual thus symbolizes surrendering and giving up desires and limitations to God.
Comparison with other forms of the ritual
Unlike the Hindu ritual, in Meher Baba's Dhuni the cleft in the ground (in Baba's case a Dhuni-urn) does not symbolize the female vulva and no special importance is given to any of the physical objects, but rather emphasis is given to the consumptive symbolism of the fire itself. This is arguably more in keeping with Meher Baba's Zoroastrian lineage in which fire is considered a sacred symbol. Also, like the Dhuni observed by Sai Baba of Shirdi, whom Meher Baba contacted in his youth, Meher Baba's Dhuni is not sectarian, but religiously universal and accessible to those of all religions and sects and also to those with no formal religious affiliations at all. Meher Baba's Dhuni is also unique among fire rituals in that it is performed on the 12th of each month as per Meher Baba's instructions.
- Baba Words; The Master's Glossary
- Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba, Bhau Kalchuri, Manifestation, Inc. 1986. p. 941
- Historic Meherabad (p. 3, 7th paragraph)
- In His Service, A Newsletter from Meherabad, December 1998
- Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba, Bhau Kalchuri, Manifestation, Inc. 1986. p. 2741