Meher Pilgrim Center
Meher Pilgrim Center (also spelled "Centre") is a central administrative facility for the Meher Baba pilgrim retreat in Meherabad near Ahmednagar, India. From 19 June 1980 until 15 March 2006 it housed short-term accommodations for pilgrims visiting Meher Baba's samadhi (tomb shrine) in Meherabad and his final home in Meherazad located on the other side of Ahmednagar. Originally constructed for the Avatar Meher Baba Trust as an accommodation facility for pilgrims, it now houses offices and other administrative services for the Trust. In its heyday this attractive and comfortable building accommodated up to 56 guests in rooms housing one to eight people. Men and women were housed separately and all meals were vegetarian.
The Meher Pilgrim Center was designed by resident architect Ted Judson and commissioned by James and Elaine Cox. The paintings that decorate its dining room and verandas were done by Phyllis and Lyn Ott. Since its construction, various other structures were added to the surrounding area including a hostel, dispensary, free school, research library, and museum.
On 15 June 2006 new pilgrim facilities opened at the recently constructed Meher Pilgrim Retreat, an 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) pilgrim facility that provides meals and overnight accommodation for up to 200 pilgrims. The Pilgrim Retreat is on the opposite side of Meherabad from the Pilgrim Center. Drugs, alcohol, meat and fish, are all prohibited at the Pilgrim Retreat and men and women are housed separately.
Design and decoration
Both the Pilgrim Center and Pilgrim Retreat were designed by architect Ted Judson. The interior of the dining hall and surrounding verandas of the original Pilgrim Center are decorated by seventeen mounted paintings of Meher Baba's life by American painters Phyllis and Lyn Ott. Gardens and landscaping were designed by Janet Judson. Two stained glass mandala windows adorn the East and West walls of the original dining hall. Many artists have contributed to decorating the newly constructed Meher Pilgrim Retreat with stained glass windows, oil paintings, archival photographs, photographic engraving, etched stone benches, a plaster frieze, and a tile wall commemorating the life and work of Meher Baba. Among the many artists are the Iranian-born master glass painter Amir Chafai, the American painter Diana Le Page from Australia, and American painter Charlie Mills.
The Pilgrim Center area remains the site of the dhuni ceremony, which is performed at sunset on the 12th of each month at Meherabad. The Pilgrim Center dhuni is a major focus of annual Amartithi activities, a religious festival that draws approximately 30,000 pilgrims annually to Meherabad in January of each year.
The Pilgrim Center and Pilgrim Retreat are closed during the hot Indian summer from 15 March to 15 June of each year.