Saturday, May 11, 2013

Revisiting an old Baba photo

From time to time I've posted interesting photographs of Meher Baba. Here I wish to discuss one in particular and offer some observations.

Published in Lord Meher (1st ed. vol. 1)
with Jamshed (far right) cropped off 
The photo above is frequently displayed in publications. It is the only formal portrait of Baba's immediate family I am aware of, taken probably in 1916 or 17. See more about the date at bottom.

It has not always been easy for people to identify all the people who are in this photo. After all, none who were there remain with us. On top of being mislabeled, it is also sometimes badly cropped and occassionally misdated, so I'm going to do my best to straighten all this out. If I am in error on any point, please correct me in the comments.

Consider the labeling of this photo as it appears in The Awakener Magazine, Vol 13, 1971, page 12.

The label is duplicated below so it can be read more easily. It has some problems.

The first problem is that the child labeled Mani, Baba's younger sister, is not Mani. Mani Irani was not born until December 1918 and so, not being born at the time of the photo, does not appear.

The sibling named as Mani is actually Baba's brother Behram.

The next problem is that the image in The Awakener identifies the seated man next after Behram as "father." This would mean Sheriar. This labeling is not only found in The Awakener. Below it is shown with the error repeated in Lord Meher (Vol 1, 1986).

Note it again identifies the man seated with crossed legs as Sheriar. In fact I do not believe this is Baba's father Sheriar Irani at all.

I believe it is Khodadad, Baba's paternal uncle (Baba's father Sheriar's elder brother). What Khodadad is doing in this family portait I do not know. My source for this correction is The Beloved by Naosherwan Anzar, 1974.

To see the difference between Khodadad's good looking features and Sheriar's very saintly ones, take a close look at a picture of Sheriar.

Sheriar Irani (second from left) with friends, date unknown

Here is a close-up comparison between Sheriar and who I feel certain is Khodadad.

I think anyone can see the difference. Sheriar (left) has more refined ears, his eyes are more inwardly gazing, his face is rounder, and his eyebrows are distinctly like Meher Baba's. Compare to Baba's eyebrows in the photo beneath. 

Meher Baba, 1925

Here then is how I would label this wonderful family portrait.

L-R: Merwan (Meher Baba), Behram (brother), Khodadad (paternal uncle),
Jal (brother, standing at top), Adi Jr. (brother, seated at bottom), Shireen (mother), Jamshed (elder brother).
These names as given were later confirmed by Baba's nephews and other family members.

The most likely date for the photo appears to be 1916 or 1917. It is given as 1917 in The Beloved (1974) by Naosherwan Anzar and in The Awakener (1971 issue). One fact that seems to be critical for dating is that Adi (seated center front) was born July 10, 1914. The 1917 date would make him two or three years old in the photo, which seems about right. This would make Baba about twenty-two. 1916 is another possible year, as argued eloquently in the comments below. I don't know any way to absolutely determine it.

See also Family Portrait.


  1. Chris,
    Yes it is definitely not Sheriar in photo.
    But the date is still a problem as Adi was born July 10 1914. My guess would be this is say early 1916 ( Parsi New Year?). Adi would be 1 1/2- Behram 7 1/2- Jal 13 1/2 . Also my original Lord Meher labels Baba in suit photo as 1920's tho of course that could be error. But Baba looks much older there to me so i would go with a later date. Page 195 LM shows Baba and Jamshed looking similar to family photo dated 1916. 'The Beloved' dates family photo 1917. Perhaps the updated Lord Meher has some new info..

  2. It would seem photos must be in that period between a year or two after Adi's birth say 1916 and Baba's beginning his last stay of six months with Upasni about July of 1921. During these 5 years His mother was still pressing him to as you mentioned join a theatre company dress up for family photos etc. perhaps photos because of different lighting etc give some deceptive impressions.