Sunday, October 27, 2013

An old story about Mansari

Mansari was the disciple of Meher Baba who lived alone on Meherabad Hill as caretaker of his tomb for many years. Baba ordered her never to leave upper Meherabad, unless she needed to see a doctor or take her dog to the vet.

When Baba died in 1969 his body was brought and placed in the tomb. After seven days a wooden crypt was placed over his body and the earth filled in. This is how people saw the tomb in 1969 in what became known as the 1969 Darshan, which occurred a few months after Baba dropped his body.

In 1975 I visited India, and stayed for a few days at Meherabad. During the day I would sit with Mansari in her kitchen, often only the two of us. There was no Pilgrim Center or Pilgrim Retreat in those days.

Mansari liked me sitting about in her kitchen, and would cook for me and joke with me and tell me long stories. I was only 15 years old at the time, and was a good artist. I would bring a sketch book and once drew her. She became fond enough of me to name me after Norina Matchabelli's monkey, named Lucky, and said I was Lucky in my last life. Later she would write to me, beginning her letters, "Dear Lucky."

One day as I sat in her kitchen she told me a story, that is now rather famous. One can find it here at Meher Baba Manifesting.

I had in fact already had this story recounted to me by my father, but was eager to hear it from her, and wanted every detail. So she told me a very long version in elaborate detail.

I have told this story to others, who often have not heard it, but have been surprised to learn that (as far as I know) I'm the only one that includes one important item, which to me is the most intriguing. If she told me more than she told others, or if others also know this and no one has written it, or if it is some place I don't know to look, I can't say. But since the story interests people I decided to tell it.

Some of my details contradict the published story. But I've decided to tell it as I remember it.

Baba's tomb
It was a few months after the 1969 darshan, and few came to the tomb in those days. It was generally just Mansari and a night watchman from the village this early in the morning.

Each morning it was Mansari's job to go and unlock the tomb, to clean it, and to prepare for the day. She would then lock it up at night. On this early morning Mansari came as she always had to unluck the tomb, and there was half-light in the early dawn. She came with a lantern and the keys to unlock it, but did not bring her glasses.

When she got to the tomb something startled her inside the tomb, a sight of something. Wasting no time, she pushed against the locked doors to widen the crack, and through the crack she saw something white pass by, something like white cloth.

She rushed back to her cabin to get her glasses, and returned. This is probably the wrong order, but it is how I remembered it. There were so many small details she wanted me to know.

before marble slab was added
She then unlocked and entered the tomb. Now in those days, in 1969, there was no marble slab covering the bare earth that covered Baba's crypt. Rather the earth was exposed, and thus would be covered with a sheet or blanket. Over the blanket would be placed a jar of dhuni ash that people who came to bow down at Baba's tomb would place on their forehead.

Now when she entered the tomb she found many things out of order. The jar with the dhuni ash, that had been set on the blanket, had been set aside. And the blanket that had covered him the night before, held down by this jar, was thrown back. She said it looked just as it looks when someone throws back a cover to get out of bed.

Now the next thing that was different was that the earth had dropped six inches at one end. So it was uneven, sloping down. And on the bare earth where no blanket covered it there was a mark. It looked like a mark drawn in the earth by a finger.

The rest of the story is as anyone can read it. What is missing, however, is any mention of this mark.

I was very interested in the mark, and that is the point of my telling this story, and I'll return to it. But first let me summarize the rest of the story for those who don't know it.

Mansari checked the windows to make sure they were still locked from inside, and saw that the tomb had not been disturbed. So she sent the night watchman to go down the hill and get Padri who was in Lower Meherabad. Padri was an old disciple of Baba, one of his earliest, who was in charge of Meherabad. He had also been Baba's principal carpenter. The night watchman went and returned without Padri, explaining that Padri said he could not come immediately. Upset by this she told the night watchman to return down the hill with instructions to tell Padri to come immediately no matter what. Padri, as I remember it, had a very bad headache that morning that delayed him. The written version is that he was bathing, but I remember he also had a bad headache that must have slowed him.

Mansari guarded the tomb in the meantime. At last Padri appeared and entered the tomb with Mansari. She said nothing and let him observe. He took a quick look and said, "The crypt broke. Let's just smooth it out."

So, obeying Padri, Mansari got down on her knees on one side, Padri on the other, and they began to spread the earth out to make it even with their hands. But the moment they began to spread the earth a fragrance came up as if out of the earth. Mansari immediately recognized the fragrance as being one that one would sometimes experience in Baba's presence. And she burst out the word, "King!" That's all she said. She explained to me that this was her word for Baba. But she saw that Padri too could smell this fragrance. Padri then said, after they had smoothed the earth, "Let's close up the tomb and see if we can preserve this fragrance for a while before it goes away." So they did. They closed the tomb back up to retain the fragrance.

But in a few hours the fragrance began to spread from the tomb, and after a while it covered the whole hill. And for a week villagers who had come to hear of this, would come from the surrounding area and day after day would bow down at the tomb, taking Baba's special darshan.

And after a week of this, the fragrance stopped. And on that day William Donkin, an old disciple of Baba, died.

That's the story.

Most of this story is written, though with minor differences in my telling. But what is not mentioned in other versions is the mark.

So here I was hearing the story in 1975 at 15 years old, alone with Mansari in her kitchen. I asked her to describe the mark to me. She said it looked like it had been drawn by a finger in the earth, but she could not describe it. So I offered her my sketch book and pen, "Why don't you draw it for me?" Mansari recoiled from the paper. "No, I can't draw." I told her I was sure she could, and it did not have to be good, just to show me what was drawn in the soil. She refused again, and said that she got an "F" in art in school, and could not draw a single thing. So then I said, "That's fine, you just draw it badly for me, and then I will draw what I think you might have meant until I get it right." Amazingly she agreed to this. She took my paper in hand, and my rapidograph pen, and began to draw. She drew it twice, each time struggling. Just twice (though there was an additional first try she abandoned). I must say she was right. She could not make a mark follow her thought, she could not draw at all. However, after she had tried twice I took back the paper and as promised began to draw my guess of what she meant beside her attempt as she watched. No for the first one, no, no. "Yes. that's it," she said. "This is it?" I asked carefully. "Yes, that is it."

So what was this drawing?

For years I kept her own drawings and mine, and even made a copy as the original seemed so valuable. But in time, over decades, I've lost both, as well as many other precious things. Until I can borrow a scanner I cannot redraw it and duplicate it. But this is my best shot with a simple software program.


Mansari: Did He Leave the Tomb?

How Baba's Tombstone Happened

Samadhi of Meher Baba at Wikipedia


  1. Hey Chris,
    Thanks so much for telling this story. So many great memories of Mansari in her kitchen. You always amaze me. Keep it up.

  2. fascinating and meta-mysterious
    it was stories that let me know Who Baba was/is; the first Baba book I read was The God Man.
    the stories may only be as an interface, for us, but they certainly do intrigue, and draw me to wonder.
    so I appreciate reading yours/hers.

  3. Thanks for the enjoyable tale, Chris. On first glance at your rendition of the mark, my thought was that this resembles (in a general schematic way) the main dome of the Samadhi itself).

    The story also felt reminiscent of the tale, in the New Testament, when Jesus' close disciples were startled to find his body missing from the cave where it had rested for 3 days -- concluding that he had gotten up and departed (generally interpreted in the theological context of what Christians term "the Resurrection").

    One thing I'm curious about is the approximate date connected with this anecdote. Of course Meher Baba passed away January 31, 1969, and I believe he was interred February 7. The "Last Darshan" ran from something like April to June of that year. Can you place, in terms of approximate month, when this event is believed to have occurred? Was it (do I have this right) between February 7 and April of 1969? Or was it sometime after June of 1969?


    1. ps -- oh excuse me, you already said that it was "a few months after the 1969 Darshan" -- very good.

    2. According to Judith Garbett, Lives of Love (1998), pp. 3-4 the date this event happened would have been August 6, 1969.

  4. Jai Meher Baba. Very nice story Chris. Thank you very much.

  5. I remember when Mansari told us this story, I don't remember the mark, but I do remember her relating it to Donkin's death as if it occurred on the same night he died. Does this make sense in terms of when the marble was placed? He did'nt die until august. She said the covering was pulled back like someone had gotten out of bed.

    1. The story of the marble stone can be found here:

      It mentions that the marble stone was set in place some months after Baba was interred.

  6. A very charming story, Chris. And it brings to my memory an incident that happened in Vancouver, BC a few years back when my husband, Raj and I, hosted the Vancouver Premotsav (Sahavas). Our guest was Irwin Luck and we were hosting the sahavas in our backyard.

    I was a bit nervous because Irwin was going to stay with us during the two-day sahavas and I wasn't sure what I was to cook for him, whether he liked Indian food, etc. Moreover, we lived in an apartment so space was an issue (or so I thought). My husband kept telling me to relax. He said Baba lived in smaller spaces - it is not the space that matters, it is how I show my hospitality. Anyways, I was finding it hard to relax.

    The day before the Sahavas, my husband came into the kitchen to prepare tea for both of us in the morning in the microwave. I got a bit upset when I saw dirty dishes in the sink and couldn't find mugs and so there was a bit of venting going on from my side. All of a sudden from the corner of my eye I saw a swish of white cloth (almost like the bottom of Baba's sadra) and I turned and said, "Did you see that?" My husband turned to me and said, "Do you see this?" and he pointed to the microwave. He had just washed two mugs, filled them with water and had opened the microwave to place the mugs . In the microwave, were two mugs with steaming hot water! Jai Baba!

  7. If you flip that image, its a bird flying, and if you keep it, it looks like a dome or a mountain.
    Jai Baba

  8. it's Baba's mustache -- Jai Meher Baba!

  9. Great story, looks like a bell

    1. First thought it looks like Baba's profile 2nd thought the top of the dome on the tomb and it went on from there. What I loved best in this story which I just read for the first time wast that you were thought to be lucky the Monkey by Mansari. How could you give up that picture of Baba with Lucky knowing this. It sure makes me deeply wonder how and why I had such love for the Monkey which was one of the main happenings that brought me to Baba. How do you feel about having been Lucky the Monkey???

    2. Well of course I don't really think I was Lucky, Norina Matchabelli's monkey. I always took Mansari to be kidding with me. I was a gangly teenager, kind of like a spider monkey, and she would laugh when she would say it. She liked me a lot, and I liked the joke, as it made me feel she liked me. She was the only mandali to notice me, and to give me a nickname. So I always liked Mansari best. (: