Saturday, September 6, 2014

How tall was Meher Baba?

If you ask Baba's height you will get many answers. But the most accurate answer is 5' 6".

The sources are many and are in agreement. However, there are also reasons for the confusion.

To begin, Baba's 1930s passport is incorrectly marked, describing him as 5' 8". This may be why you sometimes hear that he was 5' 8".

Meher Baba's passport in the 1930s, describing him as 5' 8"
The second reason you hear other heights is that after his two automobile accidents, Baba was an inch shorter. One of his doctors, and a mandali, Rano Gayley, measured Baba in 1963 and found him to be 5' 5". (Lord Meher, 1986 print edition, p. 6214)

Now it is confusing that Baba was in fact 5' 6" in the 1930s, for in the photos below we see Baba beside some celebrities whose heights are well documented, from his travels in the early 1930s.

Baba with actress Virginia Bruce and Adi K. Irani
In the above photo Baba is seen beside actress Virginia Bruce. Bruce was known to be 5' 6", same height as Baba. It does not seem that her heels (that we plainly see) would account for her apparently much greater height. I have not been able to resolve this problem personally. At the very most Virginia appears to be wearing three inch heels.

However, she looks to be much more than that taller than Baba. Oh well.

In the next photo, Baba is beside actress Tallulah Bankhead, who is known to have been 5' 3".

Meher Baba with Tallulah Bankhead, Universal Studios lot

If I were to guess, I would say they were the same height. However, we can't see her heels. Three inch heels would do it in this case, bringing them eye to eye.

Now as long as I am on the subject of Baba's physical appearance, which is hardly more than trivia, but fun trivia, I couldn't help notice another indication on Baba's 1930s passport. It mentions the scar I have often heard of between his eyebrows, I have heard left from the stone that Upasni Maharaj through at him in 1915, when Baba was 21, the stone that brought him down to gross consciousness after Babajan's kiss.

In the passport you can plainly see it listed as a distinguishing mark.

Click to enlarge if necessary
All my life I have heard of this scar, but could never see it in a photograph, until recently. This is the only photo I know of where I can personally plainly see the scar between Baba's eyes.

And this was near the end of his life, taken at Meherazad in 1967.

To sum up this post about Baba's height and physical characteristics, I thought this description by Charles Purdom from his 1937 biography of Meher Baba, Perfect Master, was appropriate. For it truly gives us a picture of not just his physique, but his full persona, so easily seen in so many films of him.
Baba is a small man, five feet six inches in height, slight in build, with a rather large head, or a head that appears to be large, an aquiline nose, and an olive complexion. He is extremely animated, has a mobile face, constantly smiles, and has expressive hands and gestures. He creates the opposite of a sense of remoteness or strangeness, making an immediately friendly appeal to those who meet him. He is indeed disarming in his obvious simplicity, and the atmosphere that surrounds him might be described as that of innocence. He is childlike and mischievous as well as innocent. I discovered, and others told me, that he is a superb actor with quickly changing moods. (Purdom, Perfect Master, pp. 230-236)

Update 9-7-14:

I have added some height lines that remove the optical illusion that Virginia Bruce is taller than Baba than her heel height. Virginia and Baba were the same height (5' 6") and with the lines we see the heels do in fact add that much height increase.

Meher Baba & Virginia Bruce, both 5' 6"


  1. I love this post! I remember Mehera telling me Baba was 5'6" and thought he might be 5'7". Purdom makes his statement with authority. I know Baba was NOT 5'8". But He did have the presence of a giant at times!

    1. Thank you Vesta. I love that Baba was 5' 6". If I had to pick a height I would have picked it. Modern scholarship now says that Napoleon Bonaparte, long believed to have been 5' 2", was in fact 5' 6", which was average for his time and place.

      Modern male celebrities who are 5' 6" include Dustin Hoffman, Justin Bieber, Daniel Radcliffe, and Elijah Wood, Superstar Tom Cruise is 5' 7".

  2. this is purely a fun comment, seeing Baba's ht. 1.68 reminded me of the phi ratio (1.618) and in the language of geometry phi means God, the 'divine proportion' found in creation (but that would make Him 5'3'') -ahh well ...