(1894 to 1969)
Merwan Sheriar Irani, known around the world as Meher Baba, was born on February 25, 1894, in Poona, India. He was the second son of Shireen and Sheriar Irani, who were both Persians of the Zoroastrian faith. Young Merwan was a happy child, and led a normal and active life. He attended a Jesuit Catholic high school in Poona, and in 1911 he enrolled in Deccan College, also in Poona. As a student, he enjoyed literature and poetry. Some of his favorite authors were Shakespeare, Shelley and Wordsworth, but he was especially fond of the Sufi poet Hafiz.
While he was at Deccan College he came into contact with Hazrat Babajan, an old Mohammedan woman. Babajan was one of the five Perfect Masters at the time (a select group of individuals responsible for precipitating the descent of God into human form at the beginning of each Avataric Age). It was in 1913 that she gave Merwan God-realization, awakening him to his divine identity as the Avatar of the Age.
Afterward, Merwan remained in a state of God-consciousness. While in the state, he appeared to his family and friends to have been stricken by a form of madness. During this time he was drawn to the other four Perfect Masters, who helped him to regain normal consciousness, while simultaneously remaining at one with God. Over the next seven years Merwan held several rather menial jobs. He was a manager of a theatrical company for a short period of time, and later on he took over his father's teashop.
Merwan Irani embarked upon his spiritual work and public life. In 1921, at the age of 25, he brought together his first followers. One of the early members of his circle was responsible for giving him the name Meher Baba, meaning Compassionate Father.
Baba's early disciples were called Mandali. The Mandali came from many different classes and religions, creating a very unusual and challenging environment in a caste-conscious and religiously segregated society such as India. In 1923, Meher Baba established a small community called Meherabad, near the city of Ahmednagar. This community contained a free school, a free hospital, as well as shelters for the poor. Meherabad is also the location of Baba's tomb, and remains a place of worldwide pilgrimage for his many followers.
On July 10, 1925, Meher Baba began observing silence. He remained silent for the remaining 44 years of his life. Initially he dictated his discourses and messages through an alphabet board, but eventually he developed a unique set of hand gestures that the Mandali translated for him.