In April 1923, Merwan Saheriar Irani, who was called Meher Baba by his followers, led a group of his followers about 6 miles out the Dhond Road from the city of Ahmednagar to a remote location near the small farming village of Arangaon. He stopped near a small shrine to the Muslim saint Gilori Shah that was situated near an old British outpost from World War I which had fallen into disrepair. Arangaon had been a regionally important place of pilgrimage as far back as the 9th or 10th century when a Hindu holy man named Vithoba had lived there, and where a small temple in his honor had been constructed. Several centuries later in the 17th century, a saint named Buaji Bua, who is credited with a number of miraculous actions, also lived in Arangaon. According to legend, Buaji Bua buried himself alive in Vithoba's temple. Even to the present day, pilgrims visit the temple in Arangaon for blessings.
Without revealing his reasons, Meher Baba decided to stay at the old British outpost with a few of his followers. The owner later donated the land to Meher Baba for his use, and the settlement became known as Meherabad, or, literally, the "flourishing place of compassion."
When Meher Baba arrived on the Meherabad site, there was a stone water tank on the top of a small hill (Upper Meherabad), and several small stone buildings at the foot of the hill across some railroad tracks (Lower Meherabad). The water tank was used originally by Meher Baba for periods of seclusion, meditation, and fasting. Over the years, other structures were added. In 1924, a small hut was constructed for Meher Baba's use in Lower Meherabad that became known as the Jhopdi. Meher Baba slept and often spent periods of seclusion in the Jhopdi. On June 26, 1925, Meher Baba declared to his followers that he would observe silence, beginning July 10. At that time, he said he would remain silent for a period of 1 year, but from the point he emerged from the Jhopdi on July 10, 1925, he did not utter a spoken word right up until his death in 1969. At first, Meher Baba communicated by means of written notes but also began to spell out messages on an English alphabet board. Later he dispensed with the alphabet board, and communicated exclusively by means of a unique set of hand gestures.
In 1927, Meher Baba had a pit excavated near the original water tank building. He continued his periods of seclusion in this pit. Eventually stone walls and a tin roof were added, and in 1938 the tin was removed and the structure was covered with a dome. At that time, Meher Baba declared that this building would be his tomb or samadhi. On the four corners at the base of the dome there were symbols of four great religious traditions, including a Christian cross, an Islamic crescent moon, a Zoroastrian firepot, and a replica of a Hindu temple. Over the door is inscribed one of Meher Baba's well-known teachings: "Mastery Through Servitude."
In Lower Meherabad, a free clinic was built, which continues to operate for the benefit of the local villagers and pilgrims. In 1927, the Meher Ashram School for Boys and the Hazrat Babajan Girl's School were opened. Some of the boys who preferred meditation to the formal academic curriculum were taught separately in what became known as the Prem Ashram. These schools continued until 1929. In 1937, Meher Baba opened an ashram for what he called "Godintoxicated souls" or Masts. Many of these Masts were not conscious of the world around them and incapable of caring for themselves. Meher Baba would wash them and feed them personally. In addition, Meher Baba often had programs at Meherabad and around India in which he would wash the feet of lepers and bow down to them.
Despite Meher Baba's dislike of publicity of any kind, he attracted followers from around the world during his lifetime. Since his death in 1969, many pilgrims from around the world have visited his samadhi at Meherabad. Large annual gatherings are held at Meherabad on Meher Baba's birthday (February 25), on Silence Day (July 10), and on the day he died (January 31). At Meherabad, there is currently a pilgrim center that can house 52 people, but because of the huge increase in the numbers of visitors from all over the world, a new pilgrim center is under construction that will house 600 visitors to the tomb of Meher Baba once it is opened in 2006.