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47

 

Some of the semi-ruined walls and village doorways show ancient artistic design and workmanship side by side with corrugated iron roofing, reflecting the poverty of the inmates, many of whom, despite their rags, wore gay saris and gay turbans, or white dhotis and headdress; and children, like their elders, had necklaces, rings and bangles, for everyone wished to look his best for the occasion.

 

One saw and felt that Baba is one with them. Has He not declared to us, "I am the poorest of the poor, as I am also the richest of the rich."

 

As we approached the quarters where the untouchables live, the outcasts of Indian society, Baba spoke of their plight and abject poverty which their homes reveal. He showed us the dwindling pool of water where, when the bed is dry, they dig below the surface for any moisture available. In one home, which Baba had had built, lives the cook for Meherabad, who is in Baba's permanent employment there, a standing challenge to the caste system. Thirty years ago, Baba declared, striking His own body before a protesting Brahmin, "I have taken this body that I may destroy the caste system root and branch."

 

At the entrance to the village, Baba was welcomed at the temple into which we followed Him through the low doorway where men, women and children were gathered. Chairs were provided for the Master and the Mandali and Westerners, who marked the zeal with which all approached Him, including the youngest, and their joy at His loving touch and gracious smile when their turn for ladhus (sweets) brought them the Master's hand also. Darshan culminated in an excited scramble for bananas which Baba threw singly, here and there, amongst those seated on the floor; His animated face and figure radiated grace, love and happiness as He watched the young­sters vying with each other, unconscious of the spiritual significance of His welcome gifts.

 

Opposite the entrance to the temple is an alcove for a small-wheeled ritual car which is used once a year and drawn through the village streets by eighteen people, with the priest standing erect. As we left the temple, we could see Baba who had mounted the vehicle, seated Himself in full view facing the people. Many would doubtless remember Him there each year as their ceremony recurred.

 

There was also one other incident in the corporate life of the village when a small group of girls danced and sang in unison on a raised platform,

 

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