By Margaret Magnus
January 31 is the annual celebration called Amartithi (deathless day) commemorating the day Avatar Meher Baba dropped his physical form on January 31, 1969, at 12:15 p.m. at His residence in Meherazad near Pimpalgaon village in India.
Several times prior to dropping His body, Meher Baba had issued the following instructions to His mandali (close disciples): “Whenever I may drop my body, bring it to Meherabad and place it in the Samadhi [tomb shrine].”
PLAY “BEGIN THE BEGUINE”
The song was played a number of times starting in Meherazad while the mandali were waiting for an ambulance from Booth Hospital to transport Meher Baba 20 kilometers to His Samadhi in Meherabad.
After arriving in Meherabad, the ambulance stopped opposite Baba’s tin cabin next to the Samadhi while the crypt was being readied. The stretcher was placed inside the cabin just opposite the door. Meher Baba’s sister Mani brought the record player and played “Begin the Beguine” inside the cabin.
STRAINS OF "BEGIN THE BEGUINE"
Later when the crypt was ready, Meher Baba was placed in the Samadhi on a wooden board. A pillow was placed under His head. Baba's hair was gently brushed. The scarf that was wrapped around His head and over His ears and chin was rearranged.
The bed sheets that were wrapped around Him were folded neatly, and then blocks of ice were put in the space between the wooden board and the crypt wall.
The ice surrounded Baba on all sides and yet did not touch His body. A garland was put around Baba's head. With His eyelids closed, He appeared, at first glance, to be sleeping peacefully. It was starting to get dark so a lantern was hung in the Tomb. Strains of “Begin the Beguine” wafted from inside His final resting place.
It was the Leslie (“Hutch”) Hutchinson version of “Begin the Beguine” that was played as Meher Baba was placed in His tomb. Another version of the song by Chick Henderson that had originally been played for Meher Baba had worn out and been replaced the previous December with the Hutchinson rendition.
Mani said that she played the song “…in Baba’s room [at Meherazad], in the hall, in the cabin [on Meherabad Hill], and sometimes in the Samadhi – all together at Least seven times [as per Baba’s instructions].”
MEHER BABA’S FAVORITE SONG
“It was in August 1961 when Baba sent word to England for a search to be made of the original recording of the Beguine. It was the only one of its kind in existence of this particular version – it was almost impossible to come by, like searching for the Holy Grail. Eventually it was found and Mani wrote, ‘It’s the end of our united search. It’s the perfect one, and it made our Perfect One happy.’
“Begin the Beguine” was part of the musical Jubilee, which opened in New York City on October 12, 1935. Moss Hart and Cole Porter wrote the musical while on a voyage around the world.
THE SPLENDOR OF GOD
“The ‘Beguine’ describes the splendour of God, who knows everything,” said Fred Marks in a 1984 talk.
“Beloved Baba knew we would forget Him, and He left His need in this song. He even allowed it to be played when He dropped His bodily form, because it stressed the importance of how He needs us to know He waits for someone to breathe His name and tell Him, ‘I love you,’ as a true lover would tell His Beloved. He needs us to need Him.”
In his concluding comments, Marks noted, “The message of the Beguine renews the hopes of aspirants and encourages them to further effort and struggle. We may not understand Baba’s way of working, but by effort and struggle and by loving Him more, we receive more of His grace and love.”
This is a lovely version of "Begin the Beguine" with Fred Astaire and Elanor Powelll dancing from the movie musical "Broadway Melody of 1940."
- Thoughts on "Begin the Beguine," by Fred Marks, reprinted from The Awakener Magazine online, November 10, 1984.
- I Know But Too Well What They Mean, by Max Reif, reprinted from To the Friends of Meher Baba newsletter, Summer 2010
- Interpretation of "Begin the Beguine," by Patricia Sargent, reprinted from Glow International, August 1974.
- When They Begin the Beguine, by Bill Cliff. Source: Bal Natu, Showers of Grace.
 Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher: The Biography of the Avatar of the Age Meher Baba, p. 5404 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Trust. All quotes and page numbers are from the Revised Online Edition at lordmeher.org.
 Ibid., p. 5404.
 Ibid., p. 4385.
 Ibid., p. 5406.
 Ibid., p. 5406.
 Ibid., p. 5407.
 David Fenster, Mehera-Meher: A Divine Romance, Volume III. (Hyderabad, India: Meher Mownavani Publications, 2003), pp. 488-489. © David Fenster.
 Ibid, p. 489.
 Fred Marks, “Thoughts on Begin the Beguine,” in The Awakener Magazine, vol. 21, no. 2, (1985), p.40. © 1985 by the Universal Spiritual League in America, Inc.
 William McBrien, Cole Porter: A Biography. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 178.
 Fred Marks, “Thoughts on Begin the Beguine,” p. 40.
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 42.