Maharani Shanta Devi Gaikwad
Shantadevi was born into a Maratha family from Kolhapur. Her father, Sardar Hausrkar Mansinhrao Subbarao of Hasur, took her to Vadodara city when she was only 13 years old to meet Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. The Maharaja was immediately impressed with Shantadevi and arranged her engagement to his grandson, Pratapsinh Gaekwad. They were married on January 4, 1929.
Shantadevi joined the Gaekwad royal family as the wife of Pratapsinh Gaekwad, the Prince of Baroda State. She later became Rajmata Maharani Shantadevi Gaekwad, the senior most member of the Gaekwad Royal family.
Maharani Shantadevi died on May 22, 2002, at the age of 88. She was survived by her two sons, Ranjitsinh Gaekwad and Sangramsinh Gaekwad, and five daughters. She founded the Shantadevi Hospital as a charitable project to serve humanity.
Maharani Shantadevi offered her Palacial Bungalow Guruprasad in Bund Garden area Pune to Meher Baba for his stay and darshan programs, which later became the host of the East West Gathering in 1962. Baba would come and stay at Guruprasad every year, and his devotees have fond memories of his Guruprasad stays. After Baba dropped his body the Guruprasad Bungalow was reconstructed as an apartment complex and a Memorial room with a private garden is built using the same material from Guruprasad where Meher Baba lived, for darshan and weekly gathering of his followers, who come to visit from all around the world and bow down to Baba’s Chair.
By Niket Kale
Story of Guruprasad
History of Guruprasad
ERUCH: Then we come to Guruprasad, this place, it has also its own history. This bungalow, this palace belongs to a very devoted Baba lover, Maharani, Her Highness Maharani Shanta Devi Gaikwad of Baroda. May I request the Maharani just to please be seated here. Shanta ben. Baba has instructed me to call her sister, Shanta ben [pilgrims greet Shanta ben]. She has kept this property at the disposal of Baba and Baba lovers. Every summer Baba would pay a visit here for 3 months and she looks after the property. She keeps the place clean and tidy. She has kept the servants here. She has kept the home, the currents, the lights and everything at Baba’s disposal. The history of it is, one day I don’t know I’m very weak with dates, years and figures please, so be indulgent if I am wrong. One day sometime I think, Adi do you remember the year? When was it?
ADI: [laughing] I don’t remember.
ERUCH: Somehow or the other Baba wanted a place in Poona. [Inaudible] A place in Poona. A good place in Poona. Ramchandra Gadekar, his father, he went searching for a place and he spotted this bungalow all locked and all that. And he approached the manager over here. The manager said that the keeper is someone else. And he approached there. And [inaudible] who is also a lover of Baba sent a telegram to Maharani Shanta Devi that Meher Baba wants to occupy it. Well what inspired her, what made her [inaudible]. She sent a telegram saying that the bungalow can be occupied any day, anytime by you. And for any number, any duration.
Baba was very happy with that. Baba made me send a telegram as far as I recollect. Or was it a visit? I don’t know. That He will come and occupy this bungalow on one condition. That the owner of this place should not be here. That no visitors should come here. Because naturally this place is kept open. Before giving it to Baba, was kept open for the relatives of the Maharaja of Baroda. Relatives of the Maharani of Baroda and their friends and the other Raja’s and Rani’s. They would come and stay here for some days. So Baba made this condition. She agreed to that condition.
Baba was very happy. And since then Baba blessed this place and said that Guruprasad will be a place of great pilgrimage. People from all over the world will come to it. Baba asked Shanta ben as Baba has instructed me to call her the sister, my sister. Shanta ben, ben means sister. So Baba instructed Shanta ben to keep this at the disposal of Baba lovers, the pilgrims, lover pilgrims coming from all over the world and this is the place. It’s kept open and we find that you have sown the seed by coming across the oceans to be at Guruprasad for Baba’s darshan. It’s a place of pilgrimage. You have made the first pilgrimage. And I bow down to the love of my sister Shanta ben.
Guruprasad, Poona, India
1969 Great Darshan