(27 Sep '05)
Amma’s birthday celebrations
27 September 2005 — Amritapuri
Some 200,000 people descended on Amritapuri for Amma’s birthday this year. The seemingly gigantic bhajan hall was deemed too small a venue, and a special pandal was therefore erected behind the hall, with a capacity to seat nearly 50,000 people. But in the early hours of the morning, when Ganapati Homa was performed by Surya Kaladi Jaisuryan Bhattitiripad, that pandal was already nearly full.
At 8:45 a.m. Amma walked to the dais. She offered her prostrations to everyone assembled, and then Swami Amritaswarupananda performed the traditional padapuja. He was assisted by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana. When the padapuja was complete, the senior swamis all garlanded Amma, as she sat in meditation, with hands folded in pranam.
This was followed by Amma’s benedictory address. (read more)
Amma said: “In Amma’s world, there is no such thing as birth or death. So for her how can there be a birthday? Amma sees this event simply as an opportunity to love and serve her children. Amma isn’t looking at the number of her children who have come together, but at the unity of their hearts.”
The foundation for Amma’s birthday address was a solemn one, as Amma immediately began recalling all the tragedies of the past year: the tsunami, the floods in Mumbai, the recent hurricanes in America, the various terrorist attacks that have taken place. Amma said that when she thinks back on all these events she feels that the whole world has fallen into the grip of an octopus of fear.
Amma then told everyone that when faced with such trying times we have two choices: to runaway or to confront them by kindling the strength born of love within us. “If we choose the first option, all of our strength will be drained, and we will be blown about like dry leaves in the wind. It’s impossible to escape one’s own shadow. One who tries to run away from it will simply collapse due to exhaustion. This shadow of fear will only disappear with the dawning of the light of love. Love is our strength. Love is our refuge.”
The Vice Chairman of the Math, Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, officially welcomed the gathering, which included His Excellency Sri. R.L. Bhatia, the Governor of Kerala; Sri. Prakash Jaiswal, the Honourable Minister of State for Home Affairs, Smt. K.R. Gowri Amma, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture for the Government of Kerala; Sri. Babu Divakaran, the Honourable Minister of Labour for the Government of Kerala; Sri. Jagadambika Pal, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh; Sri. Tukaram R. Patil, Member of Parliament – Maharashtra; Sri. P. Narayana Kurup, esteemed poet and literary critic.
In Swamiji’s welcoming address, he spoke of Amma as a modern spiritual leader, one who both embraces the present while holding on to the past. “Perhaps, it is in Amma that the art of embracing the new while holding on to the past has reached its perfection,” he said. “As Amma says, ‘For one who has realized their Oneness with the entire creation, what is there to reject?’ At the same time, when asked by reporters what was unique about her teachings, so as to draw so many people from around the world, Amma once responded, ‘My way is the way of Lord Krishna. The way of the Rishi parampara. There is nothing new here.’ Are these two statements a contradiction? If we think deeply we will see that, in truth, they are not. This ability of Amma’s to weave the ancient with the modern is seen throughout the educational institutions and social-welfare programmes of the Ashram. Advancements in science and technology are not only welcome, they are doggedly pursued, but with one constraint—they must be in the service of dharma and love.”
On behalf of the Ashram, His Excellency the Governor symbolically handed over keys for 550 homes to tsunami-affected people in Kerala. Speaking on the occasion, His Excellency said, “In the coming years, India will be known not for its population of 100 crores or its nuclear power, but for the far-reaching humanitarian activities of Mata Amritanandamayi.” He commended the excellent work done by the Ashram.
His Excellency also presented the Ashram’s Amritakeerti Puraskar to poet and literary critic P. Narayana Kurup. The award carries a citation, a cash award of Rs 123,456 and a handcrafted idol of Saraswati Devi crafted by noted artist Nambootiri. Upon receiving the award, the renowned poet said that he did not consider this recognition as a mere literary award, but as a blessing for his soul from one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of our times. “Now I have a great responsibility to uphold, and I assure you that I will do my best to live up to Amma’s expectations,” said Kurup.
Honourable Minister of State for Home Affairs Sri. Prakash Jaiswal symbolically handed over certificates for 150 free fishing boats, engines and nets to fishermen who had lost their means of income in the tsunami. In his address, Sri. Prakash Jaiswal said he appreciated the wonderful charitable work done by the Ashram under the guidance of Amma.
On behalf of the Governement, Smt. K. Gowri Amma received the keys for 16 tsunami-relief houses in Karunagappally Panchayat .
Sri. K. Divakaran launched the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s Matru Gramam project. The aim of the project is to reduce the dependency of village folk on fishing by providing them with other means of livelihood. Along these lines, the Ashram is training villagers in trades such as tailoring, embroidery and chappal-making and then helping them to form self-help groups.
Amma’s birthday function also saw the mass marriage of 52 impoverished couples. Amma herself solemnised these unions. The Ashram provided the wedding saris and dhotis, gold ornaments and other traditional items; the total cost of which amounted to Rs. 45,000 per couple.
Sri. Vellappalli Natesan, the General Secretary of the SNDP, also participated in the function, officially releasing a book by Amma’s disciple Swami Ramakrishnananda titled The Blessed Life. The first copy was received by Sri. Jagadambika Pal, the ex-Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
After the formal programme, Amma began giving darshan to one and all, and free food was distributed.