Amma’s 53rd Birthday Celebrations
27 September 2006 — Amritapuri
Amma’s birthday began in the Brahma mahurta with a Maha Ganapati Homa performed by Brahmasri Surya Kaladi Jaya Suryan Bhatathiripad. In fact, only two hours prior to the start of the homa, Amma was still out and about, cutting vegetables and checking into the preparation of rice and sambar for the birthday feast, which would be provided for free to the lakhs of people sure to attend.
It was at around 9:30 when Amma came down from her room and walked through the massive crowd to the stage. At this point, Amritapuri was literally a sea of people. Swamiji performed Amma’s pada-puja and then led everyone in the chanting of Amma’s 108 names. The whole time Amma sat with her eyes closed, humbly accepting the worship by her children.
When the pada-puja was concluded, all of Amma’s sannyasin disciples laid garlands around her neck, as well as did Amma’s parents, Suganandan Acchan and Damayanthi Amma.
It was then time for Amma’s Birthday Address. “Amma does not see this occasion as a celebration of her birth. Amma sees it as a day to make her children happy and to start new service activities,” Amma began. “Amma’s essence and wealth are her children. May the oil lamps of selflessness and divine love that shine in your hearts become the light of the world.”
Amma went on to address the current world situation, saying how wars, violence and terrorist attacks will only come to an end when hatred, loathing and desire for revenge are eradicated. “For this to happen, we must awaken to our true nature, which is love. This love should reverberate in each and every aspect of our life,” Amma said.
Amma went on to speak about the problem of mankind’s unrestrained exploitation of Nature, love in the modern world, anger, the importance of values and dharma, and the nature of the mind.
At one point, Amma addressed the soaring suicide rate in Kerala, which is particularly high amongst farmers who become mired in debt after harvest failures. “The Ashram wants to do many other things for such people,” Amma said. “If there is cooperation also from the government and society, a lot of change can take place. We need to understand the gravity of this situation. Amma’s compassionate children should be ready to render service towards this cause. Otherwise this trend will lead us to disaster.”
When Amma finished her address, it was time for the public function and the inauguration of the Ashram’s new charitable projects.
The public function began with a welcoming address by Swami Amritaswarupananda. Swamiji spoke about Amma as an international unifying force who is bringing light to all corners of the world through her vast charitable mission. “Her children are not of one land, one religion or caste,” Swamiji said. “Just look around you. They are of all lands, of all faces, of all religions, all walks of life. Only when the people of the world recognize that they are but diverse children of the same mother will this world know permanent peace. Only then will this world know brotherhood. Only then will this world know the love that has long ago been rendered the stuff of fables.”
The first inauguration was the fourth and final phase of the Amrita Tsunami Relief & Rehabilitation Program in Kerala. With the help of S. Sharma, the Minister for Fisheries & Registration; M.V. Rajasekharan, the Union Minister of State for Planning; and C. Divakaran, the Minister for Food & Civil Supplies, 30 Alappad villagers were given the keys to the homes the Ashram had built for them to replace the one’s that were destroyed by the tsunami. These 30 people were representative of the entire phase of 342 houses.
Conveying the Kerala Government’s respect for Amma, S. Sharma, then spoke about how Amma has become the refuge of thousands following the tsunami, “The sea is the mother. When the sea became violent, the mother on the earth [Amma] became the sole-support for the children.”
Next, C. Divakaran officially distributed 100 sewing machines to local women, as part of the Ashram’s initiative to help villagers become more financially independent. Said Divakaran, “Whoever has the fortune to meet Amma takes with them unforgettable memories.”
The Ashram’s newly founded Amrita Sree program (Amrita Self-Reliance, Employment & Empowerment) was launched next. This project to ensure self-reliance to unemployed youth was officially inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Planning M.V. Rajasekharan.
Said Rajasekharan. “In today’s world, which is filled with faithlessness, violence, corruption, Amma is the source of light. Of 43 ancient cultures, only India’s is still alive. The reason for this is the teachings of the Rishis including Amma. The work of Amma for love and service is always relevant. The help that Amma gave to the tsunami victims by providing the needed means for livelihood is a perfect example of service.”
This year’s Amrita Keerthi Puraskar, the Ashram’s award to outstanding contributors to Vedic culture, went to Pratibha Ray [link], the novelist from Orissa. The award was presented by the living legend of Malayalam film, director Padma Bhushan Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The award carries with it a cash prize of Rs. 123,456, a commendation by the Ashram and a handcrafted statuette of Saraswati Devi crafted by the artist Nambootiri.
In a speech, Gopalakrishnan said, “Amma is the glory and light. Amma is compassion, light, consciousness and fullness. I offer my pranams to Amma.” Then speaking about Pratibha Ray, the filmmaker said, “She has given a new face to the characters of the stories of the Puranas.”
Upon receiving the award, Pratibha Ray said, “Amriteswaryai has become the world’s Hrdayeshwari. [The Goddess of Amrita has become the Goddess of the heart for the world.] Spirituality is the power of India. Love is the only thing that can free us from the problems and obstacles of life. I am so happy to receive this award from the embodiment of selfless love.”
Four new books were released on the occasion: A Matruvani Birthday Supplement commemorating Amma’s 53rd Birthday, a new book by Swami Ramakrishnananda titled The Secret of Inner Peace, an English version of Satyam Sanatanam, a book of Amma’s teachings on Sanatana Dharma, and Singhalese version of Amma’s biography.
K. Karunakaran, the former leader of the opposition, released the Matruvani Birthday Supplement, giving the first copy to film-music composer Sreekumaran Thampi. Said Karunakaran, “For the problems of the world Amma is the cure-all medicine. She is different from other sannyasis. She is the mother of the world, seeing the whole world as one. There is no one else. Having Amma’s darshan was the greatest fortune for me.”
Acharya Narendra Bhushan, a former Amrita Keerthi Puraskar winner, gave the first copy of Amma’s biography in Singhalese to former Kerala Minister C.V. Padmarajan. And the first copy of Satyam Sanatanam was given by Pratibha Ray to Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Swami Ramakrishnananda’s new book was released by former Amrita Keerthi Puraskar winner P. Narayana Kurup, who gave the first copy to Asian Net Managing Editor K.P. Mohanan.
This year, there were five top-rank holders from Kerala University, studying in AITEC the Ashram educational institution. These students were presented with certificates of honour.
The final segment of the public function was the mass marriage of 51 impoverished couples by Amma. The Ashram provided all the wedding saris, dhotis and shawls, as well as the gold ornaments and traditional feast.
The public function concluded around 1:30 p.m. at which point Amma immediately began giving darshan to one and all.