(17 Feb '04)
Bharata Yatra 2004
Tuesday, 17 February 2004 — Mangalore, Karnataka
The last programme Amma gave in Mangalore took place in a town hall, with less than 3,000 people in attendance. That was nine years ago. This time it was in a sports stadium, packed to near capacity—some 90,000 people.
Indeed, looking out at the sea of people that filled the stadium grounds and the majority of the bleachers, many people in Amma’s entourage were hit with a not-too-subtle feeling of having recently seen this all somewhere before. As one awed brahmachari working in the bookstall said, “It’s Mangala varsham!”
The photographer covering Amma’s programme for Prajavani , the leading Karnataka daily, was similarly blown away. “This is by far the biggest number of people to assemble for one event in Mangalore,” he said, explaining how the last thing to come anywhere close was a cricket match in 2001. Of course then the stands were not full and, being a cricket match, no one was allowed on the field.
After Her nine-year absence, the Mangalorians really went all out to welcome their beloved Amma. Upon Her arrival, 108 heart-shaped balloons were released into the air, 108 muthukudas [ceremonial parasols] lined Amma’s path and 108 women greeted Amma with the traditional offering of kalashas [brass pots containing five mango leaves, coconut and water of netravati ] and one purnakhumba . There was a brass marching band, kombhu and tuturi temple musicians, women from Maitreya Gurukula chanting the Medha Suktam , and an official Karnataka welcome from giant papier-mache pakkiraya statues, who absorb the evil eye as well as greet. From start to finish, it was the traditional way the Tulu people of Karnataka welcome God.
Amma was joined on the dais by the His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka, Sri. T.N. Chaturvedi; the Honourable Transport and District in-Charge Minister, Sri. Ramanath Rai; and the Honourable Mayor of Mangalore, Sri. Divakar.
Governor Chaturvedi distributed free pensions to 10 widows, symbolising the thousands of destitute Mangalorian women who will now begin benefiting from Amma’s Amrita Nidhi Programme. And Minister Ramanath Rai distributed keys to 10 recipients of free homes, symbolising hundreds of yet more Amritakuteeram houses the Mata Amritanandamayi Math has built in the area for the impoverished homeless.
In his welcoming speech, Governor Chaturvedi said the huge presence of people was an indication of the reverence Mangalorians hold for Amma. He said it showed “their hunger for Her darshan and Her words of wisdom.” He described Amma’s uniqueness by saying, “Amma looks at every human being as the supreme manifestation of divinity. She is the embodiment of shakti .” He praised Her efforts to uplift women’s role is society: She wants to empower women. She inspires women as such, because She is the adi-shakti , the energizing force of the entire universe.” The Honourable Governor later added, “She wants us to live in harmony with ourselves. She wants us to live in harmony with the environment. She wants us to live in harmony with each other. This is Her message.” He prayed that Amma would grace the city every year from now on during Her annual North India Tour.
Amma then gave satsang and sang bhajans —including songs in the local languages of Kannada and Tulu. Included in the set were Kannada versions of “Nilambuja Naiane” and “Jwalana Kalyana.”
The stage itself was decorated with traditional Karnataka folk art and had more floor space than a tennis court, making plenty of room for the students of the local Amrita Vidyalayam to put on their cultural performances. First, there were a series of traditional devadasi dances, where the girls held kalashas , as they moved about. Next, the children performed scenes from the stottaram Devi Mahatmyam in the Karnataka’s traditional yakshagana style, a colorful and lively form of theatre and dance.
As of this posting, the stadium was still full of Amma’s children waiting patiently for Her darshan, at 7.27 am in the morning of 18th… And Mangalavarsham was still very much in full swing!