AIDS Hospice inaugurated

25 Sept 2003, Kochi

An AIDS Hospice was inaugurated  during the Amritavarsham50 Celebrations at Kochi by Mr.Murali Manohar Joshi, Hon. Union Minister for Human Resource Development. Sri T.N.Chathurvedi, His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka and Smt. K.R. Gouri, Minister of Agriculture, Govt. of Kerala, were also present.

In his inaugural speech, Dr. Joshi expressed Amma’s greatness by saying, “We are fortunate enough to live in that century when a divine personality like Amma is moving about the globe. Divinity is manifested in the person of Amma. The Indian concept of Jagadamba [Mother of the Universe] is what Amma embodies.”

Dr. Joshi also mentioned the various services rendered by the M.A.Math, providing all basic necessities for the needy, covering health, housing, hunger and education. “While the governments lag behind in providing these facilities, Amma has worked wonders. Amma’s service to the entire humanity is fast expanding, and is wholehearted and selfless. She expects nothing in return. Divinity Herself has come to help humanity. With the starting of this hospice, She has taken care of AIDS patients, and now She is worried about the trafficking of women and children.” He concluded his speech by saying that Amma is determined to remove all forms of suffering.

The AIDS Hospice is functioning at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Amma in Finnish upper primary textbooks

21 september 2003, Amritapuri

Amma is featured in a new textbook of World Religions for 6th- to 8th-grade students in Finland. At the end of the section on Hinduism, under the title Hinduism in Finland, there is a picture of Amma giving darshan.

She is smiling in the picture. The caption for the picture reads, “Amma is a saint from India who has hundreds and thousands of followers. To help poor and needy people is important for Her. She last visited Finland in September 2002.”
Official recognition–that Amma is a Hindu saint—is indicated by the State’s Education Institution which has approved the information to be included in the school textbook. Devotees in Finland are of the opinion that this picture of Amma will awaken interest in many children.

Colours of Compassion

September 2003 — Cochin, Kerala

True art must necessarily be inspired art, and it is therefore with great anticipation that we await the ‘Colours of Compassion’ Exhibition, to be unveiled during the Amritavarsham 50- Embracing the World for Peace and Harmony celebrations in Kochi next month.

In response to the fount of inspiration that is Amma, has come an outpouring of tribute. 125 nationally and internationally renowned artists, including fifteen National Award winners and thirty-two State Award Winners, will join in publicly offering their visionary talents in honour of Amma. They will display their work portraying aspects of Amma’s remarkable life, spiritual teachings and charitable activities, in styles ranging from realistic to abstract. Sixteen traditional Indian styles will also be incorporated into the overflowing visual symphony. The artists’ brush-strokes have aspired to capture the infinite moods of Amma within 12 sq. feet of canvas.

In a special highlight of the exhibition, these artists, who will be present for the entire four day celebration, will contribute to a live show on a 250 foot canvas based on the theme ‘Love and Serve’.

This unique exhibition, the first of this scale to be organised by a private organisation in India, will be on display in the International Stadium in Kochi from 24th to 27th of September.

Artists representing the USA, Finland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Bahrain and Japan are participating including: Marja Hallen, Finland; Luise Kloos, Austria; Michiko Hasegawa, Japan; Pamela Avril, USA; Steven Doyle, USA, Sandra Spannan, Germany; Elizabeth Slomka, USA; Aaron Groff, USA; Luigi Mariani, Italy; Joseph Mavelikara, Italy; Promilla Shaw, Ireland; Bob Dodge, USA

Of the National artists participating, the list includes: Central Academy Chairman, Kerala Academy Chairman, Karnataka Academy Chairman, Arpana Kaur, Vasudeva Akkitham, Jaysree Chakra Barthi, Vijay Shinde, Jay Sarottia, Vir Munshi, Paris Mohan Kumar (one of forty painters worldwide recognized by the UN), Artist Namboodiri, Professor Kattornarayana Pillai, K. Jayapala Panikkar, B.D. Dathan, and Kala Dharan.

Principals from the following institutes will attend the Exhibition: Santhiniketan of Calcutta; Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda; J.J. School of Fine Art, Mumbai; School of Fine Arts, Delhi; Fine Arts College, Trivandrum; Abhinava Kala Vidyalaya, Pune.

Read more about Amritavarsham50

Our every need

17 September 2003,Wednesday night Amritapuri

Have you wondered how the thousands of devotees will find sanitary facilities during Mother’s birthday celebrations in Cochin? Read on.

Each night after bhajans, 150 or so devotees crowd around the stairway to Amma’s apartment to delight in Her feeding of Ram, the ashram elephant. Tonight Mother showed Her design skills as well, with strict attention to detail. Devotees also got a sewing lesson. After feeding Ram, Mother sat on the floor and was invisible to all but the persons nearest to Her. Those few who could see Her reported back to those who craned their necks to find out what in the world was going on. Finally, the words trickled back. Our beloved Amma was designing and making the prototype privacy curtain for the 3,000 pit toilets that will be provided to the 100,000 plus devotees who attend the birthday celebrations in Cochin.

For about an hour, Amma hand-stitched plastic cement bags together, instructing sevaks that they must sew the seams together facing the same way so that one side of the privacy curtain will lay flat. In this way, Mother told the swami that the curtains will be “beautiful” for the devotees. She also kept measuring the height of the sewn bags, making sure that the final curtain would be high enough to provide privacy for the tallest westerner. The final design, as of this night at least, will be smoothly surfaced walls eight feet high.

More than 3,000 bags have been collected for this purpose but this is not enough. More must be found. As bhajans were sung tonight, a team of workers washed the bags. Finding that they could not wash them quickly, the sevaks finally resorted to rinsing the plastic bags in the backwater near the ashram. When Mother was told that the bags were too wet to sew, She just declared that this was not a problem and that it could be done.

Beginning at 10:30 tonight, volunteers will be doing sewing seva for our Amma and for the birthday celebrants.

Who could possibly say that Amma does not provide for our every need?

– Helen (Triguna) Besse

No one But You

17 september 2003,Amritapuri

For many of Amma’s devotees around the world, the fact that Amma speaks Malayalam has not been a barrier, because our Mother speaks the Universal language of Love. Even so, when Amma started singing “Iswar Tumhi Daya Karo” in French during Her Reunion Island visit, the news spread like wildfire – and so during the U.S. Tour, She began singing in English. Recently at Amritapuri, much to the delight of the international devotees staying here, Amma has sung a devotional song in a different language every night during the evening bhajans.

Thus far, Amma has sung “Iswar Tumhi Daya Karo” in English, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, German, and Arabic. Every evening, devotees wait with anticipation wondering what language She will sing in that night. Without fail, the devotees break into thunderous applause when She finishes.

Devotees from the different countries who have known Amma for many years are asked to translate the Malayalam bhajan into their language. Then, the bhajan is transliterated phonetically so Amma can read it, and a recording of the bhajan in the new language is made, so She can listen to the pronunciation. The question on the minds of many devotees is, “when does She find the time to do this?”

When devotees are asked what it is like for them to hear Amma sing in their native language, words such as, “personal” and “intimate” are commonly used to describe the experience. Jose and Guillem from Barcelona, Spain said that hearing Amma sing in their Mother tongue brought them closer to Her, and described Amma’s Spanish singing as “very tender.” A French devotee from Reunion Island said she was very grateful to Amma for singing in French, and that ‘Iswar Tumhi…’ is especially touching because of the devotional quality of the song.

A devotee from the U.S. who listened to Amma sing in English, “Lord of Vrindavan,” a devotional song about Krishna, had no words to describe how he felt. He simply placed his hand on his heart and said, “It is overwhelming.”

There is no doubt that for those of us who do not speak Malayalam, hearing our beloved Mother sing to us in our home language is a precious gift indeed. It is yet another way in which Amma showers us with love.

– Vimala Rachel Purcell

Amma in Finnish senior high school textbook

Amma has made Her way into yet another Finnish school textbook, this time for students in senior high school [pre-university in India].

The Ark of Finnish Religion features under a section entitled “Religious Diversity,” a photo of Amma giving darshan, is a short description of Amma’s visits to Finland since 1998, the year the Amma Center of Finland started. It also states, “Followers regard Amma as the embodiment or the incarnation of Divine Love…. Amma is a charismatic spiritual leader whose mere presence and personality make a deep impact on many people.”

These references to Amma are expected to evoke greater interest in the Finnish people, especially the youth. The Finnish press and television gave Amma’s recent visit to Finland prominent coverage. Promiment personalities, including a minister, also attended Amma’s programmes.

The Kumbha Mela of the South

13 September 2003 — Cochin, Kerala

In one of the registration offices in Amma’s AIMS Hospital a few kilometres from the stadium big piles of papers are on the desks of the people filing the registration from devotees who are coming. The lists are endless. From Trivandrum 4,500 people are coming; from Kannur 6,253; from Palakkad 9,234; from Kollam 4,500; and so on. Thousands and thousands are coming for the event of the century. In total the number of Indians registered is at the moment 80,499 but that number is increasing day by day, hour by hour. There will be some 3,000 buses coming; 10-15,000 people will come by nearly 200 trains. There are two or three special “Amma” trains coming in, completely full with only devotees. There are additional flights to Kochi and few delegates even have their own charted flights to attend the Amritavarsham celebrations. Thanks to the airlines for offering 50% concession to the flight tickets. Then there is some 5,000 foreigners coming, hundreds of dignitaries and a special police force of some 5,000 officers to help with security. This is a massive logistical operation.

Free accommodation and food in Kochi for more than 100,000 devotees
And where will they sleep? How will they get to the stadium? “We now know there are hundreds of buses coming in daily, with a thousand buses coming on the 23rd. All these buses need to go to two bus stations on the outskirts of the city. From there all the people are assigned to the schools and wedding halls where they will sleep.” Another big operation is getting all the devotees from the schools to the stadium. For this all the Amritavidyalayam school buses from all Amma’s institutions in South India have been called to Kochi. Starting at 4:30 a.m. they will start running to make sure everybody will be in the International Stadium at 8:30, in time for the programme to begin. The obvious question—Where the students will go during that week?—is answered with a great smile on the face of the man behind the desk: “But it’s a holiday! The District Collector has declared all of Kochi a five day holiday especially for the Celebrations.” This sketches the atmosphere in Kochi: Everything is getting ready for Amritavarsham50 and everybody, including the authorities, are giving maximum support.

100,000 people are going to sleep in 42 schools, 105 community centres and marriage halls, and 52 spacious temporary tents. Already volunteers are working to clean up the schools and to improve the toilets and bathrooms in the schools. “Many schools are happy because we are putting in new toilets and repairing the old ones. This is also Amma’s blessing: we leave it better than it was and the children get new toilets.”

The preparations are well underway in Kochi. Not even mentioned here are the one-and-a-half truckloads of sugar that will be brought in for the chai and the 60,000 kilos of rice that will provide the daily three meals to the 100,000 and more. This is indeed a divine operation.

Read more about Amritavarsham50

Ready to receive 100,000 guests daily

13 September 2003 — Cochin, Kerala

For a moment you think are on a film set. Temple fronts are being erected, pillars and statues are caste out of plaster, and tents and halls are being built. Walking up the area of the International Stadium on the outskirts of Kochi, you can see huge posters for Amritavarsham50, scaffolds, arches, tents, lighting masts and hundreds of workers, volunteers and brahmacharis. Here a normally empty and deserted part of Kochi is being transformed into a holy festival area with temples, homas, restaurants, IT-hub, exhibition areas, restrooms, rooms for dignitaries, a specially decorated room for Amma, stages and darshan line-markers, all ready for the more than 100,000 guests that are expected every day to come for the Celebrations.

Clean-up Operation at Stadium Becomes a Renovation

The place is vibrant and bustling with activity. “More than 1000 people are working here right now,” says  Br.Tapasyamrita Chaitanya, who is one of the supervisors of the work. Laid out on his table is the architectural map of the site, showing the huge stadium and the whole surrounding “Amrita-Village.” The stadium was built some 8 years ago and thus far has only hosted the occasional cricket match. For the rest of the year, the stadium has been empty and in the Indian climate this means it gets very dirty and worn out, so there was the real need for a facelift. “We have already put in new electricity in the whole stadium. Most of the toilets and drainage are renewed and cleaned. We painted most of the conference rooms. We have skilled labourers but a lot of work is being done by people from Amma’s ashrams and devotee-volunteers.” He looks relaxed even though his phone rings almost continuously and people keep walking in and out of the room, asking questions, showing maps and bills.

“Nearly all the building materials come from all the building sites where Amma is contructing schools and institutions, so when the event is over we will take it all down and the materials will be used again. Nothing will be wasted. This also brings down the costs considerably.” There is work going on at hundreds of places at the same time. The most important question is of course if everything will be ready in time. “Yes,” he says, smiling brightly. “This is Amma’s dream—of course it will be ready.”

Read more about Amritavarsham50

This is not a human wish, this is divine

September 2003

At lunchtime, everybody takes a short break and food is served under a thatched roof just outside the stadium—rice, curry, sambar and buttermilk. 35-year-old Savitri is a devotee from Allepey, 60 kilometres south of Kochi who has come to help.”When we heard Amma wanted people to help clean, we came with the whole family. My mother, my brother, my two sons and my sister and her husband and his brother are here now. We are helping to clean the kitchen areas in the Stadium.” She has a great smile on her face and points out all her relatives. Her Punjabi dress shows the stains of soap and dirt from the cleaning she has been doing. “We stay here until Monday, but if Amma wants us to come back we will come again!”

Even though most are taking a lunch break, lots of activity goes on. Right next to the dining area, acrobat-like workers are using 8-meter tall bamboo poles to build the skeleton for yet another temporary building. High above the ground they balance as they use ropes to tie the poles together, slowly forming a roof that will be covered with dried palm tree leaves. Next to that, skillful workers are sowing enormous lengths of white cloth together that will form the ceiling of these big makeshift tents. Firstly the whole ceiling is prepared just above the ground. Once the ceiling cloths are tied to posts, other workers stitch on colourful two-metre-across paper and cloth mandalas. Then the whole ceiling is lifted up and put in place. The mandalas form a stunning sight, as 20 different suns in the sky

Brahmacharis also join the food line. Two days ago Amma sent a large group to help clean the surrounding area. They are cleaning all the dirt from around the stadium. Up to now 20 truckloads of dirt have been removed. They are cutting the half-meter high grass and picking up all the plastic and other rubble that has been left there for years. So much work to be done… will it get finished in time? “Of course,” they say smilingly, one after the other. “This is Amma’s work. This is not a human wish, this is a divine wish. So this is not a human effort. this is a divine effort.”

Read more about Amritavarsham50

Transforming stadium into a spiritual centre

Nehru stadium, Kochi, Kerala
Along the now still-empty “grand avenue,” arches are being built. On the left, temporary buildings are emerging for the Colours of Compassion Exhibition and several medical exhibitions. On the right, a huge darshan hall is decorated with artificial garlands and flower bouquets. The hall is more than 100,000 square feet, more than three times the size of the hall in Amritapuri. Under the shade of the newly erected darshan hall, skilled workers are filling moulds with plaster and coconut fibre that will create 47 four-metre-high pillars to imitate a temple front. Each column will be decorated with a larger than life statue of Devi. In between the pillars there will be colourful tiled roofs.

As you walk along the avenue, passing the darshan hall, the dignitaries room, the dining area, and the international canteen, you will come upon a stunning scene: here the whole front of Amma’s Amritapuri temple will emerge in life size as an entrance gate to the International Stadium. Skilled workers are carefully moulding the whole front piece of the temple in wood structures. Others are making horse-shaped figures out of straw that they will cover with clay to form the horses of Arjuna’s carriage that will be above the entrance.

The stadium itself is huge: more then 100,000 seats, all of which are getting a good wash. Four high light-masts in the shape of elephant tusks mark the four corners. In the middle, workers are carefully building scaffolds to make temporary roofs above most of the seats to provide some shade for the visitors during the hot South Indian afternoon sun. In the north end of the stadium, a big stage is being constructed for the performances and rituals.

Here Amma will receive the representatives from the 191 United Nations member countries, dressed in the traditional clothing and carrying the water of their native land. His Excellency the President of India Dr. Abdul A. P. J. Kalam will then assist Amma as She blesses the water. The water will then be poured at the roots of a kalpataru (banyan) sapling that will be planted at the location of Amma’s new International Meditation Centre.