Pune programs begin with a bang!

Bharata Yatra 2004

29 February 2004 — Pune, Maharashtra

Amma’s three nights and two days of Pune programs commenced tonight at the Anna Saheb Magar Stadium. As Amma arrived at 6:30, the program literally began with a bang—as two colourful bursts of fireworks exploded just overhead the stadium.

She then walked through the crowd under a blue parasol to the dais, which was already filled with dignitaries, such as Shri. Sarad Pawar, President of the Congress Party for Maharashtra; Shri. Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, the Honourable Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra; Shri. Sudam Landge, the Honourable Mayor of Pune; Shri. Prakashji Rewale, the Deputy Mayor of Pune; and Shri. Gajanan Barbar of the Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.

At the beginning of the program, the grounds of the stadium were full and the stadium’s bleachers were steadily filling. All the devotees were provided with free food.

Before Amma’s satsang, bhajans, meditation and darshan, Shri. Sarad Pawar and Shri. Vijaysinh Mohite Patil gave speeches, and Shri. Sudam Landge gave a vote of thanks. Amma was also presented with a manapatra, or letter of recognition, by the Municipal Cooperation of Pune, which was read in Sanksrit by pundit Shri. Vighnahari Dev Maharaj. The manapatra was officially presented to Amma by Shri. Sarad Pawar and Shri. Prakashji Rewale.

Shri. Sarad Pawar also distributed certificates for free homes in the Ajanta Nagar Housing Community to destitute homeless, as part of the Mata Amritanandmayi Math’s Amritakeerti program of building 100,000 houses for the homeless. The Ajanta Nagar Project has found the Math building several phases of five-story flats on what was previously a massive slum.

Amma sang several songs in the local language of Marathi, including “Chandra Bhaga Teere,” a song in praise of Lord Vitthala, the temple deity of Pandharpur.


Samskriti off NH 9

Bharata Yatra 2004

Saturday, 28 February 2004 — on the side of NH 9, on the way to Pune, Maharashtra

When Amma opened the door to Her camper, it was clear She had recently been given an elaborate padapuja by the devotees of Hyderabad; the spot between Her eyebrows was caked with several layers of sandal paste, tumeric and kumkum. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why Amma was late in leaving and hadn’t been able to meet up with Her tour group for their roadside lunch. By the time Her camper arrived at the lunch spot, everyone had already finished eating and was getting ready to re-board the buses.

No matter, Amma would quickly distribute prasad  from Her camper itself. As Her children queued up—including field workers of the farm land that had served as picnic sit——Amma fed each one a piece of sweet biscuit by hand. Of course that package was not enough, so Amma found another package, this time of salty biscuits. Then that ran out, and Amma found something else, some murukkus, a fried, salty Indian snack. When that supply also depleted, Amma started handing out all the fruit given to Her by devotees. In the end, it seemed just enough; everyone got something—except, perhaps, Amma.

In Her satsangs  these days, Amma often talks of three kinds of people: prakriti, vikriti and samskriti. Prakriti people, Amma says, take only their share but don’t concern themselves with the needs of others. People of vikriti nature not only eat their own share, but also snatch as much as they can from others. Very rare these days, says Amma, are the samskriti, those who take as little as possible and then share as much as they can with others. As Amma emptied Her camper to feed Her children, one was reminded of these insightful words and how the True Masters demonstrate their every teaching with their actions.


Dances of devotion

Bharata Yatra 2004

Saturday, 28 February 2004 — just off NH 9, on the way to Pune, Maharashtra

The sun was gone. Amma and Her children were seated in the middle of a vast and arid plain. If it wasn’t for the occasional hum of a truck passing on the highway or the small group of cattle being slowly herded in the distance, they just as easily could have been on the moon—such was the barren, isolated feeling of that land.

Amma was singing Marathi bhajans she would sing during Her Pune programs: a namavali called “Ramakrishna Govinda Narayana Hari,” a translation of “Ishvar Tum Hi” and a new one proclaiming the glories of Lord Rama called “Mukhi Asu de Prabhu Che Nam.”

This is Maharashtra, where the Mahatma tradition is so rich, it is said there used to be a Saint in every village. So it was no surprise that when Amma’s camper crossed the state’s border, She was immediately greeted by a small group of devotees. They followed Her to the next stop, where they received Her in a way befitting a Mahatma. Now, as Amma sang the Marathi songs, She called one of those devotees to Her side, asking him to scrutinize the songs for errors of syntax. But in this land of bhaktas, criticism was not forthcoming, only a lesson to Amma’s ashram children in pure, innocent devotion—for this was the same devotee that annually does Krishna puja to Amma at her Pune ashram.

Almost since the inauguration of the Pune Brahmasthanam temple, Kale Master, now in his late sixties, has come into Amma’s arms like a modern-day gopi—a true Krishna bhakta—dressing Amma in a yellow shawl, a small crown and peacock feather, while presenting her with a wooden flute and small clay pots filled with curd and cream. It has become something of a Pune institution, the rebirth of Amma’s Krishna Bhavas of old. So, in that barren field, sitting at the feet of His Lord as She sang songs of the Vaishnava tradition, the last thing on Kale Master’s mind was Marathi grammar. He simply swayed from side to side, with an impossibly large smile on his face. Occasionally he would exclaim, “Amma is Lord Krishna! Amma’s face looks just like that of Lord Vithala!”

Soon enough, Amma began a bhajan to Lord Vithala, the Krishna deity installed in the famous nearby temple of Pandharpur. The song, “Chandra Bhaga Teere,” is full of heartfelt cries to Krishna, such as “Panduranga Hari Jai Jai! Panduranga Hari!” and the ecstatic repetition of “Vithala! Vithala! Vithala! Vithala!” As Amma become absorbed in the bhajan, Kale Master rose to his feet and, with arms held up to the sky, began to dance like a child. Amma was delighted. A loving laughter seemed just beneath the surface of Her song, but it never truly came forth. Instead, seeming to be sparked by Her son’s devotion, She extended the song’s finale for several minutes. This left the door wide open for Kale Master to break into an impromptu series of long rapturous calls to His Lord.

When the song ended, almost everyone—Amma, Her children and Kale Master—were all but out of breath. With the bhajan practice officially over, Amma started asking for questions, jokes and stories.

It was then that someone told Amma one of Her other children, an American teenager named Santosh, also had a dance for Her. Amma called out to him, and somewhat sheepishly, he came forward. Then, standing in a clearing, Santosh began to demonstrate some devotional moves of his own, albeit, a little more hip than Kale Master’s—he break danced. With everyone clapping a beat, the quiet Santosh came alive in a series of movements that had his whole body moving like one liquid whole. Just as Amma had been absorbed by the devotion of Her old man from Pune, She now starred wonder struck at the skills of Her teenager from America. “He’s doing it with so much concentration,” Amma complemented. “It’s like a meditation.”

It was getting late and there was still a long drive left before the tour group would reach the Pune ashram, but still Amma felt there was time for one question—a short one. One devotee came forward, a young man from Canada. “How do you get the maximum out of the presence of a Satguru without wasting a minute?” he asked.

Amma seemed to like the question; She gave the questioner a big thumbs up. “Live each minute with awareness,” Amma said. “The minute that you get with the Satguru—think that minute is the only minute. Live in the present. Only the present actually exists. Each thing you do, do it with full awareness. Eat with awareness, walk with awareness. That way you don’t waste any time. Like when you are playing cricket or basketball, you will not think of your girlfriend. When you are playing basketball, you will only be thinking of putting the ball in the basket. This is how it should be when in the presence of a Satguru. ”


Amma blesses Hyderabad

Bharata Yatra 2004

25 February 2004 — Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Amma’s Hyderabad devotees welcomed Her Wednesday night on a grand scale. The massive backdrop of their stage—a beige façade of a palace—reached some 20 feet into the night sky. In each of the palace’s windows candles were lit, and in the centre was a majestic poster of Amma’s smiling face.

Upon Amma’s arrival at the Nizam College grounds, Amma was welcomed by Andhra Pradesh’s High Court Chief Justice, the Honourable Shri. Devinder Gupta, who presented Her with flowers and a shawl. Later Chief Justice Gupta presented pensions to destitute widows on behalf of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, officially initiating the Math’s Amrita Nidhi free pension scheme in Andhra Pradesh.

Among the many dignitaries to welcome Amma to India’s hub of hi-tech were the Honourable Justice of Andhra Pradesh’s High Court, Shri. Ramulu; IAS Director of Youth Affairs, Shri. Kamal Rao and IAS Commissioner of Food & Civil Supplies, Shri. Banwarlal.

Upon the conclusion of the formal part of evening’s program, Amma gave Her satsang and bhajan, singing the majority of songs, such as “Lalitamba” and “Nirajanam,” in the local language of Telugu.

Thus marked the beginning of Amma’s three days in Andhra Pradesh. The remaining two programmes are to be held in Amma’s Ashram, which rests across the river in Hyderabad’s twin city of Secunderabad.


Bhajans in the Dark

Bharata Yatra 2004

Tuesday, 24 February 2004 — On the road to Hyderabad

There was a second stop for Amma and Her tour group on the long road from Davanagere to Hyderabad, and as many anticipated, this one was for tea and practicing bhajans.

The sun had just set when Amma’s six buses pulled over to the side of the highway near a wide field. To the west, a thin line of rosy light remained, and in the sky hung a crescent moon, with Venus shining boldly just beneath it. Amma was seated in the field, and Her children gathered in a circle around Her feet as She looked down at them with loving glances. Soon, a lantern was placed in front of Her, and Her white-clad form shown brightly in the darkness.

Amma was presented with a book of bhajans, a harmonium was carried out and into the quiet of the night Amma began to softly sing. Her voice was as quiet and gentle as a lullaby. The song a new one in Telugu called “Nirajanam,” which means arati, or worship.

Amma also sang a new Hindi bhajan to Lord Ganesha and a new bhajan in Malayalam written by Swamiji.

The tour group sat in a ring of light, at the center of which Amma shined like a lighthouse on a dark sea. As darkness set in and the constellations began to shine, many noticed how the crescent moon seemed to mirror Amma’s nose ring.


Roadside miracles on the way to Hyderabad

Bharata Yatra 2004

Tuesday, 24 February 2004 — On the road to Hyderabad

Roadside temples, small family farms, creeks just off the beaten path—traveling with Amma proves few stretches of Indian highway to be more than a stone’s throw from some secret beauty. So it was Tuesday when the six buses accompanying Amma on Her North Indian Tour suddenly pulled off to the side of Karnataka’s interstate. A few minutes later and everyone was walking through a large and very wooded dairy farm, the sound of dry leaves crunching under their feet.

Amma was seated in the middle of a clearing, but it wasn’t long before that clearing was filled—300 or so of Amma’s disciples and devotees making it their dining hall for the afternoon. With their rigorous schedule of late nights, early mornings, long rides and what feels like a constant loading and unloading of buses, there in the woods many took their fist relaxed breath in weeks—a sigh borne out of being away from massive crowds, a sigh of unwinding. More than anything said, that seemed to be the feeling—a mother and her children content in sitting side by side.

Usually Amma distributes the lunch, but this time She asked the brahmacharis to do it. The 15th chapter of the Gita was chanted, and Amma asked everyone to begin eating. After some time, someone handed Amma a packet of biscuits. Amma looked at everyone around Her. “How can I distribute one packet of biscuits to 300 people?” She asked.

Then from the handbags of Amma’s householder children, one packet came forward, then another, and another—soon the silence of the woods was completely undone by the noise of crinkling plastic. Amma opened each package and began breaking the cookies into small pieces with Her hands. She filled two or three metal lunch plates this way, and then had them passed around so that everyone could partake of Her prasad .

After Amma was sure everyone had received a piece, She asked if anyone had any jokes, stories or questions. One of Amma’s daughters spoke up. She said how upon seeing Amma go from having no biscuits, to having one packet of biscuits to having enough biscuits to feed everyone had reminded her of two stories: Jesus feeding thousands with enough for just a few, and a legend where a village of starving people was fed through everyone donating one vegetable to a community pot. “So I am left wondering what is the nature of miracles?” she asked. “Is it that something impossible really happens or is it what takes place when we collectively are inspired to give?”

“You cannot create anything that does not already exist in the creation,” Amma said from Her chair. “The greatest miracle is having a mind inclined to share with others.”

Is that not what we have seen with Amma on this tour and throughout Her life? In Kannur, Talassery, Mangalore, Bangalore, Davanagere—what is it that Amma been doing if not sharing? The only difference between Amma’s sharing and ours is that what Amma has to share is Infinite, and so is the amount of time Amma is willing to give in sharing it. And what does Amma expect in return—nothing but our pain and sorrow.

When we are eating, Amma is sharing. When we are sleeping, Amma is sharing. When we are working, joking and playing, Amma is sharing. As Amma says, “a Mahatma’s every breath is for the benefit of the world.” These lunch stops Amma spends with Her children—in truth are they not simply another manifestation of Amma’s desire to share?

Suddenly one of Amma’s devotees called out. He had found something and held it out on his hand to show Amma: a magnificent insect with a body that looked identical to a stick. It was quite large, perhaps seven inches long. Of course, Amma allowed it to crawl onto Her hand. It sat there rather peacefully, its long antennae ticking back and forth.
Amma looking at the bug.

How can we say, but perhaps this was Amma’s second lesson on miracles—in God’s creation, they are all around us—in bugs, birds and trees, in the all-pervading beauty we so often overlook as we drive down the road. It only takes a Master like Amma to draw it to our attention.


Darshan in Davanagere

Bharata Yatra 2004

23 February 2004 — Davanagere, Karnataka

Davanagere was the site of the fifth stop on Amma’s North India Tour. The program was held cradled in the E-shaped Amrita Vidyalayam. Hours before the program began, devotees began queuing up outside the school grounds in order to get their darshan tokens. Amma has been regularly going to the city since 1998, but last year the city was not a part of Amma’s tour.

When Amma came down from Her room, She was cheered enthusiastically by the crowd. Those close enough to Her path strained to touch one of Amma’s hands as She walked past. For Her part, Amma similarly reached out—it’s not only the child that misses the mother.

On stage, Amma’s pada puja was performed by Karnataka’s former Minister of Education, the Honourable Smt. Nagamma Keshava Murthi, and her husband, leading industrialist Shri. Keshava Murthi. Amma was also welcomed by the president of the local ashram, former Member of Parliament Shri. Shamannur Sankarappa, and his son, Karnataka’s Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs. From the dais, Shri. K. Chidananda Gowda, vice chancellor of Kuvempu University, spoke about Amma and on spirituality and education in general.

At the start of Amma’s darshan, children from the Amrita Vidyalayam, Davenagere performed an hour-long play—complete with song and dance—depicting various stories of Lord Krishna from the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Different classes acted out different stories. A very young Krishna was seen charming the gopis with his dance and flute. A little older Krishna was seen fighting the wicked king, Kamsa . Then, upon the conclusion of the lovely performance, all the children had darshan in the arms of Amma, who—with great delight—fed laddhus to all the Krishnas, gopis and demons!

Darshan went on through the night and ended at 6:30 in the morning.


Last Day in Bangalore

Bharata Yatra 2004

21 February 2004 — Bangalore, Karnataka

In the wake of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s Global CEO Summit, which was held during Amma’s 50th birthday celebrations in Cochin, there has been a lot of activity between the Math and India’s advancers of business, science and information technology.

Recent months have seen collaborations between Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Research Lab and Mumbai’s Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), as well as between AIMS and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). With Amma’s visit to Bangalore—one of India’s leading IT centres—more than 20 top entrepreneurs came to the Ashram to have Amma’s darshan and to learn more about the Math and its activities.

As of this posting, Amma’s Bangalore Brahmasthanam Festival is still going. More than 4,500 people participated in this evening’s Saturn Puja led by Amma, and some 26,000 people have taken tokens for Amma’s darshan tonight.

Tomorrow, Amma continues on to Davanagere, Karnataka for a one-night public programme.


This is Amma’s age

Bharata Yatra 2004
19 February 2004 — Bangalore, Karnataka

The first of three days and nights that Amma is giving bhajan, satsang and darshan at Her Bangalore Ashram were brought to a start on Thursday in the presence of the Honourable former Chief Justice of India, Padma Vibhushan Shri. M.N. Venkatachalaiah; the Honourable Standing Justice Shri. S.R. Nayak; Karnataka’s Honourable Minister for Revenue, Shri. H.C. Srikantaiah; the Honourable Venezuelan Ambassador to India Shri. Walter Marques; and the Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University, Shri. M.S. Thimmappa.

The evening began with all the dignitaries garlanding Amma, addressing the assembled thousands and inaugurating various new charitable activities of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math.

Twenty-six certificates to free homes in the Hirisave Village of Karnataka’s Hassan District were given to destitute homeless couples as part of the Math’s Amritakuteeram Project, the Math’s programme of giving away 100,000 homes across India within 10 years. The certificates were distributed by Minister Srikantaiah, who then said of Amma: “The world is blessed by Her presence. Let Her have the strength and power to continue with Her work.”

The Math also inaugurated two new health centres in Karnataka: one in Kasavanahalli and one in Ullal. These centres of free and subsidised healthcare were given auspicious beginnings when Amma handed over their inaugural medical kits to centre doctor Nanjundeshwara. The centres were inaugurated by former Chief Justice Venkatachalaiah. In his address, the former chief justice said, “Wherever Amma goes, She explains the truth and the hidden love of each religion.”

Justice Nayak announced the participation of various Karnataka advocates in the Math’s recently inaugurated free legal cell of 1008 lawyers, Amritakripa Neeti Pratishtan.

After Vice-Chancellor Thimmappa received the first copy of this year’s Bangalore Brahmasthanam Festival Souvenir from Amma, he proclaimed, “A great person is born in each age to solve the troubles of mankind. This is Amma’s age.”

Amma then gave satsang and sang bhajans, including several in the local language of Kannada. She gave darshan upto 5 a.m. the next morning.


Miracle in Mangalore

Bharata Yatra 2004

Wednesday 18 February — Mangalore, Karnataka

Twenty-two hours sitting; 50,000 tokens issued—the numbers speak for themselves.

“One more hour. She will finish it up in another hour.” Everywhere you turned, this is what you heard—in the bookstall, in the accommodation, on the stage itself. One first started hearing such speculations around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, a point in time where Amma had already been on stage for more than 14 hours straight, a point in time when more than 30,000 people had already received Amma’s darshan. But then it was 10 a.m. and you still heard it—11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m… Amma finished at 4:30!!

For Amma’s sake, some hoped that the program looming in Bangalore the next day would cause things to end a little early. But then the rumor started spreading from the stage, “Amma says She will finish everyone, even if She has to sit through the next night.”

Typically, from Amma’s point of view, the sacrifice was all Her children’s. “They were waiting for so long without sleep—in the sun—just for two seconds with me,” Amma said later.

The sun—usually it’s not so much of a problem at Amma’s non-Brahmasthanam program, as Amma typically starts darshan at sunset and finishes the next morning. But in Mangalore—as the sun was only a few hours from setting for the second time when Amma finally finished—the devotees in the darshan queue really had to bare its full glare. Some had been waiting for more than 20 hours to receive Amma’s blessing. However, Amma was on top of the situation and ordered some of Her brahmacharis to erect tarpaulins in order to create some form of shelter.

There was also the issue of food. With the crowd so much more massive than expected, supplies ran out by midnight, but still people waited patiently and peacefully, most of who had never met Amma before. “There were no problems with the crowd, ” said a senior police official.

“In India, sometimes political rallies will get this kind of a crowd,” said one of Amma’s senior brahmacharis, “but that is for one or two hours. Amritavarsham was something—no doubt—but then people were coming from all over India, from all over the world. This was from one district!”

In fact, the people just kept coming and coming—literally, nearly 100,000 people came to the stadium at one point or another to see Amma. They were even coming the next day, prompted by newspaper and cable-TV reports that Amma was still giving darshan. Wanting to make sure these latecomers also received a form of Her love, Amma blessed several boxes of prasad and had ashramites distribute it among the thousands who’d arrived during the final hours of darshan.

When the darshan finally concluded, Amma simply stood up, raised Her hands over Her head in pranam to Her children and walked down the stairs to the car. The next program was waiting 360 kilometers away in Bangalore.

People who don’t know Amma often say: “Yes, but does She do any miracles?” If the change Amma has wrought in the hearts of millions during the past 50 years is too subtle a wonder for such doubters, perhaps they can at least recognize the superhuman in what took place in Mangalore—embracing 50,000 people,speaking words of comfort to 50,000 people. Those who have eyes to see, let them see it.