Sacred fencing at Nellai

28 Jan, Nellai, Tamil Nadu, Bharata Yatra 2008

Amma held her first public program in the city of Tirunelveli, in southern Tamil Nadu. This district is well-known for its diverse landscapes; it contains everything from deserts, forests, rivers, mountains, to sea coasts. The name ‘Tiru-nel-veli’ means ‘sacred fenced paddy.’ One of the ancient stories is that a devotee of Shiva was starving, living off of mere paddy that he begged. When he went to offer his worship to the Sun, praying for rain, a massive downpour ensued. However, the paddy that he laid down didn’t become wet. Thus came the name ‘Tiru-nel-veli.’ In Tamil this place is known as Nellai.

The welcome address of the program was given by Swami Shankarananda of the Ramakrishna Tapovanam in Tiruchi. The mayor of Tirunelveli, Mr. A. L. Subramaniam, and member of parliament Thanushkodi Adityan gave speeches about Amma’s humanitarian activities. Sewing machines were distributed to ten impoverished villagers from the area.

There was a massive crowd to see Amma. Many people met Amma for the very first time. When asked how she came to see Amma, Sheri, a high school student, said, ´people said that if one has any kind of hurt feelings or physical ailments, one should see Amma to find relief. I was praying for a long time. After darshan, I feel much better, and am happy with the darshan.´
Ganapathy, a police officer, related how he came to see Amma at the program. ‘I had finished my shift at Palayamkotta, at some distance from the program, at 1 o’clock. I was on my way to the bus stop, when I stopped a man on a motorcycle to get a ride. I asked him, ‘where are you going?’ He said, ‘I’m going to see Amma.’ I said, ‘Won’t Amma be finished by now?’ He said, ‘no, Amma gives darshan for a long time.’

‘So I decided to go with him and try to see Amma. When I had Amma’s darshan, I felt like I was coming to God. Amma said in my ear, ‘my dear child.’

Another man, Maniyappan, a transport officer, met Amma for the first time. He said, ‘each and every word of Amma´s is purifying to our mind. As human beings, we should all follow each of Amma’s words and actions. Amma’s words help to expand our minds.’

Other distinguished guests included M.L.A. Mr. N. Malai Raja, Mr. M.N. Manjanatha I.P.S., District Judge Justice Bhaskaran, Nellai District Police Joint Commisioner Dr. Dhinkaran, and Nellai District Police Joint Commissioner Mr. T. Jayachandran.

After a long darshan, Amma will travel to the last stop of this leg of Bharata Yatra, which is Trivandrum.

– Sanjaya


Dealing with Desires

24 Jan, 2008, On the Road to Kumbakonam, Bharata Yatra 2008

On the way to Kumbakonam, Amma pulled over and stopped at a side road, with grassy fields on either side. The site was in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, the sun was setting. One could hear the sound of crickets chirping, along with the seldom sound of a truck passing by on the main road. A temporary light was put up from a generator, and the sound system team set up a small speaker and microphones.


All the residents and devotees rushed to sit near Amma. Once everyone was seated, Amma started narrating some incidents from the previous programs. She talked about the behavior of one brahmachari who was in charge of crowd control, and imitated his expressions. This evoked a huge roar of laughter.

Next, Amma began to sing some of the new bhajans; one in Tamil, one in Hindi, and one in Punjabi. After bhajans, plates of food were passed out to everybody.

After dinner, Amma again spoke on the mic. She said, ‘being in the world today is like being a child in a supermarket. There are so many enticing objects. How can one overcome the attraction to all of this?’

Many people gave different answers. One brahmachari said, ‘the best way is by chanting one’s mantra.’ One woman said, ‘when one goes through such problems, one should try to feel Amma’s presence within.’ Another woman said, ‘just try to feel Amma with you always.’ One man said, ‘I’ve heard Amma speak on the subject many times, but how much am I following? I would like to make a list of things Amma has asked me to do, and of those things that I’m really doing. I need strength to be able to do what Amma has said, I need Amma’s grace.’
Everyone clapped at the answer.


Finally, Amma shed some light on the subject. She said, ‘In all the works of Sri Shankaracharya, the two main qualities emphasized are viveka and vairagya (discrimination and dispassion). A small businessman will make a balance sheet everyday to evaluate his gains or losses, to make sure that he can carry on profitably. A big businessman need not do that. They can do that once in a while (because they an established business). We are all beginners. We need to take account everyday. A sadhak should constantly reflect on his actions.’

Amma stressed making spirituality practical in our lives. She said that some people might say, ‘I am the Atman (Self),’ but when adverse situations arise, they aren’t able to overcome them. The habit of reflection and evaluation of ones actions is the biggest gain.

Amma said, ‘One should do some japa, and also some meditation, but seva (selfless service) is also important. This is because the japa and meditation we do is for ourselves. But when we work for others, it is like breaking the seed’s shell (the ego).’

‘It is good to keep a daily journal of how much time we spend for japa, meditation, and seva. One can also reflect daily, for example, ‘Did I get angry today?’ ‘What was the reason?’

This kind of reflection is real meditation. Sometimes a person may sit and meditate, but as soon as the meditation is over, they get angry. In that way, all the energy gained by meditation gets dissipated. This is like creating a pile of sugar on one side, and creating a group of ants right nearby.’

Amma started to reflect on human birth. She said, ‘We have attained this human birth. Some people study for 20 to 25 years to gain a degree, then earn money and raise a family. By that time they are 50 or 60 years old but what have they actually attained? Not much. The real goal of human birth is to realize God. If life isn’t utilized for that, then what is the difference between humans and animals?’

‘When a lion travels, after a distance, it turns around and looks back. In the same way, we should look back and reflect, thinking, ‘Am I acting selflessly or not? When a turtle crawls, it leaves imprints in the sand. Likewise, we should leave the imprints of good deeds in our lives.’

Amma’s words filled the calm night, creating a reflective mood. The moon was shining above, Amma entered the camper to continue the journey to the next destination.

– Sanjaya


Fulfilling Promises

Fulfilling Promises- Amma in Kumbakonam

26 Jan 2008, Kumbhakonam, Tamil Nadu, Bharata Yatra 2008

Amma held her first public program in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. The program was held on a huge Banadurai Higher Secondary School grounds, capable of holding tens of 1,000’s of people.
In July of 2004, a disastrous fire took place in this city. The fire was in a school, and many children were trapped inside, unable to escape. Those who did survive were left with very severe burns, and some children had burns all over their body. The children who survived had an intense fear of fire. If their mothers tried to turn on a stove to cook, they would immediately go and turn it off.


A group of the affected poor families from Kumbakonam came to Amritapuri to see Amma after the fire incident, in January of 2005. When Amma saw the children with burns, one could see her eyes fill with tears of compassion. She spent a long time consoling the children and their families, and later met the entire group privately in her room, sharing in their sorrow and offering them support. {news}

An interesting fact is that at the time when these children came to Amma with a fear of fire, the children from the coastal region near the ashram were overcoming their own fear of water, caused by their experiences in the tsunami.

In the public program here today, one could see the expression of Amma’s support, as Amma handed out the keys to ten newly built houses to poor families that were affected in the tragedy. Tamil Azaghan, the chairman of Kumbakonam Municipality, handed over the keys of the new houses to the recipients.

This is part of a scheme to build and distribute 51 houses for the families affected by the fire.

Sewing machines were also distributed to ten poor women from the area, in order to help them earn a livelihood.



Covai 2008

23-24 Jan 2008, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Bharata Yatra 2008

Amma held two days of programmes in the Chennai Brahmasthanam. The crowd overflowed the small Brahmasthanam grounds on both days, as the people continuously filed in from the busy streets to have darshan. On the second day, mass pujas were performed, led by Amma herself.


Chennai is one of the biggest cities in Tamil Nadu and is also home to a major film industry. Chennai is considered the Bollywood of South India. A few celebrities made appearances at the brahmasthanam festival.  K.S Chitra, a famous singer came and sang Krishna bhajans on the stage.

At the end of the second day’s darshan, Amma fulfilled the hopes of Chennai devotees by singing ‘Mata Rani.’ The hall blasted with the chorus, ‘Mata Rani Ki Jai,’ as Amma stood and exited the stage, off to the next program.

Amma came from Puducherry, and after these Chennai programs, she is heading to Kumbakonam. But for Amma, it is only like going from one room of a house to another room.

– Sanjaya



Amma in Puducherry

21 Jan 2008, Pudussery, Bharata Yatra 2008

Amma visited Puducherry (formerly named ‘Pondicherry’) for an evening public program on the 21st. The program was attended by many respected dignitaries, including the chief minister of Puducherry, Sri N. Rangaswami. The chief minister expressed his wish for Amma to become more active in the state.


‘Amma has helped to construct houses for the poor all over India. I humbly requested Amma to do the same for the poor people in Puducherry, and I am happy to inform all of you that Amma agreed to this.’
‘It is our desire to have the presence of Amma’s service activities in Puducherry. I expressed to Amma the desire for the ashram to open a branch ashram in our state, and I am glad to say that Amma also agreed to this. I humbly prostrate to Amma, in order that all of us here may be benefitted by her blessings.’


Other guests of honor included the Puducherry industries and power minister, Sri V. Vaithilingam, the Puducherry education minister Sri E. Valsaraj, the Puducherry tourism minister Sri M. Kandaswami, and the Puducherry deputy speaker, Sri A.V. Sreedharan.
The program was held at the Venkata Nagar Thidal, an open grounds.

Ten women were given sewing machines by the Chief Minister N Kumaraswamy to improve their ability to earn a living.

Amma’s speech upon receiving the Cinema Verite award in Paris 2007 was translated into Tamil and was released by the Education minister Sri E. Valsaraj giving a Copy to the Chief Minister.
After the bhajans, Amma gave a request for the people to come peacefully for darshan. After this was translated in Tamil, Amma added that four years ago, the crowd was too anxious to get darshan, making it difficult to keep order.  Even though Amma said this, the start of darshan was as she hinted, with a big rush. However, the crowd slowly calmed down, and now continues to go on orderly as we post this.

– Sanjaya


Convergence of Rivers


20 Jan 2008, Bhavani River, Tamil Nadu, Bharata Yatra 2008
On the way to Pondicherry, Amma stopped along with the traveling devotees at the convergence of two holy rivers, the Bhavani and Kaveri. Amma used to visit here regularly in between stops of the India tours, but it had been more than three years since the last one. Once, when Amma and the residents stopped here, there was no food to distribute as prasad, so Amma herself concocted a special kind of rice gruel, with mung bean and shredded coconut. In honor of the river, this dish was named ‘Bhavani kanji,’ and is served for dinner at the ashram on Tuesdays.


On this occasion also, Amma started distributing plates of prasad after sitting down. Many devotees passed their personal plates with names written on them to recieve the prasad, but this created some confusion. When the plates came back, nobody knew which plate goes to who. One person yelled out, ‘Linda! Where’s Linda?’ Another ‘Abhaya? Abhaya?’ Seeing this confusion, Amma simply laughed, and began singing some of the newly tuned Tamil bhajans, with only the accompaniment of a brahmacharini’s voice and handclaps.

In a way, one can say that this is a convergence of three rivers. This is because Amma often says, ‘Amma is a river. My nature is to simply flow.’ It is the devotee’s goal to merge into that flow, which is the real ‘samgamam,’ or convergence.
— Sanjaya


Amma in Coimbatore

20 Jan, Covai, Bharata Yatra 2008
Amma’s Bharata yatra 2008 began with the 7th annual Brahmasthanam festival in Coimbatore. These two days of programs came to a close, at 7 a.m. on Friday the 20th. On both nights of the festival, the Tamil people expressed their devotion through their native song and dance. This form of dancing is particular to Baduga community of the Ooti region of Tamil Nadu. During the darshan, Amma would signal for them to start, and not long after some mics were brought and the space cleared, a big dance circle would start moving. The dancing would not stop until the very end of darshan, lasting four hours on the final day. At the end of darshan on the first day, Amma finished darshan at four in the morning, but the dancing was still going strong. Amma said to them, ‘Ok, you can dance tomorrow!’


The weather during the programs was unique, in that the days were severely hot, and the nights severely cold. At nighttime, the devotees could be seen with their hats, jackets, and scarfs. Meals were cooked and distributed for free to over 20,000 people, three times a day.


On the second day of programs, pujas were held. The Sani puja was led by Amma herself. In Amma’s satsangs, she spoke about the need for patience in family relationships, about how to confront and overcome periods of suffering, and about the need to cultivate humility. There were also cultural programs by the students of Amrita Vidyalayam.



Bhavani River stop with Amma

20 Jan 2008, Bhavani River, Tamil Nadu

On the way from Kovai, Amma and the group stopped at Bhavani river.  This sacred spot is the convergence of two rivers, Kaveri and Bhavani, called Bhavani Sangama.
Sitting on the banks, facing the Bhavani river Amma sang few new bhajans, had satsang and Amma distributed dinner prasad to all.