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The foundation of Bhakti

5 May Kochi – Bharata Yatra 2016
While visiting a house during her 2016 Bharata Yatra, Amma was giving darshan and distributing prasad. A boy about 4 years old came to Amma and told her that he wants bhakti (devotion).
Amma replied, “Aha – do you want bhakti? What is bhakti?”
The boy looked at Amma with a lost expression.
Amma asked him, “Is it chocolate?”
“Yes,” the boy answered quickly. “Its chocolate.”
Everyone had a good laugh. Amma was repeating his words – bhakti is chocolate. Then Amma compassionately explained to the boy the true meaning of bhakti:

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“Perform all your actions with grace (with the blessings of the Guru). Every day, when you get up in the morning, do pranams to Mother Earth. Prostrate to your parents and elders, prostrate to the teacher in the school. Seek their blessings.
When you take a book or a pen for your studies – do pranam to it. Then only you should use them. Whenever someone comes to you (in the house), you should get up, give them a seat, ask them if they have had anything to eat. Don’t fight with anyone, don’t beat anyone. This is the foundation of bhakti.”
Amma explained how one should perform his daily actions in life: “Play while you play, study while you study, Pray while you pray. When you pray, pray like this: ‘Oh Lord, please shine in and through all my actions.'”

-Sakshi

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Shower of Love in Trissur

6-7 May, Trissur Brahmasthanam, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2016

Amma held a two-day program in Trissur where she conducted satsang, bhajan and darshan.

Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Academy Secretary Dr. PV Krishnan Nair, noted poet Chovallur Krishnan Kutty, Padmasree Sundar Menon were there to welcome Amma to Trissur.

Amma distributed samplings and seeds promoting organic farming in each ones’ house.

Speaking on the occasion, Amma said: “When we look at Bharat (India) today, we see two faces. One face is shining and happy because we are making giant strides in science and information technology. The other is hiding in the shadows. It is the ugly face of pervasive poverty, illiteracy, poor health, crimes against women and environmental pollution. A split personality is never a sign of sound health. If we want to see a powerful and healthy world, these two faces must merge into one beautiful face. Then no one will go hungry. No one will suffer without a place to sleep. No one will die due to lack of proper healthcare. If we can bring our collective knowledge, compassion and talents together, we will soon see the entire world rising and thriving with peace, harmony and prosperity.”

Cooler than temperatures in Kochi, the heat was still scorching and unbearable for many residents. One devotee prayed to Amma during darshan, “We want rain, Amma please make a sankalpa (resolve).” “What kind of rain?” Amma asked. “Good rain,” the devotee responded. Amma said OK. Less than an hour later, a heavy rain, complete with a thunder storm and lightning began, bringing a cool and strong wind along with it. Suddenly everyone’s face lit up – it was raining cats and dogs. Water was everywhere. Amma asked to switch off the lights and the temporary electrical supply on the ground.

The wind blew the rain onto the stage and onto Amma as she gave darshan. Unperturbed, she was continuing her work – giving darshan and enjoying the rain. The rain became heavier, with wind spraying water all over the stage. The devotees found a way to protect Amma from the downpour; they got tarpaulins and spread them above their heads and stood under that. Amma continued darshan.

Come what may, continue to do what you have decided to do. In heat or cold, persevere and be committed – it was beautiful practical demonstration of this principle, just like so many others Amma demonstrates in her daily life – day after day.

Happy stage monitor in the rain, on the stage

Amrita Vidyalayam children presented variety of cultural events that added entrainment to the program wich included fantastic yoga progam and an Ottam Tullal.

At the end of darshan on the second day, Amma sang a holi song and the 2016 Bharata Yatra – trip to Indian cities nationwide had finally come to an end. Next stop – USA.

-Kannadi

 

 

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The cooling presence of Amma in Kochi

May 3-4, Kochi, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2016

Amma held a two-day Brahmasthanam Festival at Kochi. She arrived after her programs in Singapore. Upon arrival, Amma was received with Poornakumbham and the Vedic chanting of Amrita University students.

Kochi Mayor Saumini Jain was there to welcome Amma and offer her tributes.

 

Two of the people who came for Amma’s darshan were very special.

Abdul Rahim, who lost his hands while working to defuse a landmine {news} and Manu, who both his while trying to defend a woman from an attack  {news}– both were given new hands by Amrita Hospital’s plastic surgery department. Fully recovered and with strong hands, they both hugged Amma. Hailing from Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman says he is in love with India and Amma. He says he will bring another 1,000 people to Amrita for treatment.

Abdul Rahim hugging Amma, Dr. Mohit Sharma who did the surgery looks on

Students of Amrita Vidyalayam and Amrita University presented different and entertaining cultural programs. Even the teachers had their part, staging a Kali dance.

On both program days, Amma sang bhajans and gave satsang and darshan – each day’s program beginning at 6.30 in the evening. At the end of the 2nd day’s program, Amma sang a Holi song. The darshan came to an end at 9.04 am the next day. Despite the scorching heat even in the evening, huge crowds attended on both days to enjoy the cooling presence of Amma’s love.

-Kannadi

 

 

 

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Awareness is the key: Amma’s practical suggestions for a clean Yamuna river

11 April, Suhagnagari, Ferozabad , enroute to Lucknow – Bharata 2016
Amma and the group travelled to Lucknow after Vrindavan. On the way the group stopped for luch at Suhagnagari, Ferozabad. The most shaded place we found was a club – FM Green City ! Amma sat on the veranda and served lunch to all. Sang bhajans too. Amma’s visit to Vrindavan and the request of sages and saints had come in the local news papers – a collective plea to Amma to help clean the badly polluted sacred river Yamuna. A local reporter of a Hindi newspaper called Hindusthan of Ferozabad edition just appeared from nowhere and started asking Amma about her thoughts on the subject. Amma happily replied to him for all his queries.

Amma said:  “For such a project, all have to come together to make it possible. First, we have to create awareness among people. Without awareness, it will be like the elephant’s bath. An elephant takes a bath, and then covers itself with dust. At present, toilet water is going straight into the river, filling the water with harmful organisms. Thus, the first step is to stop toilet water from going into the river.

“Amma’s children have cleaned the Pampa river {news}. Every year, more than 2 crore people bathe in the Pampa’s waters as part of their pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple {temple cleaning news}. After their bath, they leave their clothes behind in the river. This waste cloth has been lying there for years, rendering the waters dirty. Amma’s children cleaned the river and removed tons of waste clothing. Now, the government has put up informational signs warning people not to leave their clothes in the river, educating them about the risks. The High court of Kerala ruled that leaving cloth in the river is a crime. There is also a fine imposed on those who violate the new rule. Segregation of waste management is also important. There are one set of waste bins for these clothes, and another set for other waste. Through the media and police enforcement, more awareness is created. After our 5th year of cleaning the Pampa river, the situation has improved by about 80%. However, neither toilet water nor factory waste waters flow into the Pampa river.

Dirty, polluted black water – Yamuna river

“Here the case is different. The Yamuna is a long river. It passes through many different states. The state governments should give permission, co-operate and help to clean the river. The sewage water should not go into the river. Toilets should be built for all those living on the riverbanks; for those who do not have space for a toilet on their property, community toilets should be created. Sewage treatment plants need to be set up in each area. For every 1,000 houses, there should be one such plant. Alternatively, biogas generators can handle the waste.

“In dealing with the factories, a subsidy should be given to create a method to properly dispose of waste. If a given factory failed to do so in a stipulated period of time, the facility could be fined or even have electricity and water supply disconnected.

“Trusts and committees should be formed, with the cooperation of the affected communities and government officials. People can be hired to implement the above policies. Cleaning the Yamuna River can only be accomplished if many people come together to make it happen.

“Ultimately, we need more awareness; changes in the laws are not enough. For example, diabetic people take medications, but if they continue to eat sweets and don’t do proper exercise, their sugar levels will remain dangerously high. Likewise, we need more awareness in regards to the Yamuna and our interactions with it.”

Amma sang a bhajan and gave darshan to the locals and the group started off to Lucknow. Some of us were discussing and savouring the comprehensive approach of Amma to clean river Yamuna and were in wonder how practical she is.

-Sakshi

 

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Amma in Kenya

17-18 April 2016, Nairobi, Kenya

After a five-year gap, Amma was received a warm welcome back to Kenya by Mr. Musalia Mudavadi, the former Deputy Vice President and the Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya; Mrs. Suchitra Durai, the Indian High Commissioner to Kenya; and Hon. Dan Mwazo, Senator of Taita Taveta county. Ms. Tessa Mudavadi, 2010 Global Winner Of Breast Cancer Awareness award, Dr. Manoj Shah, Past International Director of Lions Club, and Dr. Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of Kenya Red Cross were also there on hand to welcome Amma.

Amma’s arrival signaled the launch of several new humanitarian initiatives, which were formally inaugurated by the above dignitaries during the first day of Amma’s official program.

A new Telemedicine and Continuing Medical Education Program, a tie up between Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi and M.P Shah Hospital of Nairobi will help in high quality medical care for the patients in Kenya and enhance transfer of medical expertise in Kenya.

Amma also launched the Amrita Solar Village, which will help in lighting, heating, water supply for sanitation, nutrition and irrigation and will improve the quality of residents of 5 villages in Athi River.

A new Amrita After School Study Program to support children living near the Athi River who have no access to electricity at home. The dedicated classrooms and the facilities provided will allow the children to study and do their homework in a supportive environment, helping them to overcome some of the challenges of living in poverty and to achieve their dreams. Amma visited this school after the days program {news}.

Another new program called Saving Lives – Creating, was launched, in association with CAP YEI and the Kenya Red Cross. The program is designed to train unemployed youth as mid-wives, paramedics and first aid workers in the areas of reproductive health. The goal of the program is to empower these young people to save lives, while providing jobs for them as well.

Also during her program, Amma was presented with the Lions Club International President’s Award in appreciation of her humanitarian work globally.

Green initiatives have been a very important part of Embracing the World activities in Kenya, and the Amrita Center has been very active in promoting awareness amongst people to preserve and nurture Mother earth by actively pursuing tree planting drives, permaculture and organic farming. Volunteers from the Center brought organic products to Amma on stage, seeking her blessings for their efforts in sustainability.

The official program was followed by Amma’s satsang, bhajan, and two days of darshan programs, wherein each and every person who came to the program received Amma’s loving embrace.

– Tulasi

 

 

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The ongoing work of Amma’s volunteers in Kenya was also highlighted, including the following:

  • Amrita Center Kenya has been active since 2010, running various projects in education, youth empowerment, healthcare, nutrition, sanitation and sustainability through permaculture, tree planting and green energy.
  • The children’s home Watato Boma takes care of the needs of 160 children.
  • Amrita Center Kenya, in association with CAP trains unemployed youth in the age groups of 18-30 years. Three-month courses are offered in Carpentry, Tailoring, Electrical, Plumbing, Computers and Hospitality. It has trained more than 1000 students since its inception.
  • Amma’s meals program started in 2012 now provides over 80,000 free meals annually.
  • Free Medical Camps have been regularly held over the last 4 years providing free consultations and medicine to over 3200 patients.
  • Free Cataract Surgeries have been conducted in the counties of Thika, Machakos, Voi, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia and Kisii, which has screened over 8000 patients and completed more than 1000 cataract surgeries restoring not only eyesight but also improvement in quality of life.
  • As a part of the sustainable development initiatives, the Amrita Center has one of the best Permaculture farms in Nairobi. Amma’s volunteers there, hardworking and motivated to carry Amma’s message of service and compassion forward, see this is as only the beginning.

 

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Amma’s visit to Amrita Watoto Boma

April 19, 2016, Nairobi, Kenya

It was a very special day for the children of Amrita Watoto Boma, Amma’s day school in Athi River, Nairobi. It was a day they had been waiting for for a long time.

160 children, many of whom have been there since the school opened its doors, last saw Amma 5 years ago. Some of them are in the 8th standard now.

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Amma visited the children’s home the day after her two days of official programs in Kenya. The children stood in two rows, welcoming Amma with banners and singing Om Namah Shivaya as Amma gently touched their hands and walked towards the hall.

In fact, it was a special day for Amma as well. Already two months back when still in India, Amma had expressed her desire to gift each child with a new set of clothing. Now the day had come. When Amma sat down with her African children, she first gave a gift packet containing a new set of clothing and shoes, as well as candies to each and every child.

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Amma moved her chair to sit closer to the children, who started to sing bhajans. They started with Ganesha Sharanama, which they had learned during a 3-day holiday camp. Then Amma asked all the kids to stand up and dance. They sang Kali Durge Namo Namah – everyone around joined in the dancing, it was very beautiful. Amma sang and clapped along to the song and was so happy. Such a beautiful moment, as if Amma had never had been away.

After the dance was over, Amma asked the children what was the first thing they do every morning. The children said the first thing they do is pray. Amma asked them to recite “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu” prayer five minutes every day imagining that peace and happiness descends on all being of the world, all around the globe.

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Amma also asked the children about their dreams and ambitions in life. The children’s answers varied. Some wanted to become pilots; some lawyers; some singers. Some children even replied that they want to become Amma!

Amma then toured the children’s home, inspecting the classrooms and the permaculture garden. She also gave directions for further development of the facility.

This precious memory of Amma’s visit will stay in the hearts of the children of Amrita Watoto Boma for a long time.

-Tulasi

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Let us create a positive vibration: Amma in Kolkata

April 13-14, Kolkatta, West Bengal – Bharata Yatra 2016
For her final programs of the tour, Amma held a Brahmasthanam festival in Kolkata, West Bengal. Over the course of the two days, Amma gave satsang, sang bhajans, led everyone in a guided meditation and instructed all to perform the Manasapuja in the local language of Bengali.

Nira Puthari’ or ‘Dhaner Seesh offered to Amma

Amma’s visit coincided with Poila Boishakh, the Bengali New Year. A bouquet of dry rice paddy, from the first harvest,(known as ‘Nira Puthari’ in Malayalam and, ‘Dhaner Seesh’ in Bengali) was given to Amma as an offering. On the occasion, Amma said “My children, everyday at the end of your sadhana, chant Om Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu” mantra for a while. Presently there is so much of unrest in the world. We should be able to restore the harmony to some extent by our prayers. Remember my children, every emotion has a vibration. Anger has a vibration, lust has a different vibration, vatsalya (motherly love) has a different vibration and compassion has a different vibration. Let us create a positive vibration through our prayers.”

Bollywood Actress Vidya Balan with Amma

During her visit, several dignitaries including Vidya Balan, famous Bollywood actress and Sujoy Ghosh, film director, came to greet Amma and offer their pranams, seeking her blessings.

Destitute women from several villages, including: Dev Gain (Jharkhand), Guptapada (Odhisa), and Kalinagar (West Bengal) were given sarees. Tree saplings were also distributed to village children as part of MAM’s green initiative. Certificates of completion for tailoring and beautician courses were given out to students of these villages as part of vocational training courses.

Several of these villagers also presented cultural programs during Amma’s darshan. Not to be outdone, students from the local Amrita Vidyalayam also shined on the stage with their performances throughout the programs.

Wiping the tears of an old devotee who came for Darshan

To conclude the final program of the almost three months of continuous touring around India, Amma gave darshan to all the members of the tour group who had just travelled over 5000 kilometers with her from one end of India to the other. One would imagine that after traveling such a great distance by road, enduring incredible heat, across 12 cities and seeing thousands and thousands of people come to the programs, Amma would want to spend her final hours in India before leaving for Kenya, getting some rest. Instead, Amma spent her last day siting once more with the tour group and all the local devotees; serving one last prasad meal, singing a few last bhajans and sharing a few last heartfelt smiles.

That night Amma left India for her two week tour of Kenya, Reunion, Mauritius and Singapore.

– Kannadi

 

 

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Amma visits Banke Bihari temple

9 April, Vrindavan, Uttara Pradesh – Bharata Yatra 2016

As part of her visit to Vrindavan in nearly 30 years, Amma accepted an invitation to visit the Banke Bihari temple, the oldest temple in Vrindavan.Amma was taken in an e-riksha to the temple, driving through the narrow lane.

Amma’s entire group joined Amma for the visit to the always-crowded temple. The already sanctified space reverberated and pulsed with devotion as Amma entered the temple and gazed at the murti of Sri Krishna. Before leaving, Amma participated in a ceremonial worship of the Lord. The temple’s priest welcomed Amma as an honored guest and presented her with ceremonial shawls, garlands and the same type of flute that was played by Sri Krishna.

 

 

– Kannadi

 

 

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Amma in Vrindavan

8 April, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh – Bharata Yatra 2016

Amma held a public program at Fogla Ashram in Vrindavan. On stage, Amma received a warm welcome from more than 60 of Vrindavan’s saints and sages. Their recognition of Amma’s special place in India’s lineage of spiritual masters was an historic moment, as it meant they could look beyond their own traditional definitions and cultural context to see the divinity shining through Amma.

The day of Amma’s program happened to fall on a new year of the Indian calendar (Vikram samvatsara) and also on the occasion of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine day festival of Devi.

Welcoming Amma to Vrindavan, Shri. Vineet Narayan, Chairman of Braj Foundation, said: “All the people of Vraj* are pained by the status of Yamuna River. Yamuna is the sister of Yama. She is Sri Krishna’s favourite. The people of Vraj use Yamuna for the last rites, not river Ganga like others. The temples in Vraj use Yamuna water for the worship. We have been fighting for years to clean up the Yamuna. But no one listens.  We, the people for Vraj ask for alms to save Yamuna,” he concluded with tears in his eyes.

The Yamuna River, once one of the lifelines of India, and still considered one of India’s 7 sacred rivers, has become extremely polluted.

Another Sannyasi, Founder of Seva Mangalam Sri Govindananda Teertha Maharaj, paying his tributes to Amma requested: “When one comes to your feet, when one receives your embrace, one becomes one with your energy and carries it in their life.  All sorrows disappear. When you keep your hand on their head, they become illumined. I also have a prayer. You have embraced 5 crores of people and made them (dhanya) blessed by embracing them. Yamuna is the center of 125 crores of people’s faith. I request you to embrace the Yamuna river as well. All the people of Vraj will be also blessed by this. With your power and that of the Govt of India, the Yamuna project will be fullfilled. Many projects were announced in the past, but nothing became successful. We expect you to do this on your visit to Vrindavan. Please take up this project and clean and purify it.”

Padmanabh Goswami welcomed Amma on behalf of all the temples. “If Ganga is the giver of Moksha, Yamuna is the one who brings the feet of Krishna and Radha together. For the current state of Yamuna, we are also responsible. Until 15-20 years ago, all the temples in Vrindavan used the water of Yamuna for abhishek, cooking food, and for pooja water.  Now we, the temple authorities, have stopped using this water. Not only of people of Vrindavan, but the desire of all followers of Sanatana Dharma, request you to restore the Yamuna to its original state. Amma please understand the pain and anguish in the hearts of the people of Vraj, We are with you Amma.”

Gopal Sharan Devacharya Maharaj of Radha-Golok Nath temple network of 108 temples, said, “Amma is the embodiment of Ma Yasoda. Amma you have seen the pain of all the saints of Vraj. It was expressed in the tears of early speakers.”

Phool Gold Vihari Maharaj, speaking on behalf of all the saints and sages of Vrindavan, said, “Amma, please embrace our river Yamuna. She needs your help. Please clean her as you have helped to clean the holy river Ganga and the holy river Pampa.”

Each of the sages who spoke on the stage that day had only a single request for Amma:  Clean Yamuna.

In a departure from her usual way, and in keeping with the tradition of Vrindavan, Amma began her satsang with the call out of “Radhe shyam…” In her satsang, Amma replied to the request of Sadhus and Saints, “No one can do this alone. Everyone has to get together. We have to stop dumping sewage from houses and waste from factories into the river. There is a need to build toilets and bring awareness in the people living along the banks of the river. There should be an alternate solution provided for the factory waste. There is a need to provide subsidies for the factories to take up these alternate solutions, and if they don’t follow instructions, there should be consequences – their electricity and water could be disconnected; they could be fined. There is a need to bring more awareness among people. Amma will also do whatever she can.”

After her satsang, Amma sang many Krishna bhajans. The crowd actively participated and enjoyed it, in between callout “Radhe Shyam….”

Amma distributed saris to the villagers of Ral, adopted under the Amrita SeRVe project of MAM. She also gave away saplings to the children of the village, encouraging them to plant more trees.

Devotees staged different cultural programs during Amma’s darshan; most of them were based on Sri Krishna’s leelas.

The stage had flower decorations in the background, representing a house of vines that Radha and her friends created for Krishna with flowers and leaves. The program’s organisers did the same for Amma, making the stage backdrop with flowers and leaves along with pictures of Radha, Krishna and Amma.

More than memorable, Amma’s visit to Vrindavan was a historic moment in many ways. It was Amma’s first visit in nearly 30 years, and this time she was culminated by several hundred devotees; so many residents of Amritapuri made the pilgrimage to be with Amma in Vrindavan that it was like Amritapuri itself had been lifted up and transported to Sri Krishna’s birthplace. The recognition paid to Amma by the saints and sages of Vrindavan was remarkable, and showed their willingness to look across all traditional barriers to see the divinity shining through Amma. And for Amma’s devotees, each of whom verily strives to become as Radha to Sri Krishna in the form of Amma, it was like a dream come true and deeply significant and meaningful. For Amma’s devotees, the time of Krishna and Radha is now – they are gopis living with their Krishna, and perhaps coming to Vrindavan – a place where a similar relationship has resonated down through the millennia, was a chance to see just how precious this opportunity is. Radheee… Shyam!

Kannadi

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* Vraj – the place where Sri Krishna had his childhood plays (bala leelas) which is more than 2000 sq. km. There are 12 forests in Vraj, Vrindavan is one of the forests.

 

 

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Amma, please visit more often and bless Lucknow

10 April, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh – Bharata Yatra 2016

After the Vrindavan programs Amma next traveled to Lucknow. Even though the group didn’t arrive until close to midnight, Amma still took the time to sit with everyone including all the local devotees and distributed a late night prasad dinner and had a small satsang.

The next day, before the evening public program, Amma visited the residence of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav. During the meeting Amma and the CM discussed several different issues facing his people including education, health, and other social problems. The CM’s wife, Dimple Yadav, who herself is a sitting Member of the Parliament, also attended the meeting which lasted around 90 minutes.

Later that same evening Amma’s public program was held on the grounds of the new Amrita Vidyalayam. The Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav came to inaugurate the 68th Amrita Vidyalayam. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “Many thanks to Ammaji for visiting Lucknow. All these years I have been hearing from people and the media about Amma and her charitable and social activities around the world. I came to know about her from the people who visited Kerala, but though I wished to go to Kerala and meet Amma I could not make it. But today I got the opportunity to meet her personally talk to Amma and I feel blessed. I hope Amma could replicate her activities in Lucknow, and visit more often and bless us in Uttar Pradesh.”

Amma later distributed saris to the villagers of Sarai Surudinpur (Allahabad district) and Ayodhya . She also gave away saplings encouraging them to plant more trees in their villages.

The sants of Sri Ram temple of Ayodhya came to pay respects to Amma.
A group of saints from chakra arty Maharaj Dasharatha’s Palace, Ayodhya and from famous temple Hanuman Garhi of Lord Hanumanji came to pay respect to Amma.

After giving her satsang, signing bhajans and leading everyone in a guided meditation, Amma sat all through the night and gave darshan to everyone. The program finally ended at 5:13 am in the next day morning upon which the tour group began the long trip to Calcutta for the final program of the tour.

– Kannadi