Everyday a celebration

Amritapuri, 1 September 2006

During the past few days, the Ashram has been buzzing with celebrations surrounding Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam.  While each morning has seen a new Pookkalam (flower design) created for Onam by students of  Amrita University,  the  evenings have been resounding with bhajans being sung at the Kalari in honor of Ganesh.

The celebrations started last Sunday.  In the morning, a six-foot tall statue of Ganesh was carried in a procession along Beach Road. Children led the way – holding small candles.  Ashramites, students, and villagers followed behind the murti and danced in joyous celebration, singing and clapping their hands.  Lakshmi (one of the Ashram elephants) took up the rear – adorned with regal decorations. Along the way, villagers lined the roadway in front of their homes and lit lamps in honor of Lord Ganesh   When the murti reached the front of the temple, the celebrations grew even louder as boys and girls separated into different groups and continued dancing and singing.   The murti was then moved to a peetam located just in front of the Kalari.  More singing as a special puja was performed for Ganesh.

On Monday morning – Vinayaka Chaturthi, Ram and Lakshmi were brought to the Main Hall where another puja was performed.  This time, Brahmacharis led bhajans while Ashramites and Visitors joined in the festivities.  Ram and Lakshmi were then treated to huge plates of bananas and sweets.

Tuesday, during satsang, one of the Brahmacharis asked Amma about the meaning of Caturthi and wanted to know why it is considered inauspicious to see the moon on that day.    Amma gave a wonderful answer. “We are the caturthi,” Amma said. (read full story)

In the evenings, just after bhajans, people have been gathering in the Kalari to sing bhajans. The air reasonates with the sounds of traditional aarati melodies…”Tan Man Sab Dhan Tera Sab Kuch Hai Tera, Kya Laage Mera…” which means “My body, my mind, my weath, is all yours, What is there as mine? ”

The celebrations will culminate this evening (Saturday) when the statue of Ganesh is carried to the ocean and immersed in the waves during Ganesha Visarjan. Just in time for the main Onam celebrations on Tuesday.

Everyday is truly a festival……


The colour of bliss, the Pink City on Holi

14 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan –Bharata Yatra 2006

Amma’s visit to Jaipur fell on Holi {read more} , the festival associated with Sri Krishna, wherein powdered paints are thrown around, painting everyone with bright pinks, oranges, greens, reds and yellows. In fact, looking out at the people who came for Amma’s programme it was clear that some of them had already been celebrating.

In the beginning of her satsang, Amma wished everyone a Happy Holi said, “Holi is a symbol of joy and celebration. May your life be filled with the colour of bliss. Once you apply the paints, everything looks the same. Similarly when you apply the paint of love to the mind, all differences disappear, we become one and we will be able to move ahead in unity. Holi reminds us about the greatness of faith. Prahlada was sitting on the lap of Holika, but the fire couldn’t harm him1. That was due to the unshakeable faith Prahlada had in the Lord. May my children’s faith be similarly formed. Amma prays to the Paramatman that this be so.”

The Honourable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Smt. Vasundhara Raje, came to the programme to seek Amma’s blessings. After bowing at Amma’s feet, she took a seat on the dais to Amma’s right.

In her address, the Chief Minister said, “When someone came to me and said, ‘Mother will be coming here on the 14th, will you take some time out of your busy schedule?’ And I said, ‘I believe that I am very lucky that I will have the opportunity to come and pay my respects to Mother.’ The question of being busy just doesn’t arise! Because for people like us, blessings of people like this are very few and far between. And when you work towards keeping a family as large as that of Rajasthan, I can tell you that you need every blessing. So I believe I have that affection, I have that love, and I am happy with that. I believe that is what will see us through. It is the blessing of souls like this, it is the direction of souls like this, that take us and the state very, very much further.”

Sri. Ghana Shyam Tiwari, the Honourable Minister of Education of Rajasthan, also addressed the gathering. In his talk he said, “Amma is the representative of the spiritual shakti [power]. From Kerala, Shankaracharya travelled the width and breadth of India spreading his teachings of Sanatana Dharma. Today, Amma is doing this throughout the entire world.” He also told a story involving Sage Narada about the power of Mahatmas to alter one’s fate.

The CM also helped distribute certificates of enrolment into the Amrita Nidhi lifetime pension programme to a dozen or so widows and handicapped people in Jaipur. The new beneficiaries also received the first three-months installment of their pension. These people were representatives of 1000 new beneficiaries in the Jaipur area.

Sri. Ashok Parnami, the Mayor of Jaipur, was also present on the dais.

As part of her bhajan set, Amma sang, “Ayiye Holi Bhari Pichkari,” to the delight of all the devotees.

Around 12:30 a.m. a familiar face came for Amma’s darshan, Sri. Ram Singh Chauhan, the man with bragging rights to “The World’s Longest Moustache” who performed with a Rajasthani dance troupe for Amma at Amritavarsham50.

A Happy Holi to all.


*Prahalada was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlada’s father, the Demon King Hiranyakasippu, wanted Prahlada to worship him, not Lord Vishnu. When Prahlada refused, Hiranyakasippu tried to kill him in many ways. One such way was by putting him on the lap of his aunt Holika. Holika had a boon that made her impervious to fire. With Prahlada on her lap, she then jumped into a fire. But due to his unshakeable faith in Lord Vishnu, was Prahlada was not burned, and Holika was destroyed.

The dance of Nataraja: Shivaratri in Pune

27 February, Sivaratri — Nigdi, Pune, Maharashtra –Bharata Yatra 2006

The Shivaratri {news} celebrations were in full swing. Amma’s Pune devotees and the devotees and disciples accompanying Amma on her tour had been singing bhajans in the Pune Ashram darshan hall since 6:00 p.m. The energy level was high, as bhajan after bhajan were being offered to Lord Shiva. Would Amma come and join them in the nightlong celebration? It was the question on everyone’s mind.

Then, at 10 to midnight—in the middle of one brahmachari’s ecstatic rendition of “Shankara Shiva Shankara,” Amma suddenly appeared. Of course, everyone rose to their feet, and Amma walked into their midst.

Would Amma sing bhajans with them? No, she would dance.

Amma took to the stage, which was already decorated for the next morning’s darshan, and said, “Dance, trying to see yourself as your ishta-devata [beloved deity].”

Someone then handed Amma a pair of kai-manis [hand cymbals], and then Swamis began to sing to the accompaniment of tabala and harmonium.

Bolo bolo sab mil bolo ‘Om namah Shivaya’
Bolo bolo sab mil bolo ‘Om namah Shivaya’
Jut jata me Ganga-dhari
Trisula-dhari damaru bhajave

The tempo was fast, and Amma moved briskly, stepping side to side to the beat. Her eyes were closed, and even though she wasn’t mic-ed, those close to the stage could clearly hear her voice. It truly was an ecstatic dance, full of energy. Surely many thought of Nataraja doing his dance of destruction at the end of a cycle of creation1.

At one point, Swamiji stopped the song, but Amma kept dancing—the ring of her kaimani, the sound of her footsteps and the clapping of the devotees were her only music. Almost right away, Swamiji and the harmonium and tabala, of course, started up again. Amma danced for a little while longer, and then when she was finished she sat down on the floor in meditation.

Amma remained like that for some time, and then stood up and began distributing pieces of apple to all the devotees.

For the Pune devotees observing the traditional Shivaratri vow of no food and no sleep, Amma’s appearance was an inspiration, replenishing their strength and sharpening their focus. For those travelling with Amma, it was also a treat—seeing Amma in Shiva Bhava. But in terms of tapas [austerities], almost every night on the India Tour is a Shivaratri.


*Every object—whether it be an animal, a plant, a human being, a world, a universe or a thought—undergoes the process of creation, sustenance and destruction at every moment. Lord Shiva represents the destruction principle. In the Puranas, the end of a cycle of creation is mythologized by Nataraja (a name for Lord Shiva meaning “the King of Dance”) doing his dance of destruction. Death of a flower-bud is the birth of a flower. Death of flower is the birth of its seed.

Celebration of Lights

1 November 2005, Amritapuri

Lights filled the evening skies as Ashramites in Amritapuri celebrated Deepavali.

Adults and small children waved sparklers and lit small oil lamps which decorated the Kalari.  Over at the boat jetty, students set of fireworks.

Some students from Amrita University in Amritapuri decided to celebrate Deepavali in a different way:  they traveled to Amma’s Orphanage in Parippally to spend time with the children there.   They had lunch, distributed sweets, and played games.   By nightfall, the children and students were dancing and singing together throughout the grounds.

The trip touched many hearts.  One student, Deepak, upon returning to Amritapuri, was moved to tears by the experience.  “The children are so nice in every aspect.  Many of us want to return again to celebrate Deepavali with them.  Even if we are placed in a job that is far away after our studies are completed, still we want to come back to Parippally.”

A dance of joy on a silent night

24 December 2004 — Amritapuri

To celebrate Christmas, Amma’s Western children sang carols, performed classical music, put on a play about Jesus’ life and did two dances—one involving fire and one inspiring Amma Herself to raise to Her feet. The evening didn’t end until past 1:00 a.m. Christmas morning, with Amma distributing chocolate-cake prasad to one and all.

Amma came to the bhajan hall around 10 p.m. and sat in a chair that had been arranged for Her in the middle of all the devotees—which included more than 900 from the West.

The first performance was by a young girl from Alicante, Spain, who sang Christmas carols in the Basque language. Her voice—simple and beautiful—captured everyone’s heart.

Next, a man from Paris and an ashramite from Holland performed an operatic duet and an African American spiritual. Then, the man showed his mastery of the piano with two Western classical pieces, including one by Rachmaninoff.

Third was a play depicting four scenes from Jesus’ life. It began with his birth in the manger (which found a shepherd leading one of the ashram calves and three wise men offer prostrations—one from Japan, one from Italy and one from Punjab.) Other scenes included Jesus stopping the stoning of the adulteress with his immortal words,”Let he who is without sin caste the first stone,” and his washing of his 12 disciples feet during the Last Supper.

The next offering to Amma was by a young German lady—a fire-dancer! The lights were dimmed, the music was turned up and the young woman moved about in a fluid, meditative fashion, juggling burning sticks and skipping a flaming rope. Everyone seemed spellbound.

A different type of dance ended the evening; this one put on by Amma’s daughters from all over the West. Using a quotation from the speech Amma delivered at the 2004 Parliament of World’s Religions, they had composed a song with verses in Spanish, English, German, French and Italian. The dance itself was based on the sign language expressions of the words.

May the tree of our life be firmly rooted in the soil of love;
Let good deeds be the leaves on that tree;
May words of kindness form its flowers;
May peace be its fruits.

Let us grow and unfold as one family, united in love so that we may rejoice and celebrate our oneness in a world where peace and contentment prevail.

As the song ended, it really picked up momentum, and soon many in the hall stood up, turned to face Amma and started clapping and dancing around Her. Finally, Amma Herself rose to Her feet and joined in Her children’s celebration.

When the song finally ended, Amma called all of Her children to come get prasad from Her hands—chocolate cake. By the time Amma returned to Her room, it was nearly 2:00 in the morning.


Dance in the bliss of the remembrance of the lord

28 August 2004, Amritapuri
Several thousand devotees came to Amritapuri for the traditional Onam festival. Amma sang and danced, gave darshan and served prasad lunch to more than 7000 people.

For ten days preceding the festival, students of Amrita Institutions who reside at the ashram made large flower mandalas at the base of the steps to Amma’s room. This morning, a mandala depicting the Amritavarsham50 logo was created—depicting Amma embracing the globe–next to a baskets of apples and bananas representing the harvest and a pot full of coins, representing prosperity.

A little after nine in the morning, Amma came down from Her room and blessed the mandala. After receiving a number of flower garlands, Amma made Her way to the auditorium, smiling brightly and holding out Her hands to for all to touch.

In Her satsang, Amma spoke of Onam as a fond remembrance of the days when human beings lived happily together, following the path of dharma. “Normally, in the rest of the year, human beings are always emitting the poison of hatred, anger and jealousy in the world. The Onam festival instills a sense of love, compassion and brotherhood and reduces the effect of the negative poison to a great extent. The story of King Mahabali conveys the importance of surrender.”

Then Amma sang “He Giridara Gopala,” warming up the thousands of people who had filled the hall to capacity. Afterwards, Amma stood up and called on all Her children to forget themselves and dance in the bliss of remembrance of the Lord. Amma took the bells in her hand, raised them above her head and set the rhythm of the song. Everybody in the hall stood up and started clapping their hands above their head in time with Her.

When Amma started singing, “Narayana Narayana Jay Govinda Hare,” She closed Her eyes and it was clear that She was following Her own advice. The whole auditorium enthusiastically emulated Her, dancing, clapping, and singing more and more enthusiastically. Finally Amma bent down, touched the ground and sat down. The music stopped and there was silence as all Amma’s children meditated on Her, who sat immersed in the bliss of the Lord. The entire hall kept silent in this magic moment. It lasted several minutes. When She opened Her eyes, She stood and moved to Her peetham to begin giving darshan

After darshan She walked through the throngs of devotees, who lovingly parted to make way for Her, to the specially prepared seat in the back of the hall. Gracing all who came to see their Mother on Onam with a full serving of rice, curry, vegetables, sambar and pasayam, the most cherished prasad was Her blessing smile and loving gaze.

Onam celebration at Parippally

20 August 2004 — Parippally, Kerala

For Malayalees all over the world, the coming of the fall month of Chingam brings with it sweet childhood memories—of time spent with family, of eating nice meals and, for many, of collecting flower petals with which to make colourful mandalas. All these are part of the month’s 10-day Onam celebrations, an important part of Kerala’s culture. The festival teaches lessons of brotherhood, happiness, contentment, devotion, sharing, sacrifice and surrender to the Higher Self.

This year, the Amrita Sanskrit Higher Secondary School in Parippally held its own Onam celebration. Among the school’s 2,300 students are the 500 or so residents of Amma’s Amrita Niketan orphanage, many of whom have had few chances to celebrate the holiday.

An area was roped off for the classes to compete in creating flower mandalas, or pookkalams, as they are called in Malayalam. The youngest students were assisted by their teachers, while the older ones had come with designs in mind. The boys created the geometric outline of the designs in the sand using compasses made of pencils and string. Then all the students in the group filled in the sections with various colours and textures of flower petals. The offerings of the pookalams were completed with the burning of oil lamps and incense sticks.

Pookalams are made outside the doors of homes, offices and temples to welcome King Maha Bali on his 10-day visit from the underworld to his former kingdom of Kerala.

Observing the competition one could notice the interpersonal skills needed to complete the design. There was a lot of discussion and dispute around the shape and colours of the pookalams. Agreement had to be reached and then fast and efficient teamwork was required to finish within the allotted time. The result was a beautiful creation achieved from the contributions of all the participants. Watching the children, one could see them honing skills that would serve them well in any endeavour.

After the pookkalams were finished, the students performed thiruvathira, a traditional Onam dance, and then the chief figure of Onam, King Maha Bali, portrayed by one of the students, arrived from the underworld to deliver an inspiring speech. The other students then sang bhajans, playing violins and guitars and tabla.

With the next day came the Onam vacation. Many of the orphans were taken to caregivers in their native villages, but 200 others came to Amritapuri to spend time the rest of the holidays with Amma.


AYUDH celebrates India’s Independence

15 August 2004 — Amritapuri

“Bharat is the spiritual centre of the world, its spiritual heart,” said Swami Jnanamritananda on the evening of the 57th anniversary of India’s independence. “Bharat is not just a handful of sand. It is the Mother. Just as a mother feeds her child from her breast, so too this Mother Land nourishes her children through her culture.”

Four the third year in a row, AYUDDH, the youth wing of Mata Amritanandamayi Math celebrated India’s Independence Day by conducting Matrupujas throughout Kerala and at its main centres throughout the country. For Matrupuja, or “worship of the Mother,” children perform padapuja [worship of the feet] to their mothers, as well as participate in the worshipping of sands gathered from holy sites throughout India—including Amma’s Amritapuri Ashram.

Explaining the essence of Matrupuja, Jnanamritananda Swami said, “Even if a child gives hundreds of thousands of rupees to his mother, it will never equal what the mother has given to that child. A child can only pay his mother back by prostrating at her feet and washing them with tears of love.

“Today, we find more and more children putting their parents into old-age homes. It is our tradition that children should see their parents as their gods. The mother gives birth, so she should be respected.

“We have the children perform this puja so that we can maintain the harmony in the family. If the family has harmony, so will the society. If the society has harmony, so will the nation. If the nation does, so will the world.”

For the last one and a half hours of Amma’s Independence Day darshan, students from the Amritapuri campus of Amrita University performed a dance to “Mahishasura Mardini,’ and created a map of India on the darshan hall floor with small oil lamps defining its borders and lines of flower petals forming its seven sacred rivers. They also participated in the cleaning of a near bye government hospital at Amma’s suggestion.


Guru Purnima with Amma in Amritapuri

Today marked the second time in 15 years that Amma has been in Amritapuri for Guru Purnima, the day of paying homage to the lineage of Guru. And as Amma only arrived in India three days ago, it is as much homecoming as holy day – with thousands of devotees taking their first darshan of guru and mother in two months.

The program started in the morning around 8:45, with Swami Amritaswarupananda giving satsang in the new hall. An hour later, Amma came to the stage, taking a seat on a chair draped in sea-green silk.

Soon Swamiji began the pada puja, doing abhishek to Amma’s feet with water, milk, honey, ghee, curd, coconut water and rose water. Then he applied Amma’s feet with sacred ash, sandal paste and kumkum. Next on Her with sandal and kumkum between Her eyebrows. Finally he placed a magnificent garland of full lotus flowers – pink and white – around Amma’s neck. It spilled past the floor; it’s center residing at Amma’s feet.

Soon Swami Amritageetananda began chanting Amma’s Dhyana Sloka and Guru Stotra; then Swamiji commenced with the chanting of Amma’s 108 names. The packed hall reverberated with the sacred response of “Aum Amriteswaryai Namah.” As Swamiji covered Amma’s feet with lotus petals, which by the end reached Her knees, the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees in the hall showered Her with the subtle flowers of the hearts. Some saw Guru, some saw Mother – the embodiment of so many spiritual ideals was clearly before the devotees, many of whom were shedding tears.

Next the arati was performed. Swamiji was first to wave the burning camphor before Amma’s silent form. He was followed by Swami Turiyamritananda and Swamini Krishnamritaprana. Then Amma was garlanded by all of Her sannyasis. As those garlands were rested around her neck, She became verily buried in flowers. Finally Amma’s own mother and father also garlanded Her.

Amma then gave satsang and led a short meditation. She then called for what was sure to be a full day of darshan.

Let us all offer flowers to Amma’s Lotus Feet on this holy day.