Festival Days

6 Oct 2001, Amritapuri

The festival atmosphere at Amritapuri stretched from Wednesday to Sunday morning, when Devi Bhava, begun the previous night at 8:00 pm, finished close to 11:00 am.

In the days preceding Amma’s Birthday, the Ashram was transformed into a city of light. Local devotees teamed up to build several impressive structures, both decorative and functional as necessary shelters, while other devotees worked around the clock to prepare food for the 100,000 visitors expected from all over India. Still others worked tirelessly throughout to help the crowds move smoothly and efficiently.

Wherever Amma walked, great care and artistry had been exercised in beautifying the path which lay before Her. Pictured at left is a scene from Her courtyard, where local devotees had lovingly lit Her way.

Midnight celebrations – Krishnasthami

After bhajans all the devotees took their dinner and, as Amma returned to the auditorium, settled down to watch a evening of performances including a dramatic, musical staging of the Bhagavad Gita, produced and performed by ashramites. Directly after the performances concluded, the reciting of the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Purana which describes the life of Sri Krishna, was begun.

The Srimad Bhagavatam narrates that Sri Krishna was born at midnight. Therefore, the reciting is scheduled so that the portion of the Purana describing Sri Krishna’s birth is chanted at midnight exactly.

Just before midnight, oil lamps and camphor were lit all along the front of the stage. When the actual moment occurred, the entire ashram burst forth in celebration. The musicians from the parade earlier in the day returned to play the marching beat of victory, as the devotees erupted in cheers. Conchs were blown, and every bell in the ashram rang out simultaneously.

Then the arati was performed to the idol of the Baby Krishna. At the same time, Swami Amritagitananda Puri placed a beautiful garland around Amma’s neck and performed arati to Her, the living embodiment of Krishna.

After the arati, Amma led the joyous crowd in special bhajans that are sung only on Krishna’s birthday, beginning with Agatanayi Agatanayi Vishnu Devan! (Lord Vishnu Has Come!).

During the last bhajan, Govind Gokula Ayo, Amma stood and danced, cymbals in hand. The front of the stage was packed with enthusiastic devotees, dancing, clapping and jumping in time with the devotional music. Then, when Amma withdrew Herself in spontaneous meditation, all present remained motionless and silent. It had been a day to celebrate the Divine Incarnation of Krishna. Now here they were, fortunate enough to spend this day with their own beloved Amma, and for a few moments they were allowed to witness Her retreating to the unfathomable depths of Supreme Consciousness that only She knows.

After a few minutes, Amma stood again and served payasam to all the visiting devotees.

Janmashtami – Krishna’s birthday

As always on Sri Krishna’s birthday, today was a day of great festivity at Amritapuri.

The celebrations began at three o’clock in the afternoon with a parade to the local Krishna temple. The procession was headed up by some of the ashramite children costumed for the day and carrying an ashram banner, followed closely by a band of enthusiastic young trumpeters and percussionists, and Amritapuri ayurvedic doctor cradling a lovely Krishna doll made by hand at Amritapuri. There were also a joyous group of AICT students led by three dressed as Krishna, Radha, and Balarama; and of course many of the ashramites and visitors.

The local people gave a warm welcome to the merry procession, setting out pujas with oil lamps and often pictures of Amma. The locals seemed to especially enjoy the children dressed as Radha and Krishna, often calling out at the sight of them.

At the Krishna temple a grand puja was set up with pictures of Amma as well as Krishna. The local priest performed traditional worship to Krishna doll, adding a garland of flowers to the ones the doll had received en route. The parade circled the temple and was greeted with another puja and refreshments on the other side. After a short break all proceeded back to Amritapuri, passing many more friendly locals and the best they could provide in the way of brass lamps, ornaments, and pictures on the way home.

Celebration No sooner had the parade reached the ashram grounds than Amma made Her first appearance of the day (since the end of Devi Bhava at seven in the morning), joining the the throngs gathered in front of the temple to watch “Uriyadi”, the traditional sport of the day. The game is played by children–and, after a while, many adults who couldn’t resist joining in the fun–who attempt to break a clay pot which is hung by a pulley and manipulated from the other end to rise and fall quickly, taunting the players who have only a short wooden stick and the length of their legs with which to reach the pot. To add to the challenge, people stand along the sidelines and dash water at the players as they swing for the pot. There were many near misses followed by gasps and groans from the crowd, and an occasional burst of cheering when someone managed to break open the pot. Even a ninety-year-old grandmother – Pattammal -was inspired to join in the game, behaving just like a small child as she swung innocently at the hanging pot. The game is played in commemoration of the many sports and games Krishna played with the gopas as a boy.

Amma watched the games attentively, applauding enthusiastically when a pot was broken and watching with motherly concern when some of the AICT students climbed on one another shoulders, making a three-tiered human pyramid in order to reach the pot. Still, like any mother who wants her children to be happy, She consented to let them attempt the trick repeatedly, even as She clasped Her hands together in prayer while they teetered back and forth in the air, and stood out of Her seat to see that all were unhurt when they leapt away from each other. Upon seeing them safe, sound, and happy, She applauded their efforts and beamed with childlike delight.

Finally, after nearly two hours, Amma returned to Her room briefly before coming out for the evening’s bhajans.

Vishu celebrations

April the 14th, 2001, marks the New Year in the Hindu calendar. The focal point of the Vishu celebrations in Amritapuri was the Kalari, where Amma first started Krishna Bhava in 1975.

The vishukkani (literally, ‘first sight of the year’) was kaleidoscopic display of elaborate floral arrangements and a platter of fruits. In Indian tradition, God is remembered at the outset of any new venture. This is especially true for the New Year. As such, it is believed that having a glimpse of auspicious items as the ‘first sight’ will usher in God’s blessings.


On the eve of Vishu, the ashram residents gathered to put up decorations, that included streamers and tiny light bulbs suspended from the branches of trees. When they had finished, the decorations cast an enchanting glow to the ashram. The festive spirit was truly in the air…

At 4 a.m. the next day, the tiny veranda and garden in front of the Kalari was packed with devotees. Some sat in meditation, while others stood prayerfully awaiting their turn to visit the shrine. The atmosphere resounded with the sounds of the gong and the conch, announcing the moment of the ‘first sight’. The clamor lasted for as long as it took all who had gathered to offer their salutations to the beauty of the Lord’s creation.

The symbolic significance behind this ritual resides in the prayerful desire to ensure that the bounteous blessings of God – represented by the harvest of fruits and flowers – be with us throughout the year. A mirror is strategically positioned between the fruits and flowers: as one beholds the auspicious vishukkani, one catches a glimpse of one’s own Self.


Those familiar with Amritapuri may be surprised to learn that the old kitchen and “blue house” adjacent to the main temple building have been demolished. The much-beloved corner of our ashram will make way for a spanking new building housing a new dining hall, a spacious library and office rooms, among other facilities.


Ram, the ashram’s darling elephant, has moved into his new quarters at the northwestern corner of the ashram. Every morning, he visits the Kalari, and every morning, goes for a walk around the ashram premises and sometimes, along the beach.

Reports of the celebration

On the evening of the 18th there was a talk by Swami Poornamritananda, which was followed by a soul stirring bhajans led by Amma. The devotional singing by the famous Hindustani singer Anup Jalota at 10 p.m. transported the devotees into heights of devotional ecstasy

On the morning of the 19th, at 5 a.m. there was congregational Lalita Sahasranama chanting, in which thousands of devotees participated. At 7.30 a.m. there was Vedic incantations by the students of Tantra Vidyapeetham, Aluva, followed by an inspiring talk by Swami Amritaswaroopananda.

At 7.45 a.m. Amma was escorted to the dais, beneath a ceremonial umbrella held by one of the disciples. As She walked through the pathway in the centre of the vast auditorium, devotees were offering flower petals at Her feet amidst the chanting of Om Amriteswarayi Namah, which reverberated in the atmosphere. Having prostrated to the gathering of devotees Amma sat on the ceremonial peetam and then Swami Amritaswaroopananda and Swamini Krishnamrita Prana along with other disciples performed the pada puja. The playing of Panchavadyam (traditional instrumental music) by the children of Amrita Niketanam, Parippally, added to the devotional mood of the moment. Swami Amritaswaroopananda then led the chanting of the 108 holy names of Amma, in which tens of thousands of devotees joined in.

After the pada pooja there was the birthday sammelan (function), in which Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi, union minister for human resources development, was the chief guest. After the welcome speech by Dr. Prem Nair, Swami Amritaswaroopananda presented a memento to Dr. Joshi. Dr. Joshi then inaugurated the fourth phase of the Amritakuteeram project (a project for constructing 25000 houses for the homeless poor, 5000 every year) and also handed over the master key to the 5000 houses constructed during the current year.

New books and cassettes released

Amritayanam, a Sanskrit epic poem, describing the life and deeds of Amma, authored by Sri. Muthukulam Sreedhar was released by Prof.M.K. Sanu, scholar and cultural emissary, and received by Kavalam Narayana Panicker, noted poet and playwright.

Unmayilekkunaru, Amma’s address at the UN millennium peace summit of religious and spiritual leaders, was released by Sri.P.Parameswaran, Director of Bharateeya Vicharakendra and received by Sri. PV Chandran, Managing Editor of Mathrubhumi daily.

Mukti Margatil Oru Teerthatanam, spiritual travelogue, authored by Swami Paramatmananda was released by noted poet Sri.Kunjunni Master and received by Poet Laureate Akkittam Achutan Namboothiri

Jyotir Gamaya, Pearls of Wisdom from Amma, was released by Sri. O.Rajagopal, Minister of State for Railways and received by  K.M.Mathew Chief editor of Malayalam Manorama.

Bhajan cassettes sung by Amma and Her disciples were released by Sri Sreekumaran Tampi, Film Director, and received by Sri Kamal.V.Rao, District collector, Kollam.

Swami Poornamritananda delivered the vote of thanks.

Amma then distributed the prizes to the winners of the Matruvani campaign. This was followed by Amma’s darshan in which She individually received and blessed tens of thousands of devotees. The Darshan went on till late in the afternoon. Also there will be Devi Bhava darshan in the evening, which continued throughout the night into the morning of the 20th.

Birthday luncheon

Nearly a lakh of people participated in the birthday luncheon. The birthday programs went on smoothly and orderly owing to the elaborate arrangements made by the ashram authorities. Facilities such as 24-hour medical booth, ambulances, fire engines, closed TV circuits, water supply in polythene bags, etc. were provided for the convenience of devotees.

Above all, the birthday celebrations bore witness to Amma’s infinite capacity for giving, Her readiness to go to any extent for the joy and comfort of Her children. We all once again witnessed Her performing the superhuman task of receiving and blessing individually more than half a lakh of people within 24 hours. Throughout every minute of the celebrations She was the very picture of sweetness, compassion, patience, love and humility. Her life and deeds, which excel the beauty of Her words, is Her real message to the world.

Boat Race: The Jayanthi Jalotsovam

The villages of Vallikavu and Parayakadavu were transported into a grand mood of gaiety and festivity when the Amritamayi Jalotsov boat race was celebrated to commemorate the birthday of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. On Monday, 18th September, the race was held for the third consecutive year on the Kayamkulam backwaters. Vallam Kali (water festival) is a sport art form unique to Kerala, a land of many rivers and waterways.

In this holy water festival, Alappadan Chundan emerged as the winner of the coveted Amritamayi Trophy of the year.

Distributing the trophies of Amritamayi Jalotsov and congratulating the winners, Amma said that more than who won, what is important is the spirit of effort and unity. ‘A real festival is born when enthusiasm is combined with good samskara (culture),’ said Amma, who reminded everyone that the real beauty of society lies in the harmony of hearts.

About 13 racing boats of various types from different parts of South Kerala participated in the event. Before the race commenced, there was a spectacular procession of diverse boats accompanied by traditional music.
The race started at the Sri. Krishna Swami Temple in Allapaad and ended at the special pavilion constructed at M.A. Math for the occasion. The competition began with nine snake boats; popularly known as the ‘kings of the waterways’, these exquisitely shaped boats rowed to the rhythm of the vanchippattu (traditional boat songs).

Shri. O. Rajagopal, Union Minister of State for Railways and Parliamentary Affairs, began the festival with prayers for divine grace and then by hoisting the flag. Shri. V.C. Kabir, Minister for Health and Sports, then formally inaugurated the jalotsav by lighting a lamp. He expressed his happiness that through Amma’s inspiration, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math is integrating spiritual principles with charitable activities in multiple fields for the welfare of humanity.

Shri. E. Chandrashekaran Nair, Minister for Food and Tourism, who presided over the function, lauded the wide ranging humanitarian service projects of the Math. He observed that with the opening of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, other hospitals in the private sector have been compelled to reduce their medical charges; medical treatment in the private sector has come within the reach of the poor. He said that surgeries which previously cost four to five lakhs of rupees are being performed today for just 60,000-70,000 rupees, just because of AIMS.

Shri. N.K. Premachandran, MP, eloquently praised Amma’s magnanimity in caring for the poor and downtrodden. He praised Amma’s guiding the M.A. Math to give importance to the concerns of common people and the stark realities of mundane life instead of confining itself merely to the spiritual field.

Vishu celebrations

April the 14th, 2000 was new year’s day in the Hindu calendar. Amma was away on Her tour of North India and the residents used this time to completely restore the old Kalari (temple), where Amma first started Krishna Bhava in 1975. The roof was replaced and internal renovations were carried out.

Flowers, harvest fruit displays, streamers and decorations were made by the ashram residents. The children and old people, students and monks, all worked together under a bright night sky and with lights hanging in the trees, the preparations took on a truly festive air. Everyone looked forward to the morning’s ‘first sight’ (In Indian tradition at the outset of any new venture God is remembered. This is especially true for the beginning of the new year. So traditionally things considered to be auspicious, reminding us of the bounteous blessings of God are the things that are seen first of all on New years day.)
At 4 a.m. in the morning the tiny veranda and garden in front of the Kalari thronged with devotees. Some sat in meditation, others stood prayerfully waiting their turn to visit the shrine room. The day had not yet dawned as the atmosphere rang with the holy sounds of the gong and conch, announcing the moment of the ‘first sight’. The clamor lasted as long as it took for one and all to offer their salutations to the beauty of the Lord’s creation.

Philosophically, the meaning of the rite is that the goodness of God, which we behold in the shrine room, decorated with the harvest of his gifts to us, should stay with us throughout the year, that we might always see goodness in all. Between the arrangements of fruit and flowers a mirror is placed, so that as one beholds the auspicious sight, one catches a glimpse of one’s own higher Self.