Amrita Setu will also go into history

Excerpts from President Kalam’s Address on the Occasion of the Inauguration of Amrita Setu

20 December 2006 – Amritapuri

I offer my prostrations to all of you. My great respects and reverence to Amma.

Friends, I have come here a number of times. Whenever I come here to Amritapuri, I ask myself what is so unique about the environment of Amritapuri? It may have an engineering college, it may have a spiritual setup, it may have beautiful people, but what is the unique thing? I was searching myself. I believe it is that the environment is beautiful. When an environment is beautiful, it creates beautiful minds. When beautiful minds are there, they give creativity. And the creativity leads to many, many wonders. It may be in the form of love. As reverent Amma put it just now, “That shore and this shore, both can be united through a bridge.”

It is indeed a beautiful thing to connect people. Now I am very happy to be in the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in the presence of Amma and to participate in the inauguration of Amrita Setu. I am happy to be here to inaugurate an important connectivity for the people of this region.

When I saw the Amrita Setu, my memory went back to Rameshwaram. It is said that Lord Rama ordered the construction of a bridge at Rameshwaram Dhanushkody. His vanaras [monkeys] built the bridge in time for Rama’s troops to go to Sri Lanka for waging the war against the evil Ravana, as mentioned in the Ramayana. Satellite pictures show that the remnants of a bridge still exist between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka.  I am sure that the Amrita Setu built by Amma will also go into history and enhance the economic activity of this region.

I am happy that this bridge will greatly benefit the citizens of Alappad Panchayat. For these people, crossing to the mainland has been a big problem due to the lack of a nearby bridge. For any medical emergency, a bridge like this could be a life-saving connectivity. If there is a need for large-scale evacuation due to any natural calamity, Amrita Setu   Bridge will enable people to move to safer places with speed.

I tried to climb up—just now before coming here—and it was a unique experience for me. And when I was going up, Amma also was coming. So, I didn’t want to trouble her; I came down.

I have seen, in my younger days, how the Rameshwaram cyclones shattered my father, a boat builder’s, dreams. So, friends, as a boatman’s son, I can understand this bridge’s importance. So I give my reverence to Amma for giving such a beautiful thing to our people in Kerala.

Now, finally, I will say that when the people work in the seacoast, it is essential to provide a proper warning system about the sea condition and wind condition, for the safety of the people who are following a profession in and around the sea. The Amrita Setu indeed will be useful in normal times for people and material movement, and during the high wind and high sea conditions, it will facilitate the evacuation of large number of people in a short time.

When I was traveling just now towards Amritapuri, I saw a lot of people standing to greet me, at the seashore, close to sea, even beyond the sea… And I felt, I will work with Amma. One mission needed in the coastal region is the creation of a Coastal PURA.

The Coastal PURA will increase the earning capacity and enhance the quality of life of the citizens living in the region. So if you live in the village environment all around Amritapuri, the Physical Connectivity, the Electronic Connectivity and Knowledge Connectivity, Economic Connectivity will come. From the present 10,000 to 15,000 per capita income, it will increase three times; that is to about 50,000 per capita income.

So definitely Amma has a noble mission. Amma has been working on a number of societal missions in Kerala. Every time I come to Amritapuri, I have found a unique thing. What is that unique thing? That is: Give. Go on giving. And give and go on going. And in giving one gets the pleasure, happiness and anand [bliss].

And the message that people like us—the people that are sitting there watching—get: is that giving is indeed happiness. This New Year—2007—is coming. Let us decide 2007 will be the “Year of Giving.” You give. You go on giving.

Amma has given the bridge—Amrita Setu. And this bridge is nothing but one of the greatest givings—connecting the shores. That is what has happened. [We have to ask ourselves,] “How to connect this shore and that shore.”

So, friends, I want to share with you what I have learned from Amritapuri: Giving. You go on giving. You can give. It’s not only money. You can share knowledge. You can remove the pain. And you can even go to the person who is suffering. Every one of us—the rich and poor—can give. That is the message I get from Amritapuri, friends. There is no greater message than Amma’s giving to all the people of this region, and Kerala, and India, and to the world.

Friends, finally, I would like to say I congratulate the devotees, planners, architects, builders and service providers who have collectively ensured the construction of the bridge, Amrita Setu, in a record time of one year. In one year, a beautiful bridge has come. One day, I will climb on to the other end. One day, I will definitely do that. My respects and greetings to all of you. May God bless you all. Greetings.

Amrita Setu: Connecting lands connecting hearts

20 December 2006 — Amritapuri

Salutations to all of you who are verily the embodiments of love and the Supreme Self.

It’s been nearly two years since the tragedy of the tsunami. Amma can still clearly see the tears and hear the cries of those who lost their near and dear ones that terrible day. My earnest prayer is that such a tragedy never occurs again anywhere in this world. But when Amma sees human beings selfishly exploiting nature, she becomes fearful inside. These people do not have the mental strength to face the fury of another tsunami; should one come again, they will breakdown.

We are all aware of the general increase in Kerala’s suicide rate, especially among farmers in the Wayanad District. May a similar fate not fall upon these people whose lives depend on the sea. Human beings may not have the power to prevent natural disasters, but they can at least stop inflicting misery and sorrow upon each other. The first step towards this comes in protecting Mother Nature. As per the latest survey reports, it is said that one out of every four people in the world will suffer from cancer. Maybe this figure is not accurate. If someone pricks us with a needle, we might take it lightly, saying, "It’s okay, it’s just a needle." But what if we were to be pricked by hundreds of such needles? Then it becomes dangerous. So too is the case with the exploitation of Mother Nature. If we continue to torture Her, it will only lead to our own destruction. If human beings show hesitancy in changing, Mother Nature will make us change. This is the message behind Mother Nature’s retaliations. It is like the clay telling the potter, “Today, you may be the one manhandling me, but not so long from now, I will be doing the same to you.” Let us not draw more than we need from Mother Nature’s resources. Whether it is the treasures of the sea, the sands along the coast, our forests, mountains or lakes–preserving such treasures is the duty of every individual.

After the tsunami, Amma thought that, if only there had been a bridge here, so many deaths could have been prevented. On that day, Amma decided to construct one. With the grace of the Paramatman, today that work has come to completion. Amma is very happy about this. Amma’s happiness is not only due to the fact that the villagers now have a bridge to use. The bridge is also a symbol–a symbol of the power of love and unity to bring human beings together. It is the nature of rivers to ever flow in one direction. But the flow of love is not like that. Love flows both ways, embracing one and all. With this bridge, Amma expects the notion, &quot;I am from this< shore and you are from that< shore,&quot; and all the sense of difference originating from it, to come to an end. Amma knows that nothing can be forced upon anyone, but she believes that such change will now gradually begin to take place.

Wickedness and the feeling of “otherness” used to be seen only in cities, but today we find them even in small villages. In previous times, Indian villages were full of simplicity, purity and innocence. But today things have changed. It’s not the fault of the villagers. We all are to blame. Therefore we should be ready to boldly face our responsibility and help usher in the necessary changes. The inauguration of this bridge here today heralds such an occurrence. If this bridge can help people hold hands in love, forgetting the attitude that &quot;I am from this< shore&quot; and &quot;I am from that< shore,&quot; and make one feel, &quot;We are from the same< shore,&quot; wouldn’t it be a great feat. Such unity is the solution to so many of our problems.

Even if we are not able to do big things, we might be able to achieve quite a lot by doing small things at the right time—Amma told a story of a doctor who was able to save the life of the man with a seemingly insignificant feather.
If we take one step sincerely, the next step will automatically follow. But in today’s world, where there is so much competition and selfishness, nobody wants to take the first step. Everyone wants merely to look on, idly, from the side. Nobody wants to take a decision.

Only through unwavering love and faith in the ideals that benefit society can we make and implement the right decisions. Otherwise, there will just be promises and opinions that, although diplomatic, change nothing. In order to make a decision and move ahead with its implementation, we should first understand the needs of the people. We should have a thorough understanding of their problems and then put in sincere effort. We should not only please the “haves” and give only promises to the “have-nots.” This only pushes them into a bottomless pit of expectation. Seeing no way out, they will become despondent and may even commit suicide.

Today we are completely governed by our lack of acceptance to both the good and the bad. No one has faith in anyone else. This is the cause behind the lack of creative decision making in society, as well as its implementation.

The goals of religion and politics are the same: to unite everyone. Division only weakens us. Amma has hope in the coming generations. Allow them to grow emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. For this, there should be support from politicians and leaders. Instead of making farfetched claims regarding our superiority, may our efforts be unified. May this bridge not only connect two shores, but remain forever as a symbol of love and brotherhood, uniting human hearts as well. May the Paramatman’s blessings fulfil this prayer.

May the country be able to use the talents and knowledge of the President so as to be able to most benefit from them.

— Amma’s address on the occasion of Amrita Setu inauguration, 20 Dec 2006


President Kalam inaugurates Amrita Setu

20 December 2006 — Amritapuri

The President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, came to Amritapuri in order to inaugurate Amrita Setu, the bridge the Ashram has constructed connecting the island of Alappad Panchayat to Vallikkavu. The bridge was constructed with the aim of providing a centralized escape route via which 15,000 people could evacuate in 30 minutes should Alappad face another natural disaster in the future. It was the third time that the President has come to the Ashram, the second since taking office in 2002.

The President arrived at 3:15 pm at the location of Amrita Setu, where he with Amma unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion. The President then started to climb up to the top of the bridge, but when he saw Amma coming up with him, he stopped and came back down. Later, while addressing the gathering, President Kalam said that he’d wanted to climb to the top but, as he did not want to trouble Amma, he had turned around.

After a private talk with Amma, the President took the dais. He was joined by Amma and Sri. C. Divakaran, Kerala’s Minister for Food & Civil Services, and Sri. S. Sharma, the Minister of Fisheries and Harbour Engineering.

Swami Amritaswarupananda delivered the welcoming speech, recounting the day of the tsunami and detailing the Ashram’s 100-crore relief-and-rehabilitation project. “With full confidence,” he said. “I can say that no one in the world has done as much for the tsunami-affected of India as Amma.”

Swami also explained how Amma had first told him that the Ashram should build an evacuation bridge after witnessing the confusion, over-crowded boats and the amount of time involved in two false “tsunami alerts.” “Amrita Setu is Amma’s love in rock-solid form—a symbol of the compassion and selflessness she embodies” Swami continued.

Welcoming the President, he said “This country has had so many presidents since Independence and all have done good things, but President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is very special—because he is such a great lover of Bharat. He loves this country, and he loves her culture. He is a great visionary—one with only one dream: making India the most powerful country in the world. Even the money he gets each month he gives in charity. Indeed, Your Excellency, it is an honour to have you among us.”

It was Amma who spoke next {read message}. Amma said that, in her heart, she could still clearly see the faces and hear the sounds of those who lost their near and dear ones to the tsunami. She then prayed that such a tragedy never takes place again anywhere in the world. Amma said that unfortunately when she sees mankind continuing to selfishly exploit Mother Nature, she is filled with fear. “If we continue to torture [Mother Nature], it will only lead to our own destruction,” Amma said. “If human beings show hesitancy in changing, Mother Nature will make us change. This is the message behind Mother Nature’s retaliations.”


Amma also spoke of Amrita Setu as a symbol of the power of love and unity to bring human beings together, and urged the citizens of Alappad and the citizens of Vallikkavu to forget their differences. “It is the nature of rivers to ever flow in one direction. But the flow of love is not like that. Love flows both ways, embracing one and all. With this bridge, Amma expects the notion, ‘I am from this shore and you are from that shore,’ and all the sense of difference originating from it, to come to an end.”

Amma ended her talk by praying that may India is able to use the talents and knowledge of President Kalam in the best way possible.

After quick talks by the two ministers, the President himself stepped up to the podium. {read full speech}  He began by speculating on what was so unique about Amritapuri. “When an environment is beautiful, it creates beautiful minds. When beautiful minds are there, they give creativity. And the creativity leads to many, many wonders” said Dr. Kalam.

President Kalam said that Amrita Setu reminded him of how in his childhood home, Rameshwaram, Rama had built a bridge to Sri Lanka thousands of years ago. “I am sure that Amrita Setu will also go into history,” he said.

The President then said that he would look to work with Amma to create a Coastal PURA in Alappad. PURA (Providing Urban facilities in Rural Areas) is the President’s program for empowering villages.

The President said that he understood Alappad’s need for a bridge, as he had faced many cyclones growing up in Rameshwaram. He also said that it was essential for people living close to the sea to have a proper warning system with regard to severe weather conditions.

The President concluded by saying that he would take with him from Amritapuri the message of giving. “Give and go on giving,” he said. “That is the message I get from Amritapuri. There is no greater message than Amma giving to all the people of this region, and Kerala, and India, and for the world.”

Amma then presented stipends to village ferrymen, and Swami Amritaswarupananda presented President Kalam with a memento to commemorate the occasion.



Thanks for fulfilling the dream

19 December 2006, Amritapuri

“Nowhere in the world, has another NGO built such a bridge like Amrita Setu. On behalf of the people and the Panchyat Committee of Alappad, we thank the Mata Amritanandamayi Math for this noble gift. When the Tsunami occurred in 2004 there was only a bridge to the south in Panikkarukadavu which connected us to the mainland, but the Tsunami hit worst in the northern area of Alappad Panchyat at Srayikkad, Azheekal, and Parayakadavu. There, the only way to escape to the mainland was via water. Amrita Setu provides a new evacuation route that will help to allay the fears of the people in this area. Amrita Setu is a blessing from Amma to the Alappad region.”
– Mr. Rajadas, President Alappad Grama Panchyat

* * * * * * * *

“The Amrita Setu bridge, which will be inaugurated by His Excellency, Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, is very useful for the people. The concept of a bridge has long been a dream of this area. The Kulasekharapuram Grama Panchyat Committee Members thank Mata Amritanandamayi and the officials of the Math for fulfilling this dream.”
– Srimati Jagadamma, President Kulasekharapuram Grama Panchyat

New bridge, new hopes

19 December 2006, Amritapuri

Long before the towers of Amritapuri were constructed, in fact, as long as one can remember, ferrys have been taking villagers back and forth across the backwaters separating the Alappad island from the Mainland.  The small wooden boats, capable of holding about a score of people, have been operated by a number of village men – some of whom have been doing so for many years.  Holding a 15-foot tall bamboo pole, the oarsmen steer the boats lazily across the backwaters, taking about three to four minutes from shore to shore.

Stephen (61) and Bhargavan (73) have been working the backwaters for many years.  Both have been grateful for the livelihood that the visitors to Amritapuri have provided them.   “It is because of Amma and the fares paid by visitors to the Ashram that I have been able to feed my family,” Stephen noted.   He was also a recipient of one of the homes built by the Ashram before the Tsunami as a part of the Amrita Kuteeram program.  “One of my family members is also receiving a pension from the Ashram.”  With a twinkle in his eyes, Stephen also recalled the few times when he ferried Amma across the backwaters.

The tsunami has changed everyone’s life.  With Amrita Setu towering above their small boats, it most certainly will dramatically affect their livelihoods.  Even so, all the oarsmen agree that the bridge is necessary. ‘Amma has built this bridge to save the villagers,’ noted Stephen, who along with Bhargavan, was there when the tsunami struck.  Bhargavan still has nightmares – he had just taken a group of people across the backwaters and was tying his boat up when the waters rushed in.  The two of them immediately became part of the rescue team – spending hours ferrying the villagers from the island across to the mainland to safety.  Stephen noted that he must have made at least 27 trips.  “It was during this time that I saw Amma’s amazing ability to help in such a calamity.”

Sanu Lal (aka Podimon) has been the operator of the Ashram motor boat for the past 8 years.    During the tsunami, he also helped with the relief efforts.  In the days and months afterwards, he worked around the clock- helping to bring workers, supplies, and food from the mainland to the various points along the backwaters where homes were being built.  At times, he even slept on the boat. “I believe that it was my punya (merit) that gave me this opportunity to help serve others. But now with the bridge, it will be easy for the students to get back and forth from school.”

Tomorrow, Amma will give each a financial compensation package which will help the oarsmen establish a new means of livelihood.  With the gift, Stephen, Bhargavan, and the others hope to realize their dream of offering visitors and tourists tours of the backwaters.  Even so, there may still be people who elect to choose the ferries just to get from one side to the other simply for the experience.   Rising high above the backwaters, the Amrita Setu bridge is bringing new hopes to both the oarsmen and the people of Alappad.


President Kalam to inaugurate Amrita Setu

13 December 2006 — Amritapuri

On the 20th of December, the President of India, His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, will inaugurate Amrita Setu, the Ashram-constructed bridge connecting Alappad Panchayat with Vallikkavu.

Amrita Setu was constructed by the Ashram as part of its extensive tsunami-relief program, wherein Amma dedicated one hundred crores {news} towards relief and rehabilitation. Should the Alappad community face any future disaster, the bridge ensures the villagers an escape route via which 15,000 can be evacuated in 30 minutes.

The inauguration will take place at 3:00 p.m. in Amritapuri in the presence of Amma.

The bridge will stand as a monument of Amma’s compassion for the suffering. At the time of the tsunami, when the Ashram was using its boats to shuttle thousands across the backwaters to safety, Amma immediately expressed the need for a bridge. On September 14th 2005, the construction began.

There were a lot of obstacles to overcome including wind and rain, but with the cooperation of the Irrigation Department, the Bridge & Road Department, and the people and leaders of Alappad Panchayat, the Ashram was able to complete the bridge within 14 months.

Before Amrita Setu, there was only one bridge for all 17.5 kilometers of Alappad, and that is located on the southern tip of the island. Amrita Setu is in the middle.

Prof. Aravindan of Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute designed the bridge, and Sri. Lavan, an Ashram Engineer, was in charge of construction construction with the support of Br. Krishna Kumar as the supervisor. The 18,250 hours of manpower needed to complete the bridge were accomplished by a mix of workers and volunteers from around the world—with even Amma herself joining in to create the bridge’s approach road.

Ornamental hand-railings and two pillars at the entrance on each side depicting the North Kerala art form of teyyam add beauty to the bridge. At 100 meters in length and only two support pilings, Amrita Setu is the fist of its kind in Kerala.


Amrita Setu bridge statistics
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Length: 100 meters
* Width: 5.79 meters
* Total height from water to top (central arch): 14.02 meters
* Weight: 1000 tons
* Height from water to walkway: 7.62 meters
* Height from walkway to archway: 6.40 meters
* Two pillars of 1.2 meters in diameter each
* Each pillar contains six pilings
* Each pilling goes 9.14 meters into the riverbed.
* Number of steps on the Amritapuri side: 59
* Number of steps on the Vallikkavu side: 58
* Total steps: 117
* 150 tons of steel
* 200 truckloads of mettle
* 200 truckloads of sand
* 6000 bags of cement
* Diameter of Mata Amritanandamayi Math logo on top of the arch: 2.43 meters.


Ashram Tsunami documentary wins award

29th October 2006 — Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA

The Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s documentary “Pray & Serve: Amma’s Response to the Tsunami” won the Filmmaker’s Award at the prestigious Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas, USA.

The film was screened on 28th October and the award was presented the following night.

This Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is now in its 15th year, having begun in 1992. The 2006 festival was attended by some 12,000 people. The audience for Pray & Serve was visibly moved by the film’s portrayal of Amma’s compassionate response to the infamous disaster.
hotspring award for pray and serve


NGO and UN have something to learn from Amma

Interview with Olara A. Otunnu, Former UN Under-Secretary General

22 September 2006-Amritapuri

Olara A. Otunnu recently paid a visit to Amritapuri. In 2005, Mr. Otunnu completed his eight-year term as UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict. In this capacity, Mr. Otunnu was a moral voice and advocate on behalf of war-affected children, promoting measures for their protection in times of war and for their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.

Mr. Otunnu told Amma that he wanted to come to Amritapuri to thank her personally for the love she was bestowing upon the world. “We need you in major parts of the world–in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, in America–where people are hungry for love, healing and the sense of being accepted and being loved,” he said.

Mr. Otunnu asked Amma for her support and advice in relation to the independent international organization that he recently founded in New York, the LBL Foundation for Children, which is devoted to promoting protection, hope, healing and education for children in communities devastated by war.

He also said that he wanted to draw Amma’s attention to the genocide plaguing his native Uganda, where for the past 15 years some two million people have been living in concentration camps–1,500 of which are dying each week. “We need Amma’s positive thoughts and prayers to end this genocide,” he told Amma.

In the 1970s, Mr. Otunnu played a leading role in the resistance against the regime of Idi Amin. He has also served as Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, during which time he served a stint as President of the Security Council (1981), Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (1983-84), Vice-President of the General Assembly (1982-83) and Facilitator of Global Negotiations (1982-83).

Q : Why did you come to India?

Otunnu: The original reason was to come to Mumbai to receive an award, the Global Award for Contribution to Human Rights.

I met Amma in New York earlier this year, and I told her that I would very much like to come and see for myself where she is based, to her in situ, if you like, and to pay my respects and tribute to her in person. So after the award ceremonies, I decided to come to Kerala and see her where she was born, where she grew up and where she is doing most of her work from.

Q : How was your meeting with Amma?

Otunnu: I was very moved by the meeting. Before the meeting, of course, I’d seen her in darshan. She was receiving a lot of people. And the way in which people bring to her their troubles, their burdens, their grief, and how they seemed to leave it on her shoulders and the comfort and sense of relief that they seemed to feel when they leave her–it was very moving to see that.

And then later I was able to have a more private meeting with her, and the experience that she related to me as to how she has built this phenomenon, which has began in this village, moved to other parts of Kerala, to India, and on to become a worldwide phenomenon;it is extraordinary.

She is so simple, so modest and yet the power of what she is able to bring forth is truly extraordinary–a very, very moving experience.

I had a very good discussion with her about the humanitarian work she’s been doing, about the education she’s providing for the children and about some of the other projects that she is now discussing, about how she has come to the support of those who suffer from tsunami. And today I was able to see some of the houses built during that time, and it’s phenomenal what she has been able to do.

Q : As someone who has multiple decades of experience in the field of humanitarian intervention, what is your perspective on Amma’s humanitarian work, your impression?

Otunnu: It is very striking, because I have been involved with the United Nations, with non-government organisations, and it is very difficult to get good, quality delivery–with all the best intentions in the world it is not easy. By quality of delivery I mean to have quality delivery of services to those in need, to those in distress and to those to whom you are giving support. And to do that in a timely way is exceedingly difficult, especially in the middle of a massive disaster, a massive emergency like the tsunami.

Another problem that we face in terms of international relief work is how much of the resources mobilized to support those in need go to those who are providing support–the personnel. Whether UN agencies or NGOs, the overheads tend to be quite high relative to what actually ends up benefiting the people who are truly in need. I was very struck by how much of what is generated, how much of the money that is mobilized, actually goes and benefits directly those in need. This is remarkable. This is remarkable. It was very striking for me how she managed to get that formula right.

She acts on the spontaneous and instinctive. And that has given a lot of speed and momentum, cut out the bureaucracy, and made it possible to inspire people and to move with them to actually provide timely and quality support to those in need. This is a remarkable thing. And I think that international NGOs and UN agencies have something to learn from the work of Amma and what she has been able to build.

Q : What do you think Amma has to offer to the world?

Otunnu: You see a lot of hatred, a lot of bloodshed, a lot of ugliness in the world, a lot of suffering and despair. And what she’s been able to give a lot of people … is a sense of genuine love, to feel that they are loved, to feel that she cares, and that she is able to relieve their despair. And the world can do with a lot more love than there is right now, and Amma provides that. Amma has that sense of love and comfort.

Q : What do you feel your are taking with you from your visit here?

Otunnu: I am simply very moved by what I’ve seen here. I have been very touched meeting her, having that private moment with her, seeing people coming and having darshan with her, and also seeing some of the projects that she has been building here. So I leave very, very moved, wanting very much to learn from this experience. And, secondly, wanting to tell the world about this phenomenon of spreading love and good will and support and comfort to people who are in need, to people who are suffering, to people who are in despair, to those in pain.

I have been delighted to have been able to come and see this extraordinary work firsthand.


Amrita Setu – bridge seva

17 September 2006 — Amritapuri

For a long time there was “sand seva.” Then, later it was “brick seva.” Now it is “bridge seva.” Towards the end of darshan on the 16th, Amma asked all the ashramites to come in the morning and help mix the concrete and pour the girders for the deck of the bridge connecting Alappad Panchayat with the mainland.

The next morning, not only did the ashramites come ready for work, but also a host of devotees and Amrita University students.

It was like the scene in the Ramayana, wherein Rama’s army builds the bridge from Rameshwaram to the island country of Lanka in order to rescue Sita from Ravana and restore dharma. The “Sitas” in this metaphor are the approximately 25,000 villagers who live on the peninsula. Alappad was the area in Kerala most severely affected by the 2004 tsunami, with more than 142 deaths along its 17.5 km stretch. The Ashram’s intention in constructing the bridge is to enable the evacuation of 15,000 people in 30 minutes should another such tragedy strike the area. Currently there is only one bridge connecting Alappad with the mainland, and it is at the southern end of the peninsula. {news}

As with all projects Amma initiates, here there are two sets of beneficiaries: those being helped and those doing the helping. It is in this way that Amma is restoring dharma through the construction of the bridge—inspiring hundreds to transcend selfishness and happily toil for the benefit of others.

The mixing work took place on both shores of the backwaters—the men on the east and the women on the west. Old and young alike shoveled blue metal, sand and lime into sacks, which were then passed via human-chain to a mixer. Once mixed, the wet concrete was winched up to the bridge’s deck. There, men shoveled it into trays, which were then carried to the girder frames.

When asked about the work, one devotee from France who was carrying sacks of metal said she was simply doing seva: “I’m serving my beautiful Mother!”

A young man from Malaysia said, “Amma is just giving me an opportunity to help.”

Another French woman expressed her attitude of trying to see everything as a manifestation of the divine as she worked: “We’re just moving little pieces of Amma!”

As the seva continued—literally through rain and shine—a two-year-old boy from France was seen looking rather sad. When asked, his mother said that he was unhappy because he could not help. He was simply too little to pass the heavy sacks. But after some time the boy stood as part of the human-chain anyway, raising his tiny hands up to touch every passing sack.

It was exactly like the story from the Ramayana, wherein the squirrel helps construct the bridge to Lanka by rolling in sand and then shaking that sand off amongst the boulders placed by Rama’s army. While the squirrel’s contribution in terms of quantity was not very impressive, its compassionate and selfless attitude touched Rama. At the end of the day, Rama reached down, picked the squirrel up and stoked it lovingly with three fingers. It is said this is why squirrels today have three stripes.

By mid-afternoon, the day’s bridge seva was finished. All the cement had been poured. This will be allowed to set for a few days and then the next layer will be poured on the 20th.




Tsunami baby is born

12:16 pm, 13 September 2006 — AIMS Hospital, Cochin, Kerala

Today at 12:16 pm, a special baby girl was born at AIMS Hospital in Cochin. The baby’s mother, Priya, was one of six women from Alappad Panchayat who had undergone fallopian-tube-recanalisation surgery under the sponsorship of Mata Amritanandamayi Math.

Priya Puthenparambil from Azhikkal, had previously undergone fallopian-tube ligation as a form of permanent contraception. As such, when her and her husband, Baby, lost their two children —Kiran and Kinkini— in the 2004 tsunami, they found themselves not only childless but also unable to conceive. When Amma learned of their situation, she offered them—and other couples—the opportunity to have their contraceptive surgeries reversed.
baby of priya

Priya had her recanalisation surgery at AIMS on 9 March 2005 at the hands of Dr. Sarala Sridhar. Her daughter, who was delivered via caesarean section, weighed three kilos at birth. According to AIMS officials Priya and her child are fine and are resting in the post-operative ward.

“It is all Amma’s grace. I am only an instrument,” said Dr. Sarala Sridhar upon completion of the delivery.

Upon hearing the news of the successful delivery, Amma said, “It happened because of grace.”


watch also

* Photo of the tsunami babies
* Aparna Video