Easing the suffering of mankind

22 December, Kodungallur –Bharata Yatra 2009

During the first evening program of the annual Brahmasthanam festival in Kodungallur, Amma extended several of the ashram’s charitable projects to recipients in the area.

Sewing machines were  distributed along with financial working capital to start self-help groups for impoverished women.

KP Dhanapalan,  a Member of Parliment of the Mukundapuram District of Kerala, distributed keys to houses built around Kodungallur as part of the Amritakuteeram Project.

In the inaugural address MR. Dhanapalan shared a recent personal experience he had with Amma in New Delhi:
“When I was in Delhi 3 weeks ago I saw the news that Amma was also in town, but since I was leaving that same day  I was sad I missed my chance to meet her. When I went to the airport to catch my flight back to Kerala, I saw many people wearing white and I hoped that maybe I would get lucky and still see her, but Amma was not there.  But then after I boarded the flight and took my seat, just a few minutes before take off, Amma and the Swamis also boarded the plane.  She sat just across the aisle from me. By God’s will for the next three hours I travelled with Amma.  Usually I would carry a book and read through the journey.  But for that day I could not read a single page.  After getting her darshan, I  watched her closely for rest of the flight. Amma was  pulling out papers from her bag, reading them and giving some instructions to Swamini. I realised that those were the letters devotees had written to her. It then became very clear to me that Amma is some one who has dedicated her whole life, every second, to ease the suffering of humanity.”

Swami Prashanthananda, President Sri Ramakrishna Math Trissur; VD Sateeshan, MLA from Pravoor; PD Viswambharan, Chairman Kodungallur Muncipality; Dr. Vijayakumar, District Judge,  were the other dignitaries sharing the stage with Amma.

– Dass

Karunanidhi - Amma is a pearl among humans

Karunanidhi: Amma is a pearl among humans

Karunanidhi: “Amma is a Pearl among humans”
31 January — Nagapattanam, Tamil Nadu – Bharata Yatra 2007


“The Tamil Nadu Government and its people are extremely happy at the way in which the Mata Amritanandamayi Math has gone about in wiping the tears from the eyes of those fishermen who lost their houses and belongings and even their families in the tsunami disaster of 2004,” said Dr. M. Karunanidhi, the Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at the beginning of Amma’s program in Nagapattinam.

This was the third time that Amma had visited the tsunami-ravaged area—the first being in February of 2005, just two months after the disaster, and the second in December of that same year. In that time, the Math has completed 1,489 houses in the district.

Before Amma’s program, Karunanidhi visited one of the villages reconstructed by the Ashram. Mentioning this fact in his speech, the CM said, “The houses are so good that even I felt like asking for one for myself. The houses are so well-built and so planned that they have become a boon to the beneficiaries.”
amma and karunanidhi

Karunanidhi praised Amma’s wisdom, love, compassion and selfless service. “Amma, I understand, was born in a fishing village called Parayakadavu by the seaside in Kerala. What does the ocean wash up on its beaches? Pearls. Amma is a pearl among humans: the Pearl of Wisdom, the Pearl of Compassion, the Pearl of Selfless Service and the Pearl of Love.”


Karunanidhi then helped the Ashram distribute house keys to 10 recipients of the Ashram’s tsunami-rehabilitation program, as well as pensions and sewing machines to various impoverished people. The house keys were symbolic of 420 houses the Ashram has recently completed in Keezhe Pattinacherry. The pensions were representative of the Ashram extending its Amrita Nidhi Pension program by 100 people in the area. And the sewing machines stood for 100 such machines the Ashram has given away in order to help poor women expand their financial horizons.

After the public function, Amma gave satsang, led everyone in the singing of bhajans, and guiding everything through a meditation and manasa puja.

Amma then gave darshan throughout the night—the majority of those coming for her embrace so that once again have a roof over their head only due to Amma’s grace.


Foundation stone laid for 100 tsunami-relief houses

10 September 2006 — Bamboo Flat, South Andaman, Andaman Islands

The Ashram laid the first foundation stone for the 100 tsunami-relief houses it has committed to build in Bamboo Flat, South Andaman.

Sri Dharam Pal IAS, the Commissioner-cum-Secretary for Relief & Rehabilitation in Nicobar-Andaman, laid the stone as part of a brief function.

It is estimated that the 100 structures will be completed within one year’s time, at a cost of nearly Rs. 6.5 lakhs per house (14,100 USD).

The MOU between the Ashram and the Andaman-Nicobar authorities was signed in for the project was signed in April.


284 houses more to Tsunami victims

27 August 2006 — Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu

In the past two days, the Ashram has handed over a  284 houses more to tsunami victims in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu–120 in Pandagassaalai (a hamlet in Pattinacherry Village) and 164 in Akarapettai.

Swami Ramakrishnananda handed over the keys of the homes to the district collector of Nagapattinam, Tenkasi S. Jawahar, who in turn distributed them to the beneficiaries.

Sacrifice in Sri Lanka- a tsunami housing update

27 May 2006 — Thekkawatta, Kalutara District, Western Province, Sri Lanka

For the past seven months, a 16- x 6-foot shack has served as their office, their kitchen, their bathroom and their sleeping quarters. It is from there that they have been managing the construction of the three apartment buildings the Ashram is constructing in Thekkawatta, a village in the Kalutara District of Sri Lanka, as part of its tsunami-relief program.

“They are sacrificing a lot,” says Mr. Gamage, the technical officer appointed to the site by the Government of Sri Lanka. “They have no luxuries. They are just living out of that small hut, riding bikes to get around, doing their own cooking and washing. They are using the minimum as far as facilities and staff go, sacrificing their personal well-being.”

The team comprises Brahmachari Vinayamrita Chaitanya, the head-in-charge of Amma’s Ashram in Chennai, and three devotee-volunteers.

“Of course all of the work and sacrifice has only been possible because of Amma’s example,” says Mohan, a devotee from Chennai who has been living and working at the site. “Amma is giving solace to so many. I have really been touched by that, and I wanted to try to give some of my time and effort to help as well.”

The buildings each have three floors, with four apartments on each floor, creating homes for 36 families. Each apartment has a living/dining room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and two balconies. The flat roof is fully accessible, creating an additional 2,400 square feet for the inhabitants to share.

The general plan is the Sri Lankan Governments, but the Ashram has had some flexibility within that that basic framework. “Initially we were going to have a sloped roof, but when we showed Amma the model, she said it was a waste of living space and that we should make it into a terrace,” says Anandlal, a devotee from Kozhikode, Kerala, who is serving as the crew’s engineer. “We may be living frugally ourselves, but we did not skimp on quality when it came to the buildings. We are using mahogany, which is a very strong wood, and SLS Steel—the best materials. We did what was necessary to ensure that the buildings are earthquake-proof, tsunami-proof and cyclone-proof. It was a more expensive, but they will last.”

Br. Vinayamrita says that the houses should be 100-percent finished by mid-July. The basic structures have been completed, but the electrical work and plumbing—all of which the Ashram is doing itself—have yet to be finished.

As Br. Vinayamrita and the devotees walk around the construction site, they are followed by four other volunteer staff—a family of stray dogs who are serving as “site security.”

Thekkawatta is a Singhalese area, so almost all the people there are Buddhists. In fact, the construction site is just three kilometers away from one of the largest and most popular Buddhist pagodas in the Kalutara district. The beneficiaries, who almost all rely on fishing for their income, are currently living in government-constructed temporary shelters near the seashore. Every few days they come up to check on the progress of the houses.

“They show a lot of appreciation,” says Mohan. “And they are very excited about their new homes. The women like to go and see the kitchens. They are big with a nice counter and sink and system of shelves. They really like that.”

The Ashram is also constructing similar buildings for 60 families in Periyanilavanai, a Tamil-populated village in Ampara District.


Ashram to build 100 homes in Andaman Island

10 April 2006 — Andaman, Island

The Ashram will build 100 houses in Bambooflat, South Andaman, as part of its tsunami relief-and-rehabilitation project. A memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed this week between the Ashram and the Andaman & Nicobar authorities. The expected cost of constructing the houses is Rs. five crores. The Ashram is the first NGO to make an offer to construct houses on the island.

“The construction is unique to the islands, considering the local customs and traditions,” says Brahmachari Narayana Chaitanya, the head in-charge of the Ashram’s tsunami-relief work in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “Moreover the islands are in high-risk zone of seismic activity. Thus the design of the houses must conform to local customs and traditions and also be earthquake-proof. The Ashram is constructing 50 twin-type houses of 1000 square feet each. Some of the houses are on stilts and some on plinth.”

The houses will be constructed with a galvanized-steel structure to avoid corrosion. Timber planks and processed bamboo board will be used for the external internal walls, respectively. The flooring in the stilt-type houses will be of processed bamboo board on structural steel work. These designs have been developed by CPWD Chennai. The ready-to-occupy homes come with state-of-the-art electrical fittings, including four fans and tube lights with provisions for fridge, mixer, colour television and telephone.

In fact, all the hardware materials for construction are to be sourced from mainland India—an estimated 1000 tons of material. A prototype house is under construction in Chennai.



Mother of Lucknow’s poor, handicapped and homeless

22 March 2006 — Lakshmanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Both pensions for widows and houses for the homeless were given away during Amma’s program in Lakshmanpur (Lucknow). The occasion prompted both Sri. Matraprasad Pande, the Speaker of the State Assembly of Uttar Pradesh, and the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Sri. Jagadambikapal, to comment on Amma’s world-embracing compassion.

“Although Amma stays in Kollam, she has shown today that she is indeed the mother of the poor, the handicapped and the homeless in Lucknow,” said Jagadambikapal, who helped distribute certificates of enrolment to new beneficiaries of the Amrita Nidhi lifetime-pension programme. “Today, it would not be appropriate to say that Amma is merely the mother of Kerala, or even the mother of India, for that matter. The truth is that she is verily the mother of the whole world.”

Matraprasad, who helped distribute keys to houses constructed for the homeless as part of an Amrita Kuteeram housing colony, said, “Through her spiritual power, Amma is helping crores of people. This is sending a message to the world that Bharat is regaining its spiritual grandeur. I welcome Amma’s holy arrival on the sanctified soil of Lucknow. I offer my salutations and gratitude that in the minds of numerous poor people you have ignited the flame of hope that there are spiritual people to look after them.”

The certificates of enrolment into the Amrita Nidhi programme were representative of 1000 such new enrollees in the Lucknow area, and the keys given were representative of a 112-home Amrita Kuteeram housing colony in Telibag, Vrindavan Yojana, a neighbouring city of Lakshmanpur

Also on the dais was Sri. Lalji Tandon, the Leader of the Opposition.


The colour of inspiration

6 March 2006 — Pandagasalai Village, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

For the seventh time since 1998, members of Japan’s International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) are participating in the Amrita Kuteeram house-building project {news}. This year more than 80 such students have traveled to Nagapattinam to help build tsunami-relief housing in the villages of Pandagasalai, Akkarapettai and Mele Pattinacherry.

There are many familiar faces in this year’s group, as many students have participated two or three years in a row. But there is one new face in the crowd that is hard to overlook.

Due to birth complications, 22-year-old Taka Aki was afflicted with a severe case of cerebral paralysis. Intellectually he is just like any other university student, but he has very limited control over his muscles and is thus constrained to a wheelchair and has difficulty even speaking.

Taka Aki has longed to participate in Amrita Kuteeram since first meeting Amma in Tokyo in 2003. He has come to see Amma in Tokyo every year since and has been active with IVUSA throughout the year. But due to his condition, traveling to India always seemed unrealistic to him. In hi-tech Tokyo, he moves about freely using a motorized wheelchair and communicates via computer. But if he came to India he knew he would have to leave these supports behind, and he did not want to be a burden for others. For two years, Taka Aki told himself that traveling to India was simply not in the cards. However when faced with the fact that this year would be his last at the university, he decided he had to try.

This year, the students’ flight from Japan arrived in Mumbai on the night of Amma’s program at Shivaji Park {photo-news} . They all thus we able to have Amma’s darshan before traveling on to Nagapattinam. When Taka Aki was carried up to Amma for his darshan, Amma was both surprised and delighted to see him. {photo-news}

The first day in Nagapattinam was no different than any other at a construction site in India—extremely hot with lots of heavy manual labor. There was nothing that Taka Aki could do. His wheelchair even got a flat tire and he had to be pushed and carried along the dirt roads and over the thorny bushes. He simply sat in the shade, watching everyone else and longing for an opportunity to serve.

Then the next day someone suggested that maybe he could paint. He was thrilled by the idea and immediately agreed to try. Soon, a few people carried him onto a scaffolding, taped a paintbrush in his hand (he is unable to grip things), and he was ready to go. Someone guided his hand into the paint bucket and then, with great effort, he moved the brush back and forth along the wall. Paint was flying everywhere, spraying anyone within range, but no one seemed to mind or even moved out of the way. The scene was too inspiring to leave. A small crowd began to gather, and tears came to many people’s eyes. One of the site supervisors was visibly touched and, with his hands over his heart, said, ‘This is real service.’

Taka Aki spent the next several hours painting. Every so often the scaffolding would be shifted so that he could reach another section, and different people took turns supporting him on the scaffolding and helping him to dip his brush. Throughout the day the other students continually shouted encouragement, some joking with love that he had painted himself as much as the house.

By the time the sun began to set, the house had been transformed from the lifeless gray of cement to the inspiring pink of the horizon.


Helping Nagapattinam to overcome fear

20 December 2005 — Samanthampettai, Nagore, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

“When difficult circumstances arise in life, there are two ways to respond. We can either run away in fear or kindle the love within and try to overcome,” Amma said. She was talking to the 60,000 people or so who’d come to have her darshan in Samanthampettai, a small village in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam District. Considering the crowd it was a pretty heavy statement. A year ago when the tsunami hit India, Nagapattinam became an international household name—8,000 dead.

Tonight’s programme was the first that Amma has ever given in the district, but her second visit. In February, just six weeks after the tsunami, Amma came to Samanthampettai and walked door-to-door through a relief-camp set up by the Ashram. She personally dried the eyes of hundreds that day, listening to family after family tell her who’d died and how.

Tonight, the Ashram officially handed over certificates to the 375 homes it has completed in Nagapattinam thus far: 340 in Samanthampettai, 25 in Akkaraipettai and 10 in Pandagasali.

Dr. J. Radhakrishnan, the district collector, gave a short speech in which he called the work of Amma’s Ashram “remarkable” and said that Amma’s Ashram was “the first organization to finish an entire community in-full.” In fact, some 45 NGOs [non-governmental agencies] are currently working to complete tsunami-relief houses in Tamil Nadu. So far, all of them put together have completed about 1000 homes; 50 percent of these have been built by Amma’s Ashram. The 375 houses built in Nagapattinam took only 180 days to complete—more than two houses per day.

Among those to receive the certificate of ownership to his house during Amma’s programme was Vijayan, a fishermen who, along with his home, lost his grandmother in the tsunami. After having Amma’s darshan he said, “If Amma had not been beside us, we would have been left totally aimless, with no aspiration to live. In fact, for three months we did not go out into the sea. But during that time, Amma gave us everything: food, shelter, education, medical care, even clothing and soap.”

Rajeswari, Vijayan’s sister, has been attending classes offered by the Ashram for tsunami-affected youth. She says that the classes have inspired her and many other girls in the village to complete their basic education and that it is becoming quite common to hear girls speak of pursuing higher studies—something that previously was not given too much importance.

Run away in fear or kindle the love within and overcome Amma has provided the options, but she has also led the way to the only true choice. For, by coming into their midst and wiping their tears with the end of her sari, Amma, in fact, has already begun breathing life into the very love she is extolling them to kindle. As one devotee  attending the Samanthampettai programme remarked, “Amma is not just rebuilding their houses; she is rebuilding their faith in life itself.”


Festival at Edachira

House Building with Love and Compassion

11 December 2005 — Edachira, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

For the past few weeks, the scene across the backwaters from the tiny island of Edachira has been something of a festival, as both villagers and residents of Amritapuri have been working together to help build homes for the victims of last year’s tsunami. Almost 1,000 volunteers come each weekend from all over the region to participate in ‘brick seva.’ Today, despite heavy rains in the morning, more than 100 men, women and children came to help.

Piles of sand, gravel and bricks lined the backwaters, awaiting transport by boat to Edachira, where the Ashram is building 28 homes. By 8 a.m., volunteers had begun to descend on the piles, filling sacks with sand or gravel, or passing bricks onto the awaiting boats.

In fact, many of the volunteers had never met Amma. Mahendra, a rubber-tree tapper from Kulathoopuzha came to help. “I have heard about Amma, but have yet to met her. I will this afternoon, but first I wanted to come here to do some seva.”

Saji, a tourist-boat captain, had accompanied Mahendra along with four others from Kulathoopuzha. Even though none of them had been affected by the tsunami, they still wanted to help.

The past year has seen a tremendous transformation in the villagers around Amritapuri.  In the early years, most of the villagers had been indifferent to the Ashram’s charitable activities in the region.  Even after the tsunami struck, for the first few months, while ashramites were working around the clock to build shelters in Srayikkad, a village about two km north of Amritapuri, hardly any villagers were interested in helping. Today, after seeing and feeling the effects of Amma’s efforts and witnessing the hard work being done by the Ashram residents and devotees, many villagers are now actually competing with one another to see how much work they can do.

Prasad, a politician in the Communist Party of India in Azhikkal, was one of the volunteers who had come to help. He had lost his house in the tsunami and is now receiving a new one from another NGO. “I’m amazed at how Amma has responded to the tsunami,” he said. “What the government has not been able to do, Amma has. She has worked so hard and so fast. I’m glad to be helping others.” He had first met Amma 20 years ago, but only recently became an active supporter of the Ashram’s activities.  He is now the leader of a local satsang (Amrita Kudumbam).  “Life is like a tsunami,” he said. “It can be lost at any time.  If something happens in the future, you need some ideal, some faith, some guru, to hold on to.  I want my children to have this support and I have found it in Amma.”

In the nearby villages, groups of women have been organizing daily or weekly outings to come and help. Suneeta, a mother of three, came with 10 other women from her village of Klappana. None of them had been directly affected by the tsunami; they said they were simply there to express their love for Amma.

edachira girls

Ramani, a young mother from Vallikkavu, participates in a local Amrita Kudumbam (satsang).  She has been receiving a pension from the Ashram and was helping because she wanted to give something back to Amma.

A few children also pitched in. Nideesh, age 14, came to help along with his two aunts. He had attended the Yoga-English-Sanskrit Camp at the Ashram in May for children who were affected by the tsunami. He too said that he was there to show his love for Amma and that he wanted to give something back to her. Both he and two of his aunts had lost their houses in the tsunami.

After the work is completed in Edachira, the group will shift to another location and the festival will start up once again. There are still a few hundred more homes to complete in the area around the Ashram. Amma’s love and compassion has inspired and touched the hearts of so many that no matter where or when people gather to provide help to those in need, a festival of love and compassion spontaneously arises.


See also