Ever fresh

9 August 2001, Amritapuri

Bhajans sound different tonight. What is it?
Oh, we hear only the delicate voices of women. No men. Few instruments. No Amma.

Why is that?

Because Amma is at the pool.

Yes, at about five, She went over to the pool, welcoming all the women and children to accompany Her. Then, around six-thirty (bhajan time!) She sent the women away and called the men. That’s where they all are now, and that’s why we’re hearing only women singing bhajans this evening.

What goes on at the swimming pool? You can bet it isn’t ordinary lap swimming, nor water fights. There is a Sanskrit term applied to Mahatmas. It is Purana. It means “Old but ever new.” What Mother does at the pool She has done ever since the pool was constructed; what She does is not new. But it doesn’t feel old. It is ever fresh, ever new. That’s why, when the word goes out, “Mother’s gone to the pool!”, ashramites drop everything and run.

Here’s what happened there this evening:

First, when only a very few people had heard, the crowd wasn’t too big, and Mother Herself went into the water. She invited the girls into the pool to form a big circle with Her. She led the way and all joined in: She cupped Her hands, dipped them into the water, lifted them to about eye-level, and then began chanting the Gayatri mantra. At the end, She raised Her Hands above Her Head, letting the water cascade down over Her. Then She ducked down under and bobbed up, wiping the water from Her Face, only to chant again. Several times Mother and the girls did this familiar ritual, until the crowd of women and children gathering in the water and along the edges was too big. It was time for Mother to get out.


She stood at the edge of the pool, at the deep end. Of course She was flanked by as many people as could crowd near Her on both sides; others stood pressing close from behind, and yet others were in the water at Her Feet, some reaching tentative hands to touch Her Feet, some, less shy, clinging. But a small section of the water directly in front of Her was kept clear (well, relatively clear) so that She could push people in!

Now, can you imagine yourself queuing up to be pushed into a swimming pool? Never mind that: if you happened to be at a swimming pool where someone was pushing people in, would you stand still, hands clasped, gazing intently for an hour or so? That happens in Amritapuri.

Mother never ceases to fascinate. The chance to receive a momentary touch from Her lured ALL kinds of people to Her this afternoon: ammamas (grandmothers), computer institute students, householders, brahmacharinis and children.

Amma swimming

But She was pushing people in at the DEEP end. What if you didn’t know how to swim? No problem. There were inflated toys, inner tubes, a rubber kickboard – and lots of good swimmers in the water just beyond where you would land, ready to grab you and escort you to safety. Mother would look at each person, determining whether she knew how to swim, and then decide whether to push her to the ministrations of the life guards, or to give her a flotation device. Or, in a few cases, to give her a touch but refuse to push her in. Mother knows best. What hilarity when someone would flail about in the water and Mother, on land, would imitate her! Or that time when a brahmacharini was bobbing precariously right at Mother’s Feet and She bent down, grabbed the girl’s hair, and pulled her right up out of the water!

Meanwhile there were those who didn’t go in – they preferred to watch. They were too fascinated by the scene to want to miss any thing. They lined both sides and the far (shallow) end of the pool, and kept their eyes fixed on Mother and Her antics.

The sun was setting; the light on the trees beyond the wall (actually, across the backwaters in the village of Vallickavu) grew soft.

It was that time between day and night when, Mother and tradition says, bhajans ought to be sung. So of course, there at the pool – Mother began singing. The swimmers and spectators joined in, singing alternate lines with Mother, and clapping the beat that She set.

Then the dreaded signal: Time to leave! She sent the women away and called the men.

After a similar playful time with the men, pushing them in, laughing at the awkward attempts of some novice swimmers, and joking around with those who stayed out of the water, Mother again started singing bhajans.

Imagine: bhajans in the great hall, and bhajans at the pool, all at once!

Over there, near the backwaters, unamplified and unlit save for the night sky’s stars, the men are singing bhajans. Over here, formal bhajans in the hall have ended, and through the ashram’s sound system we hear the arati to Mother being sung by only women’s voices.