Sep 2013, Amritapuri – Amritavarsham60 Celebrations
‘Amritapatham’ painting exhibition: In the Footsteps of Love
A highlight of the cultural festivities of Amritavarsham60 is an exhibition that celebrates the life of Amma: ‘Amritapatham‘ In the Footsteps of Love. The exhibition is a visual essay that weaves a narrative of Amma’s life through the mediums of painting and photography. The story begins with a photo of Amma’s parents Sri Sugunandan and Smt Damayanthi and moves all the way through to Amma ’embracing the world’ through Her various charities and institutions.
The early life of Amma is largely depicted through painting. In the haunting canvas, ‘The School of Life’, Amma is seen looking on at her sick mother after having been withdrawn from school after fourth grade to take care of the family. Amma became responsible for all of the household chores, including washing the clothes, sweeping the yard and taking care of the cows.
Several paintings capture Amma during this time of Her life. However, they illustrate that Amma never forgot Her beloved Krishna in the face of such hardships as she sang, danced and composed bhajans as She did her duties. In the painting ‘Every Effort God Orientated’ Amma is depicted thinking of God as She is sent off to work as a servant at her maternal Aunt’s home.
The culmination of Amma’s devotion to God is captured in the painting ‘Ananda Veethi‘ – the moment when Amma merged with the Divine Mother. This mystical painting precedes a series of works that portray the time in Amma’s life when those around Her began to recognize Her divinity. The moment when Amma became Krishna during the Bhagavatam recital, the first cowshed darshan and the time when Amma turned milk into panchamrit provide visual accounts of historical moments.
It is from here that photography plays a larger part of the exhibition, with vintage photos of the original cowshed, early days of the Ashram and Amma in Her twenties and thirties displayed. A highlight of the entire exhibition is a black and white photo of Amma healing Dattan the Leper. The photo shows Amma’s enormous compassion for the suffering, as well as Her ability to transcend human limitations in touching a leper.
The exhibition then moves to illustrate the life of Amma on the world stage, both as a religious leader and humanitarian . From speaking at the Parliament of World Religions at the UN in Chicago in 1993, receiving a Doctorate of Humane Letters from SUNY, in Buffalo, USA in 2010 or hugging thousands of devotees at one of her Indian programs.
The enormity of Amma’s life in Her service to humanity cannot be described, neither through words nor images. However, ‘Amritapadham’ In the Footsteps of Love serves to remind all that Amma’s life has always been about service to others, whether at the age of ten while looking after Her family or the age of 60 looking after the world. It’s an example that the exhibition celebrates beautifully.