Amritapuri — Tuesday, 24 August 2004
When you visit Amma’s orphanage at Parippally and speak about Amma with the children who live there, they never fail to mention one thing: Amma’s dancing. On holidays, such as Onam and Amma’s birthday, all 500 or so Parippally children come to Amritapuri — to listen to Amma’s bhajans, to have Her darshan and, on two occasion in the past, to dance with Her.
The last time Amma danced with the Parippally orphans was in 1999. It was the day after Amma’s birthday, and despite just having given darshan to 25,000 people, Amma called all the children up to the roof of the flats to talk, sing and joke around. Many of the children who stay at Parippally come from the tribal regions of North Kerala and have grown up doing traditional group dances. Out of the blue Amma asked some of the girls to dance for Her. but it wasn’t long before Amma Herself joined in.
To this day, the Parippally orphans talk of that night up on the rooftop—even the ones who weren’t there. Among them, it’s become like a legend. For some a beautiful memory, for others a dream of what one day could be.
This Tuesday, Amma looked out at the couple of thousand people assembled for the evening bhajans. The small faces of the Parippally children dotted the mass of devotees seated before Her. This is festival time in Kerala—Onam time, when everybody spends time with their families. The children had come Amma as they thought of Her as their mother. Amma’s heart went out to them, and She spoke over the microphone, asking everyone in the front to get up and make space for the children.
As the people seated in front moved to the sides, from all over the bhajan hall groups of children began to slowly rise. With smiles mixed with excitement and shyness, they made their way to the front and sat before Amma. Throughout the rest of the bhajans, their voice rang out so strong and clear.
Amma dancing with the children of the orphanage
When the bhajans ended, Amma walked back to Her room followed by all the children, and there, by the stairs, She fed bananas and payasam to the ashram elephant as usual. But when She finished She suddenly turned to the Parippally kids and asked, “What song are you going to sing?”
Of course, they all knew what this meant, and a group of girls immediately began singing the energetic call and response of one of their tribal songs and demonstrating the corresponding dance for Amma. Amma learned the moves in a matter of seconds. Soon She was stepping in the circle to the rhythm and clapping Her hands high and low in synch with the young girls. To anyone watching, it was obvious: She had become one with them. After the girls had finished, it was the boys’ turn. Amma asked them to show a different dance and, once again, it took Her no time at all to fall in step. It went on like this for three or four songs, all with different moves and tunes.
If Amma hadn’t been wearing a white sari, you would have thought Her to be just another one of the tribal kids, someone that had known the dances Her whole life. Her movements were so graceful, so full of beauty. But more than that was Her enthusiasm — Her smile, Her laugh. They were just like those of the children.
Later, when asked about the dance, Amma said, “I did it just for them.”