14 December, Manjeri, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2004
The crowd surrounded the stage and spilled out onto the main road. There simply was not enough room for all the people. At one point, Amma even told the brahmachari running the kitchen to have buckets of food carried down to the street to insure that the devotees who still had not been able to make it into the programme grounds proper were served. Amma had come to Manjeri, and Manjeri had come to Amma.
Amma last came to this northern Kerala town in 1996. At that time there had also been a large crowd. That programme is well remembered by ashramites, as it was raining so hard that people picked up the blue plastic tarpaulins that were serving as carpets and used them to protect themselves from the unseasonal rain. That way—holding massive blue tarpaulins over their heads—they came for Amma’s darshan in groups, lest one of them get left behind in the downpoor.
See the pics of 1996 Manjeri program below:
Joining Amma on the podium for the formal part of the programme were Sri. A.P. Anilkumar, Kerala’s Honourable Minister of Culture & Youth Affairs; Sri. Ishaak Kurikkal (Manjeri M.L.A.), Sri. Kuttikadan Mohamed Kutty (Municipal Chairman of Manjeri); Sri. M.P. Gangadharan (M.L.A.) and Mahakavi Sri. Akkittam Acchyutan Nambootiri.
Referring to Amma as “the essence of all religions,” Sri. Ishaak Kurikkal said in his welcoming address, “Amma is teaching the world the value of love. If there were people like Her all around, surely the world would be saved. … In the volatile world of religious intolerance, Amma is the hope. … Amma—who is building houses and places of worship for people of all castes, faiths and religions—is showing the path to goodness in today’s world. ”
The Member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly ended his speech with a request. “Amma Your hospital in Cochin is helping poor people a lot. I request You to build a similar one here in Manjeri, laying the foundation stone with Your own lotus hands. There is no point in submitting this request to the government. That is why I am submitting the request to You. More efficiently than the government, You can execute it.”
Sainaba was a concrete worker until she broke her back falling from a roof. Her family lost everything in its attempts to pay for her treatment. Sajida, a mother of two girls, was divorced by her husband and left in squalor. During the Manjeri programme, both Muslim ladies received free homes as part of the Ashram’s Amrita Kuteeram housing project. Sri. A.P. Anilkumar inaugurated the programme, and all the dignitaries helped distribute the keys. In all, the Ashram gave away 21 such houses, as part of 500 it is building in the Malappuram District. Many of the recipients were in tears as they received the keys to their new homes.
At midnight, the massive crowd had not abated. They were sitting patiently through the night to get their chance with Amma.