Attappady, 27 Aug 2014
Computer and tailoring classes in progress for the tribals as part of the women empowerment program in Attappady, Kerala.
Attappady, 27 Aug 2014
Computer and tailoring classes in progress for the tribals as part of the women empowerment program in Attappady, Kerala.
10,000 people to cultivate organic vegetables in 1,000 acres
22 Feb 2013, Amritapuri, Kollam
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated Haritamritam, a new humanitarian initiative of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math today in Amritapuri Ashram in the presence of Amma. Haritamritam is an initiative to promote organic farming in the state.
The Math is becoming a role-model for society
Inaugurating the initiative, the Chief Minister said “The social-service activities executed by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math are always conceived with foresight: its cleaning of public places, its tsunami relief-and-rehabilitation program, etc. In my personal perception, it has not been through words, but through action, that Amma has been able to bring about so much transformation. Today, with Haritamritam, a new chapter in the math’s humanitarian initiative. Haritamritam marks an inspiring step for organic farming—a move in the right direction. Assisting these 10,000 people to cultivating organic vegetables on 1,000 acres, the Math is becoming a role-model for society.”
Through Haritamritam, MAM is promoting vegetable cultivation. This will be initiated via Amrita SREE self-help-groups members. More than 10,000 Amrita SREE members from Kollam and Alappuzha will be growing vegetables on their own land. A total of 1,000 acres of land—comprising individual plots ranging from one cent to one acre—have been earmarked for Harithamritam’s first phase.
For good health and to restore the harmony in nature
Explaining about the initiative Amma said, “The goal of ‘Haritamritam’ is to sustain the tradition of organic farming and to revive the culture of growing vegetables that one consumes, without using chemicals and pesticides. Everyone should be able to eat vegetables grown organically at least once in a week. The state of agriculture in Kerala is such that even the vegetables and flowers used for ‘Vishu kanni’ come from other states.”
Amma’s words were full of optimism and hope. “Even if a person is able to do organic farming in one cent of land, it is a big step in restoring the lost harmony of nature. We have not inherited the land from our ancestors; we have borrowed it from our children. We have to return this land to the coming generations without allowing even the slightest damage to happen to it” said Amma in her benedictory address. “May this ‘Haritamritam’ scheme bring about an awakening and enthusiasm in all to strive for good health and to restore the harmony in nature” Amma said.
MAM is distributing free seeds to all the participants, and is arranging training and demonstration classes by traditional farmers and agriculturalists adept in organic farming.
An instruction booklet prepared by retired agricultural officer TS Viswan—who has dedicated his retired years to promoting organic farming—is also being distributed.
Since 2005, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) has put more than 100,000 women into more than 6,000 AmritaSREE self-help groups.
Each year on Amma’s birthday, Mata Amritanandamayi Math inaugurates new charities, expands existing ones and releases a number of new publications. There was a formal public function for this as part of the birthday celebrations.
Many dignitaries were there for the function. They include: His Excellency Sri. K. Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra; Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Honourable Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences; Sri. K.C. Venugopal, Honourable Union Minister of State for Power; Sri. Vishnupada Rai, MP, Andaman Islands; Sri. N. Peethambara Kurup, MP, Kollam; Philipose Mar Chrysostam, the senior Metropolitan Bishop of the Mar Thoma Church; Swami Prakashananda, Head of Sivagiri Ashram; Swami Pranavananda Teerthapada, Head of Panmana Ashram; Sheikh Aly N’Daw, the President of the International Sufi School in Senegal; Sri. M.P. Veerendrakumar, Managing Director of Mathrubhumi; and Sri. O. Rajagopal, former minister, amongst others.
Swami Amritaswarupananda formally welcomed all of them.
“For most people, birthdays are a holiday—a day we stop everything and allow the world to worship us. We become ‘king for a day.’ Our spouse and children do special things for us. We get presents. A feast is prepared. Perhaps we don’t even go to work. We stay home and relax. Very often, if someone asks us to help them on this day, we say, ‘Please, not today. It’s my birthday.’ But for Amma, this is yet another day to selflessly serve the world, just as she does seven every other day.” said in his welcome speech.
Two new projects
Two new projects were lauched on this occasion. Free Tuition Program by Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Honorable Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences and Amrita Santvanam by His Excellency K.Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra.
Amrita Nidhi pension program – providing widows and other disadvantaged individuals with monthly pension checks was extended to another 5,000 beneficiaries throughout India. The checks were officially presented to 25 beneficiaries by Sri. N. Peethambara Kurup, MP.
As part of AmritaSREE Suraksha – a joint venture between the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and the Life Insurance Corporation of India – 3,000 scholarships to children of members of AmritaSREE (Self Reliance Economic Empowerment) self-help groups were distributed by Sri. K.C. Venugopal, Honorable Union Minister of State for Power.
The Vidyamritam Scholarship Program, was also extended. Sri. Vilasrao Deshmukh distributed the scholarships to 25 students, representing the 5,000 new beneficiaries.
MAM Mission Trusts following books was released by Sheyl Al N’Daw, the President of the International School of Sufis, Senegal.
Amrita Darshanam, a collection of Amma’s sayings
Nectar of Wisdom, a compilation of teachings by Amma
Varaprasadam, a collection of poetry by Swami Turiyamritananda Puri
Blesssed Life by Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri (Malayalam translation)
Torrential Love by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana (Malayalam translation)
Random Reflections, a collection of poetry by Evoor G. Madhavan Nair
Amrita Books was launched on Amma’s 57th birthday in order to ensure books of about Amma and her teachings are available in books stores in India. Its four books were released on this occasion.
Amma: The Life of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – in Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.
From Amma’s Heart – in Kannada
Matruvani Birthday Souvenir by Swami Prakashananda, the head of Sivagiri Ashram.
Amma’s Advice: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, a coffee-table book by Konarak publications by His Grace Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostam Mar Thoma Metropolitan.
This year’s Amrita Keerti Puraskar went to Sri. Veerendrakumar, the managing director of Mathrubhumi, in recognition of his philosophical travel memoir, Haimavatabhuvil.
Veerendrakumar was presented with the customary cash award of Rs. 1,23,456, a statuette created by sculptor Namboodiri, as well as a citation were presented by His Excellency Sri. K. Sankaranarayanan, the Governor of Maharashtra.
After receiving the award, Veerendrakumar addressed the gathering, saying that Amma has symbolized the true message of unconditional compassion. He also said that he considers the award as a blessing, not just an award, and considers himself a very fortunate person for receiving it upon Amma’s birthday. “India exists not on its military strength. It has survived through the centuries by drawing strength and inspiration from its spiritually-oriented culture. Through Amma’s spiritual guidance and acts of charity transcending national borders she helped humanity experience love, mercy and grace in a world of hard realities.”
In his address, Venugopal said, “Amritapuri has been transformed into a center not for just spiritual pursuits, but has become a nerve-centre for human welfare across the world—be it natural calamities across the world or a wide range of programs aimed at the poor, cutting across barriers of color, caste and creed.”
Amma also conducted a mass marriage for the underprivileged couples.
January 6-7 Kondungallor, Kerala – Bharata Yatra 2011
It was Kodungalloor that Amma reached next, after the successful program at Kozhikode. Kodungalloor is the site of the first Brahmasthanams born out of Amma’s sankalpa.
The stage was filled up by many dignitaries, on the first night of the program on 6th. Notable were AICC secretary Tom Vadakkan, Thrissur Mayor IP Paul, KP Dhanapalan MP, and Viswambaran IAS the Vice Chancellor of Agricultural University.
Tom Vadakkan, sharing his views on motherhood and love, said ‘Motherhood has universality,’ and looking at Amma, he continued ‘and that motherhood is here, right in front of you.”
Vidyamritam Scholarship and working capital to Self Help groups were distributed. The dignitaries helped hand over these to the beneficiaries.
As a step towards fulfilling Amma’s wish, villagers of Kaipamangalam took mass-oath to make theirs an intoxicant-free village.
29 January 2009— Tiruvanantapuram Brahmasthanam Program
On the first night of Amma’s programs at her ashram in Tiruvanantapuram, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) furthered its commitment to education. Vidyamritam Scholarships were given to 180 children of Tiruvanatapuram District, and MAM inaugurated its new arts-and-crafts school, Amrita Shilpa Kalakshetra.
In the presence of Amma, G. Sudhakaran, minister of the Devaswam Board of Kerala, inaugurated the arts-and-crafts school. Addressing the gathering, he said, “This world is full with tension and war. Peace and harmony is the slogan of Amma.
War can be for good or bad. Reject the bad. Even if the war is for good, it should reach peace – that is the message Amma presents before us.
From badness to goodness, from darkness to light, from death to immortality—this is the vision of India. The educational systems, institutions, research and architecture India had in 6,000 to 7,000 BCE no longer exist—universities like Taksha Shila and Nalanda. Back then, the tradition was 14 teachers to one student. Now even one professor for 1000 students is not available.”
Amrita Shilpa Kalakshetra is an extension of MAM’s university, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. One of its primary aims is to train talented youth in traditional wood-carving, an important aspect of Indian art. Like most crafts in India, wood carving was traditionally taught by artists to their children, and thus carried down from generation to generation. As such traditional lineages have deteriorated, it is MAM’s intention to help restore the lost art to its former glory and status.
The institute’s training program is recognized and approved by the Government of India’s Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles. The institute is located in Poonkulam, Vellayani, Tiruvanantapuram. It will soon begin conducting month-long and six-month-long courses, providing deserving students monthly stipends of Rs. 2,000 during their courses.
Regarding these scholarships, as well as the Vidyamritam Scholarship Program, Sudhakaran said, “In India, giving 100,000 students substantial scholarships—as Amma is doing in Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra and throughout India—is no small thing. Not even the government is providing so many scholarships.”
Eight new Amrita Sree* self-help groups were also launched during the program, with Congress Party Leader K. Karunakaran distributing working-capital bank-loans to the groups. Addressing the gathering, he said, “When I reach Amma’s feet, I feel a satisfaction, a happiness. I cannot say exactly why. Experience is the guru. When Amma visits countries that do not know much about India, and I see them become emotional, I also become emotional.”
Ramesh Chennithala, MP and working-committee member of the Congress Party, also addressed the gathering, saying, “The world is pervaded with Amma. Amma is God in a visible form. Here you can unburden your mind’s sorrows and sufferings. Love, brotherhood and purity spread wherever Amma walks. This is why hundreds of thousands of people come to Amma. People around the world can live together with mutual love, respect and faith, and go forward without dispute. Amma is showing us this path. May Amma’s blessings be there for the world and for all the people.”
Other dignitaries present on the dais included P. Surendran Pillai, MLA; George Vargheese, deputy director of Handicrafts Department, Government of India; and arts patron Akira Fujisawa.
* Launched in 2007, Amrita Sree will benefit 100,000 women. It is part of MAM’s Farmer Suicide Prevention Program. The goal is to form 5,000 self-help groups. So far 3,000 have been created. Not only does MAM help the women form the groups but also helps them attain bank loans for working capital.
20 September 2008 — Mandapam, Ramanathapuram District, Tamil Nadu
Amrita Self Help Groups were inaugurated at Mandapam, Ramanathapuram District, Tamil Nadu at a function held at Raja Mahal.
The program was held in conjuncture with celebrations for Amma’s 55th birthday. Swami Paramananda of Ramakrishna Tapovanam helped distribute certificates to the members of the newly formed groups.
Amma deeply concerned about suicide among farmers
15 March 2007 — Mumbai, Maharashtra
Chief minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh held a high-level meeting with Amma at the Sahyadri government guest house here on Thursday on the issue of suicides by farmers of Vidarbha. After the meeting Amma announced that the Ashram will undertake an Rs. 200-crore [$45.4 million U.S.] project to tackle the problem of suicides by farmers of Maharashtra, Kerala and other states.
Amma was deeply concerned about the large number of suicides by the cotton growers of Vidarbha. During an hour-long meeting, Chief Minister Deshmukh, chief secretary D.K. Sankaran and other senior officials briefed Amma about the extent of the problem and the steps taken by the government to tackle it. Deshmukh said as a result of a series of steps taken by the state government and the Centre, the problem is now beginning to come under check. “But the problem cannot be solved through economic packages alone. What is needed is social and spiritual interventions so that the farmers realize that suicide is not the way out. In fact, it only further aggravates the problem for the families,’’ Amma commented. The CM agreed and sought Amma’s assistance in dissuading farmers from taking extreme steps. Amma stressed the need for personal counselling of the vulnerable persons. She recalled the experience of MAM volunteers in dealing with a similar problem in thw Wayanad District of Kerala.
Amma appreciated the efforts made by the Maharashtra Government and said it represented the best efforts taken by any state government to deal with the problem of farmers’ suicides. She said even though in comparison to the total number of suicides taking place in the country the suicides by farmers may be less, in absolute terms the numbers are large enough to warrant expeditious interventions at all levels. The hysteria among farmers needs to be neutralised and associated problems like alchoholism etc. need to be remedied.
Apart from the chief minister and chief secretary, others who attended the meeting included senior cabinet minister Patangrao Kadam; ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Ramraje Njmbalkar; principal secretaries Sarogi and Pande; divisional commissioner Amravati and Goyal; and some of Amma’s disciples and devotees.
18 November 2005, Amritapuri
60 Women came to Amritapuri this past Friday to receive their diplomas after completing a 3-month special training course in embroidery, footwear, leather goods, and readymade garments manufacturing. The event marked yet another milestone in the path envisioned by Amma in the wake of the Tsunami – creating self-reliant villages through the Matru Gramam Project.
Samples of the women’s efforts surrounded the gathering. Colorful dresses and intricately embroidered cloths were displayed along with school uniforms, backpacks, pencil kits, purses, shawls, children’s clothing, and men’s and women’s footwear. The high quality items were a testament to the women’s dedication and enthusiasm.
The women were selected to take this course because they had excelled in the basic training classes previously offered by the Ashram. They are being encouraged to use their newly obtained skills to start their own businesses, form co-operatives, or seek outside employment.
Swami Jnanamritananda, who is heading the Matru Gramam Project, spoke to the women in words that reflected Amma’s goal to awaken the suppressed and hidden strengths in women: ”Now is the time to move forward with the full confidence that not only can you support yourselves as individuals, you can support both your husband and children as well. In today’s society, women are used to depending on their husbands for support. You should recognize your own inner strengths and overcome this.”
Sabitha (age 30), Sumegha (22), and Subhi (26) were three of the women who received their diplomas in leather goods and footwear. All had their homes destroyed in last December’s tsunami, and have been living in temporary shelters at Srayikkad. With her newly obtained diploma, Sabitha is both excited and hopeful: ”I hope to find a job now that I have the diploma to show that I have completed the necessary coursework and have the proper skills.”
Laiju (age 24) is equally enthusiastic: ”I’m looking forward to starting a small cooperative with other women in the village so that we can bring more income to our families. My husband’s fishing business was destroyed by the Tsunami and he is still unemployed. The added income will help us make ends meet.”
Watching the women disperse, one could only imagine the new lives and livelihoods that will soon blossom as they head into the next chapter of their lives.
20 September 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala
For anyone who has been following the evolution of the Ashram’s tsunami-relief work, it is clear that Amma’s intention is not merely to repair what was broken by the tsunami, but to fix things that had broken way before that fateful day. Through the door opened by the disaster, the Ashram has rushed in with everything from better houses, to better venues of education and employment, to better to medical care.
This vision of Amma’s is reaching its full fruition through a programme called Matru Gramam, (News) or Mother’s Village. Matru Gramam involves the implementation of a systematic plan to make small villages in Kerala more self-reliant, primarily through the establishment of self-help groups.
The first Matru Gramam is Alappad Panchayat, the collection of villages located on the peninsula in Kollam District, Kerala, where the Amritapuri Ashram is located. Matru Gramam will not be limited to the immediate area around the Ashram. But the programme will soon expand to all of Kerala’s 14 districts.
“We want to help the villages become self-reliant,” says Swami Jnanamritananda, one of Amma’s senior disciples, who is helping to coordinate the programme. “First we take a survey to determine what the village’s needs are, then accordingly we create an action plan, and from that we start providing the needed awareness camps, education and job-training. We want the villages to be able to produce all of the main items they need by themselves, rather than depend on outside resources. When people depend too much on outside resources, they suffer when strikes and other unpredictable events take place.”
With this in mind, the Matru Gramam villages will produce their own vegetables, clothes, soaps, sandals and other necessities. In order for the villages to accomplish this, the Ashram will help them establish self-help groups.
“The self-help groups are really just groups of families,” says Swami Jnanamritananda. “In the Matru Gramam villages, the goal is for every family to have at least one member that makes 100 rupees [approximately $2.30 U.S.D.] every day. This will cover the family’s basic needs. This can happen through the self-help groups.”
Depending on the size of the village, the self-help groups will comprise 10 to 20 members—one person from a family. Four to five of these cooperatives will then join together to form a cluster. The Ashram is providing the training in the fields the groups decide upon. For example, two of the groups in Alappad Panchayat are a sandal-making group and a tailoring group. The Ashram is also helping the villagers set up group bank accounts, as well as will coordinate and monitor their groups.
The first Matru Gramam meetings took place in Amritapuri in early September. In Alappad, the majority of the men work as fishermen, so the cooperatives will mainly comprise women. “I’ve come with hopes of earning additional money to support my two children who are attending school,” said Sebini, a young women from Alappad. “My husband is a fisherman, but his daily catch is unpredictable and we cannot survive on it.” Just prior to the meeting, Sebini had successfully completed the free tailoring classes provided by the Ashram. The Ashram is providing her and the other ladies in the self-help group with the sewing machines needed for their work. This will be Sebini’s first job.
Jayasree, 40, also attended the meeting. She has been attending Ashram classes on how to make leather goods. “My husband is handicapped and cannot work,” she said. “I have two daughters in school, and when the tsunami hit, our home was damaged. Some walls fell in, we lost most of our possessions.”
In fact, the self-help groups have already received work orders, including some for government departments.
Recently, the women working in the different self-help groups came to Amma with the first fruits of their work. The tailoring group with their towels, the sandal group with their sandals. When the sandal-making group offered their wares to Amma, Amma smiled, encouraged the ladies and then placed a pair of sandals on her shoulders—one on the right, one on the left—to show her pride in their accomplishment.