Amma’s Amma — Damayanti Amma and her role in the life of Mata Amritanandamayi

Damayanti Amma.

The blessed biological mother of the Divine Mother Mata Amritanangamayi Devi gave up her mortal body and merged in Amma on 19th September 2022, at the ripe old age of 97.

In the holy life history of Amma, the role played by Damayanti Amma is quite significant indeed, particularly during the formative years of Amma. Damayanti Amma was a very strict mother and a bundle of values. Amma in fact used to mention that her mother was a guru for her who taught by example, as well as through her strict regimen. Amma frequently used to share many of her childhood anecdotes to explain them.

Damayanti Amma was very particular to instill several values to her like loving and worshiping nature as God, protecting and preserving nature, the importance of hard work, loving and serving others, giving first priority to others’ needs, intolerance towards wasting anything, frugal living,  worshiping everything as a form of God, lovingly feeding guests and strangers, concern and care for others in the society etc.

Damayanti Amma’s native place is Bandarathuruth which is about  6 km away from Parayakadavu (the native place of Amma’s father Sugunanandan). 20 year old Damayanti got married to 21 year old Sugunanandan and arrived at Idamannel house to raise her family.

Damayanti Amma was very devoted to God right from her childhood. She used to follow strict austerities including abstaining from taking food a couple of days in a week. Interestingly, there were incidents where, on such ‘upavas’ days, tender coconuts would fall on their own by evening from the coconut tree, and Damayanti Amma would finish her ‘vrata’ by drinking the coconut water.

Since she was quite adept in following strict austerities, she was fondly called ‘Pattathi Amma’ (Brahmin lady) by the neighbors.

The first (girl) child born to the Damayanti-Sugunanandan couple was Kasturi. They had a boy next, named Subhakan. The third child unfortunately died on delivery. 

In the forth delivery, Damayanti Amma was blessed to give birth to the avatar of the Universal Divine mother, Amma, who was given the name of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi by her devotees. The name given to the girl child by the parents was Sudhamani.

When Damayanti Amma was bearing Amma in her womb, she had indeed received several ‘hints’ about the arrival of an extraordinary person through her. Lord Shiva, Devi and Krishna appeared In her dreams  She also had a dream where someone comes and gives a golden image of young Krishna.  Sugunanandan too had dreams in which Devi appeared.  Though the naïve couple shared their experiences with each other, they were not really equipped to understand the significance of the dreams, until very much later in life.

A few days before the delivery, Damayanti Amma had yet another dream in which she experienced giving birth to Lord Krishna and the little Krishna drinking her breast milk.

Sugunanandan owned a small hut closer to the seashore in addition to his house Idnamannel. As per the local norms, Damayanti Amma normally went to her mother’s house for the delivery, some days before the expected due date. But, this time, during the final month of pregnancy, Damayanti Amma very unexpectedly felt the symptoms of an imminent delivery. She had no one with her to assist in delivery, and it happened rather quickly at the hut.

The new-born child did not cry. Damayanti Amma got worried whether this delivery too ended in a stillbirth. As she worriedly looked at the new born baby, the baby looked at her and smiled! It was indeed a pleasant and very unusual surprise for Damayanti Amma. By that time, a neighboring woman came rushing, to extend help to Damayanti Amma. 

Thus Damayanti Amma gave birth to the Universal divine mother on 27th September 1953, Sunday, at 9 AM in the star Karthika.

But it was indeed a serious concern that the newborn baby did not cry for a while. Added to the woes, the baby was bluish black in color. Its fingers showed some symbol (known as chin-mudra) and legs were found folded in Padmasana. Fortunately, the baby started crying after a while and it brought some relief to the mother and the family. Soon the baby was named Sudhamani. 

Only after the passage of one year, Sudhamani’s skin color changed from bluish black to dark. Sudhamani did not crawl at the normal time of seven months, but sooner, she got up and walked and without much delay, she started to run too. However, she started to talk from 6 month onwards. From the age of two, she started chanting and singing Lord Krishna’s name; at the age of four, she started to compose and sing a couple of lines bearing Lord Krishna’s names. Sudhamani was short in size and she was fondly called ‘kunju’ by one and all.

This dark-skinned little girl was very obviously different from any other child in the locality; but, unfortunately, for the fair-skinned Damayanti Amma and her two elder children, Sudhamani unusually dark skin remained a matter of overt and covert dislike, and it did show in their treatment towards the child.  Of course they were  ordinary village folks who had their own biases, and it was natural.

Sudhamani went to local primary school and studied up to fourth standard. Damayanti Amma had a series of childbirths.  After Sudhamani, she gave birth to Sugunamma, Sajini, Sureshkumar, Satheeshkumar and Sudhirkumar. Damayanti Amma also had some three stillbirths in between these children.

The series of child births and deliveries did have their impact on Damayanti Amma’s health. She became very weak both physically and mentally. The family was quite big and the household chores were physically taxing and never ending.  She had to take care of the cattle too. Poor lady, with a frail body and deteriorating health, how would she manage? The family machine had to squeak and run somehow, and she opted to pull in the dark and puny Sudhamani into doing household work very rigorously, right from a very young age,  giving minimum priority to her education.

However, little Sudhamani was very intelligent, had a sharp intellect and wonderful memory capacity. Despite heavy household work, she managed to do her studies very well. As we know, she had a deep love on Lord Krishna right from very young age; amid her household work and study at schools, she did find time to chant Lord Krishna’s name and sing his glories with tearfilled eyes. Many times, her focus would turn inwards; losing external consciousness, she would sit still in samadhi like a statue. 

Unfortunately, none in the locality knew what spirituality was, what it meant to be in deep devotion to God  and what was meditation. Naturally, Damayanti Amma could not understand her dark little daughter’s quirky behavior; at the best, she could only conclude that Sudhamani had some mental problems; it would be prudent and economical to put an end to her education and utilize her full time in doing domestic chores. In fact, it suited Sudhamani’s school-going siblings very well, as they could unburden all their share of work on the head of the dark skinned and cranky Sudhamani! Thus Damayanti Amma stopped Sudhamani from going to school midway during her 5th standard.

Sudhamani had to get up early in the morning at 3 AM to start her domestic chores. If she was found sleeping late, Damayanti Amma would pour a pot of water over her. Sudhamani had to sweep the house and surroundings, bring firewood, cut vegetables, start cooking, wash utensils, wash clothes, cut and bring grass from nearby backwaters, bring drinking water from the common village tap, feed the cows, clean the cowshed and so on. Her chores would continue never-ending till 11 PM. 

It was during this period that Damayanti Amma played the role of an extremely tough and demanding guru to teach many things related to doing the domestic work in the most appropriate way. She taught dos and don’ts of right behavior and practices. Amma used to recall many such teachings of Damayanti Amma, in later years during her interaction with her devotees.

Stress on hard work

If, at any point of time, Sudhamani displayed any lack of interest or sluggishness in doing work, Damayanti Amma would say, “If you feel lazy to do work,  God will stop giving any work to you. Unless one works, one would not get food to eat. If you don’t get work, then you will die of hunger. Hence, we should always pray, ‘God, please give me work always’. All people indeed pray that way”.

Guilelessly, Sudhamani believed what her mother told and she would indeed pray, “O Krishna, please always give me your work”. Perhaps it is out of this prayer that Amma, till date, is getting loads and loads of work and is serving the society without any rest! In a way, aren’t we, the beneficiaries of Amma’s tireless work, indebted to Damayanti Amma?

Awareness and attention about even little things

Damayanti Amma had keen awareness about so many things. If Amma spilled a few grains while cleaning the rice, Dhamayantiamma would say “Are you capable of creating one rice grain yourself? Then how can you carelessly waste it?”. Even a match stick should not be wasted unnecessarily. If Amma had to light up fire, she had to go approach a neighbor and if they had got fire at their kitchen or at their wick lamp, fire should be obtained from there.

Damayanti Amma demanded perfection even in mundane work like sweeping the front yard. The sweeping must be impeccable, not leaving a dry leaf here or a pebble of stone there. The swept marks of the broomstick should create a visibly pleasing pattern on the ground.

Brooms were normally made at home by bundling the light and thin sticks of coconut leaves.  While brooming, it was natural that some of these thin sticks would get loosened and fall to the ground. If Damayanti Amma noticed any sticks fallen like this, she would  beat Amma, saying, “If you lose one stick a day like this, then in one or two months, it would amount to losing a whole broom. That is utter carelessness”

While grinding ‘masala’ in the grinding stone, Amma would loudly chit chat. That was not acceptable. “When you chit chat, there is a chance that your spittle may drop on the preparation and it is very unhygienic”. So sying,  Dhamayantiamma would give a beating or two, if Sudhamani does not keep her mouth shut.

Seeing God in everything

For Damayanti Amma,  a piece of paper is an aspect of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi. If someone puts a foot over it, it amounts to showing disrespect to Goddess Saraswathi. Dhamayanti Amma would insist on picking the paper, touching it on the head and showing respect to it.

God’s aspect indwells in every object, and whenever you use something you should have a worshipful attitude towards it — this is what Damayanti Amma taught Sudhamani. Even today, we can see Amma touching her chair and then touching her forehead as a mark of respect before sitting in it; Amma would touch the microphone when ending her bhajans as a mark of respect to it. Such habits got ingrained in Amma’s psyche, thanks to Damayanti Amma’s strictures.

Damaynti Amma would say, “Rivers are like Devi. One should not urinate in them”. Though there were no rivers in Amma’s locality, the backwaters were literally the rivers for Amma. When Amma got into the backwater for bathing, the sudden chillness would invariably trigger an urge to urinate. But, she would remember Damayanti Amma’s words, and instantly, as if putting a switch off, Amma would control the urge to urinate. Amma  used to mention this umpteen times during her satsangs.

Serving guests – ‘Atiti devo bhava’

Dhamayantiamma truly treated guests as Gods. She would unhesitatingly sacrifice her food to feed a guest. It is her practice to set aside a portion of food, to feed guests who may drop in unannounced. After cooking, she would not immediately serve food to her children. She would wait to see if any guests would come and only later she would feed her children. There were also occasions when cooked Kanji would turn out to be insufficient for the family after feeding the guests. On such occasions, Damayanti Amma would mix scraped coconut with remnant rice water (Kanji Vellam) and give it to Sudhamani, who was yet to eat.

If guests come home with a shortage of clothes, she would give away her new clothes to the guest. In the limited space inside their house, guests would always get priority to lie inside the house, and Dhamayantiamma and other family members would opt to sleep in the courtyard. 

A beggar coming hungry knocking at her doors would never be turned away.

During Sabarimala seasons, pilgrims from adjacent places who go by foot to Sabarimala would pass by. Damayanti Amma would make sure to serve them Kanji and curry. 

Caring for others needs 

Being a fishermens’ hamlet, most men of the locality earned their living by fishing in the sea. Many families lived a hand-to-mouth existence, based on day to day earnings to run the family. At times, it would get very late for the men to return from the sea after their daily catch. They had to sell the fish, get cash, buy groceries for the day’s food and come home. Cooking would commence only after that. 

There  were families with ten to twelve members in a house including children and old people in the neighborhood. They would be waiting hungrily right through the day, till the head of the family arrived. On days like this, Damayanti Amma would cook some extra food, good enough to eat for four to five children. She would send the food through Sudhamani to the neighbors house saying, “Poor people; they have been fasting right through the day. Let them not not go without food.”

The sense of togetherness with neighbors that Dhamayantiamma displayed too was so striking. As we have seen earlier, Damayanti Amma used to send Sudhamani to bring fire from the neighbor’s house, to avoid wasting a match stick. She would instruct Amma that if the house she visited was untidy, she should sweep that house; if utensils were there uncleaned, she should clean them before coming back home with the fire.

Preserving Nature – Never take anything in excess from nature

Once a pilgrim to Sabarimala had arrived, and Damayanti Amma served him Kanji. It was the practice in the village to use a folded leaf of a Jackfruit tree as a spoon for consuming the kanji. Damayanti Amma asked Sudhamani to fetch a jackfruit leaf for the purpose. When Amma went near the jackfruit tree, she saw a small branch of the tree had broken and fallen on the ground. It had some sixty leaves in it. Sudhamani picked up the branch and brought it to Damayanti Amma.

On seeing it, Damatyanti Amma started beating Sudhamani immediately. After a while she said, “I told you to bring just one leaf. Who asked you to break a branch and waste so many leaves? What right do you have to do such an injustice to the tree?”

Only when Amma explained that the branch had already broken, Dhamayanti Amma stopped beating her.

Quoting this incident, Amma said in later years, “From this experience, I learned three things. First, we should allow all plants and trees to live their full life as ordained by God, two, as the leaves purify the air we breathe, they are extremely important to us and three, taking anything more than our essential need from nature is adharma”.

Motherly instincts

Having given birth to eight children and rearing them up, Damayanti Amma had motherly instincts ingrained in her psyche. To explain this, Amma used to quote the following incident. 

Once, Damayanthi Amma and Sudhamani were engaged in some chores near the sea shore. Suddenly Damayanti Amma’s blouse became wet due to oozing of milk from her breasts. Damayanti Amma said to Sudhamani, “I think the baby sleeping in the hammock inside the house has woken up and is crying; go and bring the baby immediately”. Amma rushed to the house and indeed she found her baby sibling writhing and crying in the hammock. 

Right from the age of ten, till her reaching twenty, Amma was fully engaged in the ceaseless domestic works for ten years. On one side, she had abundant energy to do all of them like child’s play and on the other side, she lost her sleep at night, as that was the time she could be back in communion with her beloved Lord Krishna. She would call out Krishna, sing bhajans, cry out for getting his darshan profusely shedding tears and dance in ecstasy.

Discipling the ‘thief’

In the daytime, Sudhamayi used to go to other houses in the village to collect discarded vegetable skins to feed their cow.  She saw firsthand how people were suffering from hunger and poverty. She saw old people suffering from sickness and discard from other family members. Amma’s heart would melt seeing their plight. She would steal money, food, groceries, and, at rare times, even golden ornaments from her house and give to the suffering people in the surroundings.

While Damayanti Amma too had a soft heart for the suffering people and extended help to them, it was always within the means and limitations of her large family. On the other hand, Amma’s acts were sheer largesse, totally unmindful of the family’s financial status. From the point of view of the highly principled Damayanti Amma, stealing money and goods from the family (irrespective of the motive) amounted to having criminal tendencies; It amounted to utter lack of good conduct and character, which deserved severe punishment.  Hence, whenever Sudhamani’s largesses got exposed, she received severe beatings from Damayanti Amma.

Damayanti Amma would also complain to Sugunanandan about the adamant daughter’s excesses and Sudhamani would get further punishment from her father too. 

Once, when Amma was six years old, Damayanti Amma was complaining to her husband about Sudhamani’s misbehavior. Little Sudhamani lost patience and shouted at her mother, “Are you my mother or mother-in-law?” No wonder the parents were shocked to hear Sudhamani’s outburst.

Damayanti Amma’s predicament

People reading Amma’s life history may tend to form a mental picture of Damayanti Amma as a heartless and spiteful woman. But the reality must be understood without bias, considering the time period and the location of these incidents. 

Parayakadavu village and the surroundings were hamlets of fishermen and their community had its own social norms of behavior and cultural moorings. It was quite a male dominated society, and the girls were subject to severe strictures and restrictions, primarily aimed to ensure their safety and good name. 

Girls were meant to be married off as early as possible and they should have modesty, sound character, be soft spoken, be feminine,  be excellent in domestic chores and so on. 

Girls should not talk aloud nor laugh noisily. They should show respect to all menfolk irrespective of whether they were older or younger. A young girl should not sit in front of even her younger brother, if he was standing. Girls should not speak to strangers. Whether on work or study, girls should return home before dusk. Sweeping the floor in front of men was considered an act of disrespect. When a woman sweeps the floor and a man happens to come by, she should stop sweeping and hide the broomstick behind her back!

 Dhamayanti Amma was very particular that her daughters should never get any bad name. Otherwise, parents would get the blame for not rearing their girls with proper cultural mooring.

The Tomboyish ‘Little Kali’

But Amma was made of sterner stuff! She was tomboyish in many ways. The ‘little Kali’ many times tended to be rebellious to her mother’s strictures. If Dhamayanti Amma says “You should not do it”, Amma will say “I will”. If Dhamayanti Amma shouted at her, Amma would shout back  louder than her! If Dhamayanti Amma came to beat her, Amma would grip her hands and  try to thwart her from hitting her! All these would naturally bring Dhamyanthiamma to boiling point and instead of getting one beating, Amma would end up getting 10 beatings!

Amma also displayed the tendencies of ‘little Krishna’. When hungry, Amma would gulp down curd and milk, and to avoid getting noticed, she would generously add water.

Amma used to say in later years, “If Amma had received so much of beatings those days, it was more due to Amma’s adamant behavior at young age.” 

In her young age, brimming with energy, Amma would not differentiate a work which was normally considered to be in the domain of men.

Guests would keep on coming to Dhamayantiamma’s home at all odd hours and whoever came had to be served with tea. That was the strict rule of hospitality of Dhamayanti Amma. Firewood  would be constantly needed. If nothing was immediately available, Sudhamani would not hesitate to climb a coconut tree nearby to pull out a dry branch hanging there! If Damayanti Amma noticed it, she would boil with rage. “Come down and I will treat you the right way”, so saying, she would be ready, with a stick in hand. 

“If you are going to beat me, I will stay here permanently, and will not get down!” — Amma would shout back.

Exasperated, Damayanti Amma would quip, “If your behavior is going to be like this, I will marry you off only to a tree-climber!’ 

There was also an occasion, when, perhaps Damayanti Amma would have wondered whether a boatman was the right match for her incurably adamant daughter! This incident happened when Amma was fourteen years old.

One day, Amma was returning from Vallikkavu and came to the backwaters to take a rowing boat (‘kadathu vallam’) to reach home. (There was no bridge those days and boats were the only mode of transport). Boatmen had retired for lunch time.Some elderly women and children were waiting for the boatman for a long time. One woman was lamenting that her children were hungry at home; she had just bought the provisions and she could cook only after returning home. If the wait were to be longer, the children would have to suffer in hunger. She was feeling restless.

Amma could not tolerate the woman’s mental anguish. She decided to row the boat herself, even though she had no experience in rowing the large Kadathu Vallam;. The bamboo stick was too heavy and too tall for her small stature! It was indeed a tough man’s job! But undaunted, Amma started pushing the boat using the stick, keeping the women seated in it. Soon the boat was swaying this way and that way dangerously, but still started progressing towards the opposite shore!

Seeing what young Sudhamani was doing, people started gathering at both the shores wondering as to what would happen. Will she end up capsizing the boat and sinking all into the backwaters? Or will she manage to reach the opposite shore? Dhamayanthiamma too rushed to the banks of the backwaters hearing the commotion going around!

Sudhamani somehow successfully managed to cross the backwaters and reach the bank! There was excitement all around, but Dhamayantiamma was totally nonplussed! Oh, what a shame this Sudhamani had brought to the family! Doing things that only males were supposed to do! If she was so rough and tough, who would ever come forward to marry her?! Moreover, if she had ended up in capsizing the boat midway, what a calamity would have befallen! Needless to mention that Amma got her choicest beatings from her mother that day!

But Amma was least bothered about the beatings she received that day; she was quite happy to have helped the women to reach home and feed her hungry children.

The joy of one-day freedom

During many of the Onam festivals in the ashram, Amma invariably would bare her childhood memories associated with Onam. 

“Onam is one festival that I enjoyed thoroughly during my childhood. Girl children, who were normally subjected to so many restrictions, would get a one-day freedom on Onam. In addition, we got a new dress only during Onam and there will be plenty of payasam (sweet pudding) to drink. I would freak out into the streets shouting and laughing at the top of my voice. I would run around madly around the village, play day long with friends, sway in the swings for hours together, and return home only at dusk, dead tired! “

That was one day when I was totally free from the clutches and strictures of Damayanti Amma.

However, it did not mean that Amma would meekly submit herself to Damayanti Amma’s commands and demands on other days. She would argue word for word and whip up her mother’s anger more and more.  

Any other normal girl, out of inability to tolerate the pain of beatings, would have cried out and sought pardon for her mischiefs and promised not to repeat her mistakes. But the little Kali would many times remain like a statue, without reacting to the bodily suffering received from the beating.  This again had the potential to infuriarate Damayanti Amma further. 

Task of managing the tempest

Poor Damayanti Amma! What could she do? She or her husband could never comprehend the unusually stubborn demeanor of their dark skinned daughter. They had to get their married one after the other. Who would come forward to offer their sons for marriage to their family? That was the prime concern that eroded the heart of Damayanti Amma like acid. The only way she knew was to discipline her adamant daughter through severe punishments.

Perhaps, had Amma’s lilas been constrained to the family only, she could have at least attempted to hush them up. Unfortunately, they were enacted at relatives’ houses too.

In those days, it was very difficult to get house maids on pay to do the domestic chores, since job opportunities for girls with better salary were available in coir making, fishnet repairing etc. 

Hence, girls who had discontinued schooling and got trained in doing domestic work were much sought after. Damayanti Amma was getting pressure from her parents and other blood relatives to relieve Sudhamani for a few hours daily and send her to their houses for doing their hosehold chores. Damayanti Amma, had to oblige to their requests. 

Sudhamani was sent to her grand-mother’s house at Pandarathurth. Every day, she had to walk 6 km for this purpose and Sudhamani utilized it for chanting her beloved Krishna’s name and immersing herself in the joy of it.   

During her stints at her grandma’s house, and subsequently, at the age of 14 at her Mother’s elder sister’s house and later, at the age of 15 at her uncle’s house  at Karunagapally, Sudhamani continued with her old ways. She took  pity on the poor people around. She started helping them by supplying rice and other provisions stealthily from her hosts’ houses. She got caught and received punishments there too. Thus,  after earning bad name from those relatives’ houses too, Sudhamani returned home permanently at the age of sixteen.

At that time, Damayanti Amma’s health deteriorated further and Sudhamani had to take the full brunt of all the household work at her head. Along with it, her mad devotion to lord Krishna too grew proportionately. Her obstinance and fights with Damayanti Amma too grew and consequently the punishments as well. Amma added fuel fire to her parents’ irritation through her habit of calling other elders in the surroundings as ‘father’ and ‘mother’ while calling her own parents as step-mother and step-father!

Damayanthi Amma’s repeated efforts to get Sudhamani married off ended up as failures again and again.

Time passed by. Amma’s first Krishna bhava darshan happened and it started continuing. Her reputation as a woman ‘possessed by Lord Krishna’ spread in the neighborhood villages and people started coming to have her darshan and seek solutions to their problems in life. 

Subsequently, Amma received a glimpse of Devi Parashakti’s captivating form and she was then caught in a mad whirlwind of deep longing to have her Devi’s darshan again. Amma came out of her house once for all and lived in the open, losing external consciousness most of the time. With her exit, her utility as a full time domestic servant of Idamannel house came to an end.

Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan were driven by conflicting emotions in their love-hate relationship with Amma. At times, they were awed by the divinity displayed by Amma; at times they felt it was all just lunatic. Parental love overpowered them to protect and nurture their daughter. But the opposition Amma faced from a huge group of rationalists, in addition to the strong opposition of Amma’s activities by their own son Subhagan dismayed and troubled them. 

With Amma receiving Devi’s darshan finally and getting the experience of Devi merging in Her, Amma’s cyclonic and maddening sadhana period came to an end. Amma started giving Devi bhava darshan too. Her divinity was getting accepted more and more by the people living near and far. Lots of devotees thronged to her and have her Krishna bhava and Devi bhava darshans.


Yet, Amma’s parents faced problems both socially and financially in getting their other daughters married. Subhagan’s untimely death by committing suicide also shook them emotionally. Adding fuel to the fire, educated and young men from the surrounding towns were deeply drawn towards Ammas’ divinity and they started to frequent Amma and even wished to stay with her in her divine company for the sake of their spiritual progress. So many times, Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan really wished that her daughter were ‘normal’ like any other village girl in the village.

The end of storm

However, as time passed, all the oppositions and negativities subsided. Slowly and steadily, Amma’s parents started to fully grasp Amma’s divine disposition, and it finally dawned to them how fortunate they were to give birth to the Universal Mother. They started actively involving themselves in supporting Amma fully in the evolution of the Ashram and taking loving care of Amma’s new children who came from far and wide and opted to live with her in quest of spirituality.

Husband and wife relationship

Apart from recalling Damayanti Amma’s ways in teaching her fundamental values and disciplines,  Amma also used to talk highly of the loving bond that existed between Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan.  Of course, like any other married couple, Damayanti Amma too had her bickering with husband, but they were never too serious to disturb the deep marital bond. 

Amma used to mention the following incident that  happened in recent years —  maybe some 15 / 20 years ago when Damayanti Amma and Sugunanandan were aged.

One night, Damayanti Amma left her house, came to Amma’s room and knocked at the doors. When Amma inquired what happened, Damayanti Amma said, “Your Achan an I had a serious fight. There is no point in living with him any more. Please let me stay with you here”, Amma smiled and instructed her assistant Lakshmi to make necessary arrangements for Damayanti Amma to sleep there.

Next day, before dawn, Amma was busy reading letters received by her from devotees. Damayanti Amma woke up, came to Amma and said, “I am going. Your achan would feel restless if he does not get his morning tea. Let me go and prepare tea for him”.

Amma had a hearty laugh.

Whenever Amma talks of the present day couples who fight with each other on petty matters and go to the extent of seeking divorce, Amma would quote the above incident to cite what type of marital bond existed between the couples of older generation.

Across years, Damyanti Amma and Sugunanandan watched how their daughter’s name and fame spread across the world; they proudly witnessed the amazing growth of Amma’s ashram and the multitude of Amma’s philanthropic institutions across the globe. 

Sugunanandan passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. Damayanti Amma continued to live under Amma’s shade for the next 12 years. She had physical ailments to cope with and she was mostly indrawn, having least communication with the external world. 

Finally she left her frail body and merged in Amma at 97.

Amma – Mata Amritanandamayi – Biography – Life Timeline with Photos

(Digital art Courtesy: Hiral Varun)


  • She is called Amma (Mother).
  • She hails from a little fishermen’s hamlet in Kerala, India. She is hardly educated up to primary school. She is now a world-renowned Hindu saint and a globally recognized philanthropist. She travels across the length and breadth of India and also across the globe every year to meet people. She is known as the Hugging Saint. She is a ceaseless fountainhead of divine love.
  • She embraces each and every individual who comes to her for her darshan. She spends 10-14 hours a day, at least 4 days a week in meeting and hugging people who come to see her in thousands. She has been doing it ceaselessly since the age of 22/23. (She is now 65 as in 2018). She has hugged more than 33 million people across the world.
  • She is an unconditional giver. All the people in this world are her sons and daughters. She gives pure love to the world suffering in scorching selfishness; she heals people both physically and mentally.
  • She spreads spirituality to earnest seekers as a Sadguru. There are several tens of Sanyasis and hundreds of Brahmachari / Brahmacharinis living in her Ashram at Amritapuri, along with hundreds of household devotees (both Indians and foreigners) who are doing spiritual sadhana (meditation, mantra japa, devotional singing, studying shastras like Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads etc) and also doing selfless service, leading a very frugal and simple life, under her guidance.
  • She serves the poor and the downtrodden. She runs hospitals, orphanages, schools, colleges, and research institutions. She is always there with a helping hand extended, whenever and wherever there is a natural calamity.
  • Here is an attempt to showcase, for the sake of historical records, what she has been doing year after year in her action-packed life ever since her birth. No wonder she is hailed as an Avatar of divine mother Parashakti; the power she radiates is immeasurable; what she has accomplished and what she has been doing is simply beyond the grasp and capacity of not only ordinary human beings but also scientists, rationalists, and agnostics.

1953  – 27th September  

  • Sunday, after 9 AM (in star Karthika) The Holy Avatar of Amma happens – The girl child, later named Sudhamani (Later Mata Amritanandamayi) was born to Dhamayanthi Amma and Sri Sugunanandan as their 3rd child at Parayakadavu, a fishermen’s hamlet in Alappad, Kerala. Her birthplace, in future, acquires the name Amtitapuri.

1957 (Age 4)

  •  ‘Kunju’ (Little) Sudhamani frequently turns inwards, forgetting the outer world and goes to a meditative state.

1958 (Age 5)

  • Sudhamani starts going to elementary school. She is soaked in Krishna bhakti most of the time even at such a tender age.

1960 (Age 7)

  • Sudhamani starts composing devotional songs on Lord Krishna. Most of the time her dress is wet with tears she sheds crying for her beloved Krishna.

1962 (Age 9)

  • Sudhamani discontinues school (in a couple of months after joining 5th standard) and takes charge of doing all domestic chores since her mother falls sick. In all her free time, she is immersed in the devotion of Sri Krishna.

1966 (Age 13)

  • Sudhamani starts going to her Mother’s elder sisters’ house for doing their domestic chores. Sudhamani gives the families’ rice to the poor and gets the wrath of the relatives.

1968 (Age 15)

  • Sudhamani was sent to her uncle’s house in Karunagapally for doing their domestic chores. Here too she starts giving food and provisions from the house to the poor and needy and gets punished for her charity.

1969 (Age 16)

  • Sudhamani returns to her parents’ house and gets fully engaged in doing all domestic chores from 3 AM in the morning till 11 PM and also immerses herself in intense sadhana and Krishna Bhakthi. She also serves the poor people in the village and distributes food and provisions stealthily from her house. Gets punished frequently for this charity.

1970 (Age 17)

  • Sudhamani learns tailoring at a Christian Institution attached to a Church (for about 3 years) in her spare time. She goes into meditation at the graveyard next to the church. The old priest in the Church gets highly impressed by her character and devotion to God.  He predicts she will come up as a great lady in the future.

  • Sudhamani loses sleep crying and singing for her beloved Krishna. Her family members get highly disturbed by her behavior. They think she is mentally deranged.

1975 (Age 22)

  • Sudhamani’s intense prema bhakti on Krishna ends up in a divine experience of Lord Krishna merging in her.

== Oil painting == Lord Krishna appears before Amma and merges in her. Amma realizes her oneness with Krishna.

  • 5th March  1975 – Sudhamani first Krishna Bhava (involuntarily expressing the divine mood of Lord Krishna) at the courtyard of her neighbor  Sri Ratnam’s house where Srimad Bhagavada parayanam was going on.

== Oil painting == Amma reveals her Krishna Bhava to people gathered to listen to Srimad Bhagavatam.

  • On the next Bhagavata Parayanam day, based on demands from people to prove her divine power, Sudhamani does a miracle by converting water to milk and also to panchamritam when she shows Krishna bhava again.
  • Soon regular Krishna Bhava darshan to devotees begins at the cowshed area next to her house.

  • Later a simple temple (Kalari) comes up in the cowshed area where her bhava darshan took place.

  • Soon after, Sudhamani gets Devi Parashakthi in a divine vision for a brief while. She immerses in deep Prema Bhakti to seek Devi’s vision again. Sudhamani’s behavior turns very weird bordering on madness.
  • Her family members could not understand her divine madness and get very disturbed. Her elder brother Subhakan, who could not accept Sudhamani’s bhava darshans and her divine moods, orders her to get out of the house. In order not to trouble the family members, sSudhamani opts to stay outdoors all the time, be rain or shine. She was out of body consciousness most of the time; animals and birds start giving her company with love and they bring food to her too.

== Oil painting == Sudhamani ordered out of the house; Animals and birds give her company in the open.

  • September 1975 – After 6 months of intense longing, she gets the vision of Devi once again and Devi immerses inside her. Amma sang her experience and the divine commandment she received from Devi thus in her song ‘Ananda Veedhi’

. . . . . .
Smiling, She became a Divine Effulgence

And merged in me. My mind blossomed,
Bathed in the many-hued light of divinity
And the events of millions of years gone by
Rose up within me. Thenceforth,
Seeing nothing as separate from my own Self
And merging in the Divine mother
I renounced all sense of enjoyment

Mother told me to ask people
To fulfill their human birth.
Therefore I proclaim to the whole world
The sublime truth that She uttered
‘oh man, merge in your Self!”
. . . . . . . . . 

Sudhamani resolves to dedicate her life totally to mitigate the suffering of the people and serve one and all as embodiments of God.

  • Amma (Sudhamani) begins giving Devi Bhava Darshan too in addition to Krishna Bhava Darshan. She hugs each and everyone who comes to her for darshan, hears their woes and offers solace.

  • Amma starts facing lots of opposition from and harassment from The Rationalists  Movement (‘Committee to remove blind beliefs’) who consider her bhava darshans as fake with an intent to fool people and make money.
  • By 1975 year-end – During one Krishna bhava, Amma predicts that she will be having lots of devotees coming to her from far and wide, including from abroad. She also predicts that she would travel all over the world many times.
  • Prabhakara Siddha Yogi, a famous avadhuta with extremely weird behavior, who was believed to be living across a couple of centuries, comes and visits Amma. He recognizes her as Kali Mata.

Amma with Prabhakara Siddha Yogi

1976  (Age 23)

  • Harassment, public ridicule, attempts of physical attack and attempts of murder happens to Amma from locals and members of the Rationalist movement. Amma’s family members feel highly disturbed about such happenings. Amma faces such opposition for the next couple of years with evenness of mind.
  • Based on Sugunananda’s prayer during Devi bhava to relieve her daughter from Devi’s possession, Amma falls into deep samadhi the next day and could not be revived to life despite all efforts. Conceding to intense prayers and inconsolable crying of her devotees and family, she comes back to life after 3 hours.
  • Unnikrishnan (Amma’s first resident brahmachari of the ashram, later Swami Turiyamritananda Puri) meets Amma and starts staying in the temple.

Swami Turiyamritananda Puri (Br. Unnikrishnan) was the earliest permanent resident of the ashram who came in 1976.

1977 (Age 24)

  • Amma visits Madurai Meenakshi temple with devotees. She goes into deep samadhi for about 1.5 hrs in front of Meenakshi sannadhi.

1978   (Age 25)

  • Dattan the leper starts visiting Amma during Bhava Darshan and his acute and deep wounds of leprosy gets cured over a period of time by Amma’s licking of his wounds.

> Click this picture to see the video clipping showing Amma licking the wounds in Dattan’s body and face

  • June 1978 – Amma’s elder brother Subhakan, who could not understand or accept Amma’s spiritual moods, and seemingly lunatic behavior, was strongly against his sisters’ divine bhavas and was extremely mentally disturbed. He commits suicide. Amma had to face negative propaganda and criticism from the rationalists and the public on account of this happening too.

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How do you get Mantra Diksha from Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi?


The readers coming to this answer perhaps know already about Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, a living Sadguru among us, who has devotees, followers and admirers in millions across the globe.

Her thousands of earnest devotees and spiritual seekers know her as an Avatar – a divine incarnation of mother Parashakti; She is a Brahma gnyani; a true yogi; a jivan mukta. For many western devotees, she is a living proof that Jesus Christ did exist. She is like a large ship that can take numerous earnest devotees who have unconditionally surrendered to her across the sea of samsara.

There are thousands of devotees across the globe who have taken Mantra Diksha from her and chant their mantras regularly and engage in earnest spiritual practices.

Which Mantra does Amma give as Diksha?

Amma accepts earnest devotees from any walk of life, from any sect of Hinduism (be Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas or whatever), having whatever Ishta Devatas (favourite God forms) they love. To suit their taste and leaning, Amma gives mantras of their respective ishtas (Like Shiva Mantra, Vishnu mantra, Rama mantra, Krishna mantra, Gayathri Mantra, Devi Mantra and so on). In fact, Amma gives diksha to Christians, Buddhists etc. too, with mantras to suit their respective faiths and tastes.

There are plenty of Amma devotees for whom Amma herself is their Ishta. For them, Amma gives mantra originating from her own name too. In other words, Amma encourages and guides people to progress spiritually through their respective faiths, and there is nothing like a cult-feeling associated with her Mantra diksha.

In Mata Amritanandamayi Math, no one other than Amma is authorized to give Manta diksha.

When and where do you get diksha from Amma?

Amma’s ashram headquarters is in Amritapuri, Kerala, India. Before Corona pandemic, Amma used to be travelling across India and the worldduring major part of every year over the last 3 decades. However since 2020 (till the date in which this post is originally written) Amma has been staying in Amritapuri Ashram only.

Wherever Amma’s darshan programs get conducted (be it in Amritapuri or whatever place Amma visits), people, while receiving Amma’s darshan (which is her loving hug) can request Amma for Mantra Diksha. Amma instantly knows the past, present and future of a devotee the moment she hugs him, and depending on the person’s ripeness for receiving the mantra, she may accept the request. Please note that she may not respond with yes to some people; she may tell some people to come back to her in future with the request.

The truth is that, nowadays, out of her extreme compassion, Amma normally agrees to give Mantra diksha to a vast majority of people who make the request, unmindful of their spiritual limitations or shortcomings.

Once Amma’s nod is obtained, the person will be taken to a designated Sanyasi of the Ashram who interacts with the person to get information about his Ishta Devata (Favorite deity) on whom he wants the mantra. Then he gives the respective Mantra Card (associated with that deity) along with an instruction card. He gives necessary guidelines further.

The person is to wait, till Amma finishes giving darshan to all the devotees who have taken darshan tokens that day.

Please note that this wait may be quite long. Thousands of devotees come to Amma to take her darshan and the darshan program may extend till midnight or even till early hours of the next morning.

Except for this waiting, the Diksha process is rather an extremely simple and quick affair with virtually no procedural strings attached. People waiting for taking Mantra diksha will be taken to Amma, after she completes giving darshan (i.e. hugs) to all those who had come to her on that day/ night. The sanyasi assisting in diksha will tell Amma on what Ishta Devata the person wanted the mantra (by looking at the Mantra Card). Amma will hug the person and utter the respective mantra in his ear. She will then shower flower petals on the person’s head.

The ceremony is over!

Any further clarifications or instructions, if any (more than what is given in the Instruction sheets) can be had from the sanyasi assisting in diksha.

Please note

  • there are no strings attached — no expectations whatsoever from the person seeking Mantra
  • no formal ceremonies are preparations involved – except for the long wait, till midnight or beyond it.
  • no other qualification needed, except Amma’s initial approval.

Generally, there are no strict dos and don’ts specified. People are expected to chant the mantras as much as possible, whenever possible, wherever possible. Chanting with earnest devotion and sincerity will bring more dividends. Regularity and earmarking specific time for chanting and meditation are encouraged. As Amma gives lots of significance to Lalita Sahasranama chanting, Amma’s devotees are always encouraged to learn Lalita Sahasranama and do the parayana or archana regularly.

Why do some believe that ordinary persons like Mata Amritanandamayi or Sai Baba have extraordinary powers?

To answer this question, one must essentially delve deeper into the concept of Avatar in Hinduism. One must also try to understand the concept of Advaita in Hinduism. One must be able to grasp the grandest statement of Hinduism that everyone has the potential to attain Godliness. You may say, all these are essentially beliefs and say, “I can’t believe unless ‘scientifically proved’ ” , we will come to some amount of proving a bit later.

According to Hinduism, God takes up human form and comes to live among us to teach us the right dharma and show the way for spiritual advancement for earnest seekers from time to time. They also annihilate evil forces that tend to tilt the balance towards adharma and restore dharma — It is the Avatar.

Avatars, though by looks and physical behaviour will be like a human beings, they are NOT just ordinary mortals. So, fundamentally, Satya Saibaba and Mata Amritanandamayi are NOT just ordinary people. They are avatars.

The way they lead their lives, the way they demonstrate super-human capabilities right from childhood, the way they influence people who are truly attracted towards them through faith and surrender, the way they make miraculous changes in the lives of people (either overtly or covertly), the way they accomplish unbelievable tasks within unbelievable time-frame, the way they spread love and care on humanity cutting across all caste, creed and religious barriers, the way they create a massive revival of spirituality — are all beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals.

Those who are skeptical,who think they are very rational, think they know all about human beings and God, think they are “scientifically oriented” , who declare themselves proudly as non-believers by closing their ears, eyes, nose, mind and heart and declare “No — these Godmen and Godwomen are all only frauds bent upon cheating and looting people” can only be deluding themselves from reality.

Now coming to the proof.

Thousands of personal experiences can be given by people who experienced changes in their lives by coming to Amma or Satya Sai. You will say “these are concocted stories spread by blind believers in vested interest”.

Just set aside some 20 minutes of your time by keeping your eyes and heart open and go through the following link that contains the historical record of what Mata Amritanandamayi has done in each and every year of her living in this world amidst us in the past 64 years:

Life Timeline of Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) – with images

Some of the happenings are deeply spiritual about which I am sure you will not be inclined to even learn/digest. But there are also things done to the world. There are records and proofs. Then come to your own conclusion:

How are the grandest tasks accomplished?

They are accomplished by believers’ dedication and hard work; through the money people donate willingly; through the fees collected from institutions; through selling of products and services that the believing devotees (consisting doctors, scientists, teachers, professors, doctorates, engineers, pharmacists, writers, publishers, technicians, artisans, labourers and so on) contribute with love and dedication. A considerable percentage of the services are voluntary.

After all, people who do all these works (as instruments of the avatar) are human beings with their own limitations, deficiencies and inefficiencies too. So, along the side of grand things happening, you will also find some shortfalls, some imperfections, some little blunders and some wastages here and there. But if you look at the macro picture, the negatives will not too big. It is also a part of the divine maya. Nothing is 100% perfect in creation.

What does Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) say, as a woman saint, on the matter of allowing young women to Sabarimala Ayyappa temple?

Mata Amritanandamayi is a highly respected woman saint in Kerala with a huge following, who is popular across the globe for her expression of universal love and her social and philanthropic activities. She has been contributing in many ways, both spiritually and socially, in removing the inequalities that women have been facing.

As a woman saint, her viewpoint on this sensitive subject of allowing women into Sabarimala carries weight and requires a serious study. Below is the English translation of her Malayalam talk on this subject:

“In fact, there is no bar for ladies to visit and worship at Sabarimala temple and many ladies are indeed visiting and having darshan of lord at Sabarimala. The only thing is that as part of the procedures of austerity stipulated for devotees visiting Sabarimala, there is restriction for women of a specific age group to visit the place.

In Amma’s conception, God is beyond the distinctions of man and woman. But when we consider ‘God’ as a principle and God as a formally consecrated ‘deity’ in a temple, there is subtle difference that we must take into account. God is indeed an infinite consciousness. But a deity inside a temple is not exactly same.

There is a difference between the two — like the difference between fish in the seas and the ornamental fish carefully nurtured at homes in the glass tanks. If you don’t feed food at proper intervals for the fish in the tank, they cannot be sustained. But we don’t have to bother about feeding the fish in the seas; In the same way, for formerly consecrated temple deities, we have to conduct daily pujas, offer sanctified food, do special pujas on special occasions as per prescribed norms in the Shastras or else, the divine consciousness existing in the deities would get deteriorated.

On the other hand, God as an omnipresent and omniscient entity will not get affected anyway whether formal worship is done to Him or not.

Just like the different fish types in the glass tank require provision for oxygen and feeding of specifically formulated fish food, different deities in temples require different and specific mantras for worship and procedures for cleanliness and purity to be maintained in the temple. The mantras meant for a smiling deity would be different from the mantras of the same deity conceived in an expression of anger (rowdra bhava). Even though the same divine power permeates everywhere, the specific ways and practices in which the deities in specific temples have been conceived are different.

With regard to Sabarimala, the faith of the devotees of Lord Ayyappa is that the rules and procedures of austerities prescribed for the temple are based on the wish of Lord Ayyappa who undertook penance in the hills as a ‘Nitya Brahmachari’ (ever celibate) and prescribed the regulations before he entered into samadhi. It is based on this belief that ‘Malikappurathamma’ is still waiting outside and those devotees who follow the prescribed austerities and procedures can visit and have a darshan of the lord.

Since devotees follow such a strict regimen (including sense control) , it is not right to demand that young women should be permitted entry in to Sabarimala and olden practices and rules should be changed accordingly.

It is not right to demand that all the temple conventions should be thrown to dust. Such practices and conventions are like pillars holding the dharma.

If at all there is a such a need for change, actually it is the women, who are ardent devotees of Lord Ayyappa, are the ones to state their stand on this matter. After getting such an opinion, let the Government, temple shastra pundits and the priests sit together, discuss it and come to a decision. If there is really a need, then rules may be reviewed and changed; but is should not end up like bathing a child repeatedly for cleanliness with water and then throwing away the remnant water along with the child!”

When Bhagavad Gita says that we should offer the fruits of our work to God, where is the motive do the best of our work?

Every action we are doing is sure to bring a fruit. Even though we may claim it to be a sacrifice to God (as per Karma Yoga), that fruit is sure to come back to us only, at some point of time, at some context, at some quantity and fashion. How and when cannot be exactly comprehended by us, because God is definitely going to give it back to us as per His will, with our welfare in mind. God is beyond needs and wants and He is not looking to retain the fruits of OUR labor with Himself!

My Guru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) use to say that when Bhagavad Gita says work should be done by surrendering the results to God, it means we don’t have to break our head or worry about the fruits of Karma, which will in any case come back to us. It means we will be able to focus better on our work in hand by doing our best, without wasting our mental energy about what the results could be.

Since the results are sure to come back to us, it is always prudent to do our best, because we will get back the best fruits of it at some time, in some way, at some juncture (as schemed by God) for our betterment only!

Amma also used to point about two fruits in every action — one is drishta Phalam (visible result) and adrishta phalam (invisible fruit). Suppose a destitute boy who has not eaten for a couple of days knocks at our doors. Suppose we call the boy inside and offer him a sumptuous meal. As we watch the boy eating the food in a hurry and relishing every bit of it, it definitely gives us an instant joy. It is drishta Phalam. By feeding a poor boy, we acquire some punya to our credit. That is adrishta phalam.

If we had served the boy some stale food from the previous day’s remnants, he would have perhaps consumed it too to satiate his hunger. But by feeding him with fresh meals, we are offering our best. That satisfaction will be greater than offering him a stale food for sure. Giving the best definitely carries a bonus value!


If the self is already eternal, deathless, and one with Brahman, why do I have to make any spiritual effort in life?

Yes. All gurus, all scriptures say that my Self is already eternal, deathless and one with Brahman. Yes, I nod in agreement.

But I am worried about my debts; I get restless if my food is not served in time. I hate my neighbor for whatever omissions and commissions he does. I just cannot accept that he is also Brahman like me!

I am having pain on my left shoulders and I am deeply worried — is it the symptom for impending heart attack? What will I do if attack comes suddenly? Oh! I am scared of death. Who will look after my family if I die suddenly?

So, my theoretical knowledge that I am deathless and I am Brahman is absolutely useless to me, until I experience that state so that I remain in bliss always with no mundane worries.

Sadguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) says that if you write ‘ honey’ in a piece of paper and lick it, it will not taste sweet. She further says that it is indeed true that a tree is contained in the seed. We are like seed now. For the seed to become a tree, it has to go into earth, its outer sheath should split so that the sprout comes. Conditions should be favourable too. A seed fallen on a rockey surface or in a desert is not likely to sprout. It should get water, nutrients etc to grow. Climate should be favorable. When all things are favorable, only then the seed will become a tree and bear fruits.

That’s why spiritual effort is needed “for the seed to become a tree”. Going into the earth indicates surrender (to guru). Outer sheath breaking indicates breaking of one’s ego. Ambience, climate etc becoming favorable indicates guru kripa.

Amma says “kalam, pryatnam , and Easwara kripa” (Time, effort and divine grace) are the 3 things essential for success.

Mata Amritanandamayi – FAQ on Amma

(Digital art Courtesy: Hiral Varun)
  1. Who is Amma?

Amma (meaning, mother) is Mata Amritanandamayi, a lady Hindu Saint, a God-realized (or self-realized) sage, a true knower of Universal Self (Brahma Gnyani) , who is considered an Avatar (God descended to earth in Human form, according to Hindu beliefs) and a Satguru (a spiritual teacher of the highest order) whose expression of divinity is through her unsurpassed expression of love towards all beings.

  1.  What was Amma’s original name? When and Where was she born? Who are her parents? Where is her place?

Bhavatarini Kali Temple, Amritapuri Ashram

Amma’s original name was Sudhamani. She was born on 27th September 1953 in a fishermen community, at a remote village Parayakadavu. It is now  called Amritapuri (PIN code 690 546). It is situated at the Arabian sea shore, in Alappad panchayat, in Kollam district of Kerala State, in South India.

It is  close to Vallikkavu town and at about 20 km away from Kayamkulam , 12 km from Oachira and 9 kms from Karunagapally.

Amma’s father’s name is Sugunananthan and her mother’s name is Damayanti Amma.  Sudhamani was their third child. Sudhamani had 4 brothers (one elder and the rest younger) and 3 sisters (one elder and the rest, younger).

It is in this small village is her Ashram Mata Amritanandamayi Math is situated. This place is now called Amtitapuri. In the limited strip of land between the Arabian sea and back waters, the Ashram’s sprawling complex comprising of a temple, a large Darshan Hall and a few multi-storeyed residential apartments for all her disciples and devotees is situated.

  1. Why is she called Amma?

The word Amma in Tamil and Malayalam means mother. She is considered the avatar of the Universal Divine Mother (varyingly called Parasakthi, Jagat Janani, Jagadamba, Rajarajeshwari, Parvati, Vaishnavi, Maha Maya, Kali and so on, who, according to holy mythology, is the divine consort of Lord Shiva). For Amma, every one in this world, irrespective of whether he/she is younger or older than her, is her child and all her children call her Amma. Amma’s love to her children is unconditional and she has no barriers of caste, color, creed, religion or anything else to express her motherly love to one and all. The young Sudhamani, who was later christened Mata Amritanandamayi by her devotees, thus became the mother of one and all and a “hugging saint” right from her 22nd age.

  1. Why is Amma called the “Hugging Saint”?

In Hinduism, going and seeing a God in a temple or seeing a Saint is referred to as having a “darshsan”. Darshan means seeing. In India, it’s the practice that great Saints stand or sit at a distance and his devotees will go and prostrate before him/ her to express their reverence. Some Saints will permit touching of their feet by close disciples. In Hinduism it is the practice to touch the feet of holy and elderly people as a mark of reverence and this touching of the feet of a divinely person is believed to bestow us good spiritual fortune.

It is also believed that any bodily touch of the saint will transfer one’s sins to the saints and this way one gets purified, but the saint who has accepted the sins will have to go through the physical suffering for having accepted the sins of others. So, except on very special occasions or considerations, all and sundry will not be encouraged touch the saints.

Amma’s way of giving ‘darshan’ is to individually embrace each person.

That’s totally absent in Amma’s case. Amma, out of her unbridled love on all her children, gives “dashan” to every individual by embracing him/ her physically. Whether one is healthy, clean or unclean – as unclean as a leper whose skin oozes with pus, Amma embraces one and all.

Perhaps the term “hugging saint” was coined by western media when Amma visited USA first in the year 1987.

  1. In Hinduism, isn’t it said that a Guru is needed for one to attain self-realization? If so, who is Amma’s guru?

Amma is a divine incarnation. She is a swayambu (self manifested); she is not of the normal class of spiritual aspirants who can seek the ultimate truth only through the guidance of a Guru.

But, Amma was soaked in the deepest divine bhakthi (love of God) right from her childhood. Her yearning to have a vision of her beloved God, Krishna was consuming her like a flame; she cried unceasingly for uniting with her beloved lord; her whole of waking consciousness was enveloped in that single thought. Songs praising her lord and begging for his darshan poured out from her lips involuntarily.

With all this at one side, she had abundant energy to do physical domestic work, which she did tirelessly for her family; her parents understood nothing of her divinity; they thought she was mentally insane. Her very dark complexion was a subject of distaste for them. They showed no interest to educate her formally. Apart from a little of primary education that enabled Amma to read and write in Malayalam (her mother tongue), Amma had no worthy “worldly” education to speak of.

This sort of unceasing and all consuming love of God, is called Parabhakthi in Hinduism. It is also known as Prema Bhakthi. Chaitanya Deva (a saint of Eastern India) had such a divine love for Krishna in the past. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, another saint of the past from Bengal had this divine love on his beloved Holy Mother Kali.

Through this power of Prema Bhakthi, saints realize God. That’s how Amma realized Lord Krishna; Lord Krishna merged into her and became one with her. At her 20th age, Amma became a realized soul.

  1. Then why is it said Amma is a divine incarnation of Universal Mother?

Amma, after realizing God in the form of Krishna (Purusha, the male principle) was then caught in a tempest of love on the Universal Mother (Prakriti, the female principle). It was her second phase of prema bhakti on God, now directed at the female principle. After going through a maddeningly intense “tapas” (severe spiritual austerities) to have the vision of her “true mother”, without virtually missing even a second to keep calling her “Amma”, amma realized her goal; she ultimately found Divine mother revealing her glorious form and eventually merging in her. It happened at her age of about 22.

  1. Wait. You say, Lord Krishna merged in Amma. Then you say, Universal Mother merged in Amma. But you said earlier that Amma is a divine incarnation of the Universal Mother. Isn’t all confusing?

One requires a deeper understanding of Hinduism to grasp all these. In Hinduism, there is only one God, known as Brahman (also called Paramatman, the supreme Atman), who is all pervading, is without beginning or end, and is beyond name and form. But the same Universal being, when related to the physical realm of the world and the cosmos with names and forms, becomes the creater, sustainer and the destroyer. He, in this role, is attributed with names and forms and is amenable for worshiping as Ishwara (God). Hindus have the freedom to worship Ishwara in any form very dear to their heart.

A Hindu can worship God as Vishnu ( the protector), Shiva (the destroyer), the Shakti (the Universal Mother), or in any forms of divine incarnations like Rama, Krishna and so on. Ignoring names and forms, it is the same God who is the in-dweller in all beings as Atman, because the God and his creation are not two entities.

Depending on the extent of one’s self awareness, one perceives God as a separate entity as Ishwara (the Dwaita – duality concept) , or as Paramatman — the soul of the individual soul (Vishitadwaita – the qualified non-duality concept) and as Atman (one’s own Self, being the Absolute reality, with nothing second existing — the Advaita, non-duality principle).

All these 3 states are true in some way or other, depending on the extent of one’s realization of the ultimate truth. While Advaita, the non-dualistic state is the ultimate truth which is realized by a qualified seeker at an exalted state where the “I” consciousness becomes totally absent, the other states also become relative truths as one descends back to worldly consciousness — when “I” and “you” are perceived.

For a person of Amma’s level of attainment, Advaita is the state of attainment and state of being. But, purely out of compassion to serve the society and guide all earnest seekers to realize the ultimate truth, Amma descends to the mundane level and plays her divine act with all of us, like a person acting in a drama with different masks and makeup.

Amma, though, in her true state remains as Atman, with nothing secondary to it, she, at the relative level, sports a “bhava”, a divine mood. When, as a seeker, she loved the lord (Ishwara) in the form of Krishna (who is nothing but the all pervading Atman, but now worshiped with name and form), she realized her own Atman and it was experienced as if the Lord Krishna merged in her. The same explanation holds good for divine experience and mood –“bhava” as a divine mother.

Amma, though originally expressed her divine bhava as Krishna, she, later opted to express her bhava as Divine mother too. Still later, she opted to express only the divine mood as Universal mother – Devi Bhava and discontinued her Krishna Bhava.

It’s Hindu’s belief that God descends to earth to uplift mankind and show ways to salvation from time to time, based on the specific needs of the time. As Amma displays her divine bhava more as a mother, her devotees hail her as an Avatar of Universal mother.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says “Avatar is only for the sake of Bhaktas (lovers of God). Gnyanis (seekers of True Knowledge without sentimental emotion to forms of God) have no significance to the idea of Avatar”.

Thus from a bhakta’s viewpoint, Amma is an Avatar — the Avatar of the Universal Divine Mother. From the intellectual seekers’ view point, Amma is a Gnyani — Knower of Atman, a self-realized soul, a jivan mukta (one who has attained deathless state while being alive), or one who has attained, from a Buddhist viewpoint, Nirvana. For an earnest spiritual seeker looking for spiritual guidance, Amma is a Satguru.

8.  Let her be God, Avatar or whatever. What is that she has done for the world? In what way has she contributed for the welfare of the mankind? People say she is now heading a multi-million dollar empire?

Amma’s every breath is for the welfare of the mankind. She sets examples; she inspires countless people to serve the world. Thousands of devotees from all walks of life come to her and join her with their money and resources to serve the world in so many ways. That’s how so many of her institutions have sprung up.

She has inspired thousands of young  men and women to renounce worldly life and lead a life of brahmacharya, do spiritual practices and seva; countless householders have left behind their comforts of life to settle in the ashram and do service as well as sadhana.

Embracing the World is a global network of regional humanitarian organizations inspired by the  Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Embracing the World exists to help alleviate the burden of the world’s poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs — food,  shelterhealthcareeducation, and livelihood — wherever and whenever possible.

If you want to know what she has done to the world, here is a brief list:

Disaster relief

Left: Post tsunami, houses constructed at Nagapattinam             Right: Flats constructed for tsunami affected people in Sri Lanka.

  • 2001 Gujarat Earthquake – Construction of 1200 earth quake resistant homes for the affected people.
  • 2004 Tsunami in India and Sri Lanka – built 6200 Tsunami-resistant houses, supplied 700  new fishing boats, constructed an evacuation bridge (in case of similar future calamities) , providing vocational training to 2500 victims and so on.
  • 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief in USA – donating $1 million to Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund
  • 2005 Earthquake in Kashmir – Free food and medical supplies
  • 2005 Mumbai floods, 2006 Gujarat floods, 2008 Bihar floods — Over $1.5 million spent in medical aid, food supplies and shelter.
  • 2009 Cyclone Aila, West Bengal — medical care and food supplies
  • 2009 Floods in Karnataka and Andhra –$10.7 million relief package including medical care, food, supplies and building of 1000 homes for displaced refugees.
  • 2010 Haiti Earth quake — Mediacl supplies, blankets, providing scholarship to students
  • 2011 Japan earth quake & tsunami — $ 1 million relief focusing on children orphaned in the disaster.
  • 2012 LPG Tanker & Fireworks disasters in south India —  Aid to families of dead and injured.
  • 2013 Uttarakhand floods — Rs 50 Cr0re relief package to construct 500 houses destroyed in the Uttarakhand  in 42 selected villages in the districts of Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi. Also cover educational scholarships, pension to widows and women empowerment activities.
  • 2013 Typhoon Haiyan relief at Philippines — Mata Amritanandamayi Center, USA donates 1 million dollar aid for people affected.
  • 2015 Chennai Floods — Supply of food and medicines, Rs 5 Crore donation to Chief Minister’s relief fund.

== Chennai Flood relief == Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya distributing food packets to affected localities. Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri handing over cheque for Rs.5 Crores to TN Chief Minister Jayalalitha.

Free Housing

  • Completion of 45,000 homes for the poor throughout  India

Other Aid Projects

  • Providing 41,000 scholarships to children of impoverished farmers, with a goal to reach 1,00,000 students.
  • Empowering 1,00,00 women by providing startup capital, vocational education and access to micro credit loan
  • Organic farming initiative to support 10,000 poor people to grow organic vegitables in their own land.
  • Orphanages for 500 children in Parippally, Kerala and 50 children in Nairobi.
  • Yearly feeding of over 10 million poor people inside India, 1,00,000 people outside India including 75,000 in USA via Soup kitchens
  • Pensions for 59,000 destitute women and the physically and mentally challenged, with a goal to reach 1.00,000 such people.
  • Running 4 care homes for the elderly in India
  • Prisoner-welfare project in USA provides solace for prison inmates
  • 2015 — Rs.100 Crores donated for constructing toilets in the poorest villages surrounding the Ganges River as part of Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange project.
  • 2015 — Another 100 Crore project for constructing toilets in the houses of the poor in Kerala.
  • 2017 —  Rs.200 Crore project of providing filtered and clean drinking water to 5000 villages in India, to benefit 10 million people in rural areas.

A typical filtering package set up in each village for providing clean, filtered water under Amrita’s Jivamritam scheme.

Health Care


  • Not-for-profit 1,300 bed hospital (210 bed ICU) providing advanced health care to patients including free medical care for the poor.
  • serving more than 10 lakh outpatients and more than 70,000 inpatients annually. The massive healthcare infrastructure with over 3.33 million sq.ft. of built-up area, spread over 125 acres of land, supports a daily patient volume of approximately 3500 outpatients with 95 percent inpatient occupancy. There are 12 superspeciality departments, 45 other departments.
  • More than 2.6 million people have have received complete free treatment since 1998.
  • Telemedicine support for hospitals and more than 40 remote centres across India and parts of Africa.
  • Free health check up in remote areas providing preventive health care.
  • Five branch hospitals providing free care to the poor
  • AIDS care home at Trivandrum and Cancer Hospice at Mumbai
  • Free palliative in-home care for the terminally ill
  • Conducting more than 100 free medical camps annually throughout India
  • Providing 1,00,000 women with training to become in-home nurses in more than 6000 self-help groups
  • AYURVEDIC MEDICARE through Amrita School of Ayurveda (Amritapuri) with 160 bed hospital

Higher Education 

  • Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) having 5 campuses with Schools of Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Arts and sciences, Biotechnology, Business, Journalism, Ayurveda and Education. More than 20,000 students and 1,500 faculty members. (NAAC A grade University).
  • Amrita Research Labs and other research departments are continuously involved in developing innovations in communication, e-learning, computer sciences and Biotechnology.
  • 30 leading Universities worldwide including Stanford, MIT, NYU, EPFL in Switzerland, VU in Amsterdam, TU Munich, Roma Tre, ETH Zurich and the University of Tokyo cooperate with Amrita University to enhance higher education and research in India.
  • Institute of People’s Education provides job training and community development.
  • United Nations commended literacy-training program for the tribal populations

Elementary and Secondary Education

  • 47 Amrita Vidyalayam schools throughout India, providing value-based holistic approach to learning
  • A school for hearing-impaired children in Kerala

Spiritual, Cultural

Aerial View of Amritapuri Ashram 2017. The Arabian sea on the right, the TS Canal at the left and the middle strip of land is Alappad. Amritapuri Ashram is studded with multi-storeyed buildings.  The Amrit Sethu bridge can be seen at the left.

  • Mata Amritanandamayi Math – Amritapuri Ashram (Kerala India) is the international headquarters for Amma’s service work, which is carried out through hundreds of branch centers and service groups world-wide.
  • The Ashram houses several hundreds of Brahmacharis, Brahmacharinis, Householder devotees, monks, hostel students, westerners and so on.
  • IAM  (Integrated Amrita Meditation) Technique and Amrita Yoga are taught free throughout the world.
  • Spiritual books and magazines (‘Matruvani’) printed at the ashram in multiple languages are distributed to devotees across the country and world.
  • Regular shastra (scriptural teaching) classes are conducted in the Ashram.
  • AYUDH is the youth wing of Amma’s devotees and followers inspiring youngsters in  leading a balanced life including spirituality and seva as part of worldly life.
  • GreenFriends initiative cutivates reference for Nature and has arranged and inspired planting more than 1 million trees since 2001.


To watch Video on Amma’s global activities:


Do people who undergo much suffering in life eventually attain happiness one day or other?

Let me share a funny story that Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) narrates:

A person was suffering from one hardship after another in life and got very much dejected. He went to consult an astrologer to know what he holds for the future.

The astrologer, after going through the horoscope said “ Your planetary positions are too unfavorable.You will have to go through sufferings till your age of 50”.

The man felt somewhat relieved. He asked eagerly, “It means I will lead a smooth and happy life after that, right?”

The astrologet said, “No. You will get used to facing troubles and managing them afterward!”.

Amma used to say that ‘parasthithi‘ (external circumstances) cannot be changed easily, but with effort, it is possible to change our ‘manasthithi‘ (state of mind). When, by spiritual effort, we manage to acquire mental strength and eaquanimity, we will be able to face joys and sorrows with lots of balance. We will not get over joyed in moments of fortune, nor get too disturbed and depressed against adversities.

When mindset changes, by divine grace, there is every chance that trials and tribulations too diminish in life.

Amma offering consolation to the sick

Does Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) give Mantra Diksha? If so, mantra of which God? When does she give Diksha?

Yes. Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) does give Mantra Diksha to her devotees and earnest spiritual seekers. She gives them selectively, at her own discretion, when a request is made to her while taking her darshan. She gives mantra diksha to householder devotees as well as to renunciates and Brahmacharis & Brahmacharinis. She selectively gives diksha to non-Indian, non-Hindu devotees too. Several of her western devotees have taken diksha from her.

What sort of mantra does Amma give?

Amma mostly gives diksha to devotees based on their existing Ishta (personal God) – It could be Shiva, Devi Parashakti, Kali, Rama, Krishna, Vishnu and so on). On some specific cases, she may give an alternative mantra (other than the seeker’s Ishta) too, as she knows the innate nature and tendency of the person whom she is giving Mantra.

There are also cases where a person has already taken diksha from elsewhere (like Sri Ramakrishna Math, for example) and may want Amma to give him mantra again. In some cases, Amma may advise the person to continue with the old mantra.

A lot depends on Amma’s assessment of a person’s samksaras.  For some, she may ask to wait for some more time before asking for mantra.

When does Amma give Mantra?

A person who wants to take Mantra diksha from Amma has to request her when he/ she is taking darshan from Amma. If Amma agrees, the person has to wait till the darshan comes to the end on that night. Amma will give diksha at Amritapuri Ashram as well as at other places where she tours. Diksha will be given only on her darshan days and not on non-darshan days. When Amma is in Amritapuri, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays are the normal darshan days.

Depending on the crowd, Amma’s darshan may end at any time in night — before midnight, after midnight, early in the morning etc. Those who want to take diksha from her are expected to wait till the darshan ends at whatever time.

Announcement will be made in the TV screens calling the persons who are waiting to take mantra diksha to assemble at one designated place near the dais. Amma’s assistants will note down your Ishta Devata or your preferred God and hand over to you a Mantra card containing your mantra (to be kept secret with you and not to be disclosed to anybody) and the necessary instructions regarding preparations and practices of chanting the Mantra.

Before Amma leaves the stage after giving darshan to all the people, she calls the people who are waiting for receiving the mantra. Amma hugs each person and whispers the specific mantra meant for the person into his/her ear. She blesses them by sprinkling flowers on their head and giving them a prasad.  Except for waiting for this time to arrive, there are absolutely no other procedures involved.

If one needs any clarifications or has any doubts, they can always approach the assistants and they will help you.