In no other place in the world can you witness the resilient nature of spiritual understanding that continues to exude from the land of India. Temples, reverence, Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient science and art of yoga, Self-realized Masters, spirituality, and beauty in all shapes and colors have originated from this diverse land. One would have lost their senses completely not to feel the energy emanating from such a place.
Located in the small fishing village of Parayakadavu on the coast of Kerala, the Amritapuri ashram (also called the Mata Amritanandamayi Math) is one hour north of the Kollam District, two and a half hours north of Trivandrum, the state capital, and three hours south of Kochi.
The beauty of palm trees, lush backwater rivers, and beautiful beaches of the south are a stark contrast to the busy metropolises and dry, dusty desert of the northern states. There is an undercurrent of energy from the source that somehow puts everything in its appropriate place and allows your heart and mind to shift when you are open to it.
Sri Mata Amritanandamaya Devi, also known simply as Amma, is a woman who embodies what we all would like to see more of in the world. 66 years old, Amma has dedicated Her life to uplifting humanity through the simplest of gestures – an embrace. In this intimate manner, Amma has blessed and consoled more than 40 million people throughout the world. Wherever Amma travels – be it India, America, or Europe – thousands flock to see Her, seeking Her support, suggestions, advice, spiritual vibes, and the opportunity to receive a hug from the Mother’s loving arms.
Amma begins around 11 a.m., sitting in a chair. One by one, people are allowed their moment with Her. Amma does not move from Her chair all day, except to change Her stained sari in the evening. She does not leave to take lunch or dinner, takes no personal time, and does not even get up to stretch Her legs. She just embraces person after person, sharing blessings and love again and again. No one is ever short changed. Each person gets the same attention, the same focus, and the same touch. She smiles, laughs, and even makes jokes on occasion.
Amritapuri is far more than a village. It’s a living, breathing, beautiful temple filled with color and sculpture, and people of all nationalities moving happily around the sandy roads. Amritapuri is a fast growing small city and home to an international community of more than 3,500 residents. Over the years, Amritapuri has evolved to accommodate as many visitors as possible. Elderly people also, small babies, and people from all over the world live in Amritapuri today. Everyone is always welcome to visit, whether as a regular long-term visitor, a one-day tourist, or a spiritual seeker (sadhak). Permanent residents include monastic disciples and families from all over India and the world.
The daily schedule is fairly open, with classes you can take, lectures you can attend, morning prayers (archana), evening devotional singing (bhajans), and plenty of opportunity for meditation and introspection, as well as spending time with Amma. Every day includes seva (selfless service to the ashram) involving anything from washing buckets to serving food. The jobs are endless and essential to an operation that serves three meals a day to a few thousand people.
Amma is in Amritapuri for about four months out of the year. The best times to visit are August, September and December, during which she usually stays continuously. Amma generally tours April, June, July, October and November. At any time, from early December till the end of March, She may tour India, staying at the ashram while not on tour. She is always at the ashram for Christmas and New Year. One should certainly check her travel calendar (yatra) before planning to visit Amritapuri.
Amma leads the evening bhajans on days when She is not giving darshan. When Amma is at the ashram, She will likely give darshan, at least for some time, every day of the week. Full day darshans are Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Monday and Friday, She will hold a meditation and question & answer session (satsang) in the afternoon, followed by a short darshan and bhajans. Tuesday being considered a meditation day, Amma leads a meditation and satsang in the morning before serving prasad lunch to all, followed by a short darshan for visitors.
Amma makes no claim for who or what She is. She has said that Her religion is love. Naturally, She upholds Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, but imposes no religion, accepting and validating all. She is the ultimate embodiment of love, and I am humbled to have had a few moments in Her presence in the place She was born.
It was another subtle but conscious shift toward the life I’ve always wanted to live but just didn’t know how. Every experience provides insight for the next. I cannot recommend highly enough the importance of Amma’s darshan.