Mata Amritanandamayi Biography
Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)
Mata Amritanandamayi is a widely known Indian spiritual leader. Her followers address her as Amma or Ammachi (mother). Due to her hugging habit she is also known as ‘The Hugging Saint’.
According to her followers Mata Amritanandamayi had divine experiences when she was a child. She founded Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust – a worldwide organization which does charitable work all over the world. She has also addressed the United Nations General Assembly.
Swami Amritaswarupnanda was one of her first disciple. She established an ashram which is now known as Amritapuri. Amritapuri Ashram regularly publishes a spiritual monthly magazine-Matruvani. Jan Kounen an award winning filmmaker made the film ‘Darshan-The Embrace’ on the life of this ‘hugging saint’ of India. The film was officially selected for screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005.
Amritanandamayi was born as Sudhamani in the Indian state of Kerala in 1953. Her family was engaged in the fishing trade. She had to drop out of school at an early age to help her family economically.
Mata Amritanandamayi has six siblings and is the third child of the family. When she was a child, she used to gather food scraps for the cows and goats and that is when she came across the intense poverty and suffering of others. This effected her so much that she tried helping people with food and clothing from her own home. She tried comforting people in their sorrow. She was scolded by her parents many times as they were not so wealthy, on which she said that she does not differentiate among men and women and her duty is to console all those who are suffering.
Her parents tried getting her married, but she rejected every time and chose the different path instead. In 1981, many spiritual seekers started residing in her parents’ property in Parayakadavu. Later, in the same place, she founded Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Math (MAM). In 1987, she was requested by her devotees for programs. Later in the same year, she conducted programs in many countries of the world. In 2014, many religious leaders met with her to sign a shared commitment which was against modern-day slavery organized by the Global Freedom Network. The aim behind this was eliminating slavery as well as human trafficking by 2020. In 2015, she came up with the keynote address at a United Nations Academic Impact conference, which was focused on technology and sustainable development. Delegates from around 93 international universities attended the event.
Mata Amritanandamayi says that action, knowledge and bhakti are all important in a human being’s life. She also says that the practices and prayers of all religions are different methods of purifying mind. She puts much emphasis to meditation and also advises people to opt for selfless service. She says one should cultivate divine qualities like patience, compassion, forgiveness, self-control, etc. and all these should be attained while one is alive, not after death. People who practice these, their souls merge with the infinite.
‘Mata Amritanandamayi Math’ executes various charitable projects all over the world. She has donated a considerable amount of money to people devastated by natural calamities. She has helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. She has also provided relief support to the victims of the 2004 tsunami in India and Sri Lanka and to the survivors of the Pakistan earthquake in 2005.
She was one of the Representatives of Hinduism at the ‘Parliament of the World’s Religions’ at Chicago in 1993.
Since 2012, Mata Amritanandamayi’s organization has been involved in cleaning the Pampa River as well as Sabarimala Temple pilgrimage site annually. She donated $15 million USD to the Government for “Clean the Ganges” program, with an aim to construct toilets for poor families living along the Ganges River. She also donated 5 crores of rupees ($736,486) in the relief fund which was established by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. From Mata Amritanandamayi Math, around 500 volunteers rescued many victims and distributed medicines, food, clothing and many other support.
In a book written by Sreeni Pattathanam, he claimed that the miracles of Mata Amritanandamayi were all falsified. In 2002, Malayalam daily newspaper owned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Deshabhimani, demanded an investigation in her math focusing on the deaths of many people. A month later the newspaper took its words back by apologizing. In 2007, Shantanu Guha Ray in Tehelka mentioned Mata Amritanandamayi’s name along with many other spiritual leaders and accused them for having their organisations’ turn over of INR crores. In the same month, novelist Paul Zacharia mentioned on Tehelka that she is free from such investigations.
Awards and Honours
- She became the Karma Yogi of the Year (Yoga Journal) in 2002
- She received the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence by The World Movement for Nonviolence (UN, Geneva) in 2002
- She received the Mahavir Mahatma Award (London) in 2005
- She got Centenary Legendary Award of the International Rotarians (Cochin) in 2005
- 2006, James Parks Morton Interfaith Award (New York)
- She received the Philosopher Saint Sri Jnaneswara World Peace Prize (Pune) in 2006
- She got Le Prix Cinéma Vérité (Cinéma Vérité, Paris) in 2007
- She was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters on 25 May 2010 by The State University of New York at its Buffalo campus.
- In 2012, she featured in the Watkins’ list of the top 100 most spiritually influential living people in the world.
- Hindu Parliament awarded her the first Vishwaretna Purskar (Gem of the Word Award) on 23 April 2013 at Tiruvananthapuram (India)
- The State of Michigan described Amma as a true citizen of the world and recognizes Amma’s charitable works worldwid in 2013.
- The Huffington Post chose her as one among the 50 most powerful women religious leaders in 2014.
- She is the Founder & Chairperson of Mata Amṛtānandamayī Math
- She founded Embracing the World
- She is the Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University
- She is the founder of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS Hospital)
- She is a member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, International Advisory committee
- She is the president of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary celebration committee, India
- She is a member of Elijah Interfaith Institute, Board of World Religious Leaders.