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Amma embraces one and all

A TEN-HOUR wait for a three-second hug! To anyone except lovers it may seem a woefully inadequate return on investment. And love was what Saturday night at Vijay Nagar grounds was all about.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 10:03 IST

A TEN-HOUR wait for a three-second hug! To anyone except lovers it may seem a woefully inadequate return on investment. And love was what Saturday night at Vijay Nagar grounds was all about.

It radiated from the diminutive, white-robed figure of Mata Amritanadmayi and spread outward, washing over the throngs who queued up all night, patiently waiting to be enveloped in Amma’s arms.

To her everlasting credit, neither Amma’s attention nor interest flags as she joyfully embraces the young, old, infirm, rich and, of course, the multitudes of have-nots. Bearing a radiant smile she attends to one and all. Her motherly benevolence directed towards trifles like resolving domestic tussles, and important issues like escalating flagging finances.

“Abandon negativity all ye who have entered here!” she seems to be saying. Though she speaks no Hindi, or indeed, English, the message of unbounded and selfless love is universal enough to require no verbalisation.

It’s 3 am and thousands of people are still crammed into the ‘pandal’ eagerly drinking in Amma’s presence while awaiting the embrace they hope will grant them their heart’s desire. Many followers see Amma as an avatar, a deity come to earth.

Her own literature calls her ‘a phenomenon that happens once in 1,000 years.’
Certainly what is happening at the Vijay Nagar grounds is a rare phenomenon. Many have queued up for as long as 13 hours to be hugged by Amma. However, the atmosphere is calm and surprisingly free of the short tempers that large assemblages inevitably generate.

Thousands of pairs of eyes follow each person as he ascends the dais to be hugged by the white robed Amma, who gently pats their head and, frequently, answers questions through an interpreter in Malayalam, her native tongue. The devotees leave the stage reluctantly, many in tears, carrying away a few flower petals and chocolate kisses she has pressed on their heads.

As time goes by it is easy to see why Amma, a 51-year-old woman from a poor fishing village in southern India who presides over a network of schools, hospitals, soup kitchens and orphanages has the world in thrall.

Like the thousands of followers gathered at the grounds opposite Sayaji Hotel they are looking for a little love. The crowds begin to finally thin at around six am and Amma, escorted by top district administration officials, eventually leaves the Vijay Nagar grounds at 9 am.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 10:03 IST