Brand Amrita

THE “children” of Mata Amritanandamayi will celebrate her 64th birthday on October 8 and 9. The event on her 60th birthday, still fresh in public memory, saw over half a million people from all parts of the world converge at her ashram, a mini city located at one of the most scenic parts of Kerala between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea in the southern district of Kollam.

Hundreds visit the place every other day, at times over 15,000 on special occasions, including Christmas and New Year. The ashram at Vallikkavu is home to around 5,000 monastic disciples, householder devotees and visitors. Built up in the last three decades on the coastal land where she was born, “Amritapuri”, with its residential high-rises, shops, office complexes, temples, hospitals, schools, colleges and hostels, is also the headquarters of the Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt’s (MAM) international operations. The magnificent pillar-free hall where she gives her “darshan” itself is spread over 30,000 sq ft and is arguably the largest such prayer space in south India. The ashram is also the centre of operations of “Embracing the World”, her charity NGO with projects in several countries and “special consultative status to the United Nations”.

Mata Amritanandamayi’s USP is to welcome each of her visitors with a warm embrace. By a popular estimate, she has already hugged nearly 36 million people worldwide. It is her therapy for aching souls and a means to get them hooked to her cause that she describes simply as “love” or “compassion”. It is also what makes her one of the best-selling spiritual brands in India, “The Hugging Saint”.

During her public darshans, an exhibition of sheer stamina and willpower that is an eternal cause of wonderment for her devotees, she sits in the limelight late into the nights at a stretch on most days and delivers her three-second hugs to devotees waiting in surcharged queues, as eager volunteers drag one person out and pull the next one into her embrace.



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