Mata Amritanandamahyi Devi, better known as Amma, is a spiritual leader from South India who is going to be in Australia from April 12 to 24.
During this short trip she will be in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. In Melbourne and the Gold Coast she will be holding spiritual retreats. In Sydney and Brisbane she will be having free programmes and whoever wishes to see her is welcome to visit her.
Amma is also known as the Hugging Saint because she greets everyone (men, women, children, young and old; rich and poor) with a hug!
She was born in a fishing village in Kerala, the southernmost state in India. When she was young she was touched by the poverty and suffering she saw around her. So in order to comfort people who were suffering she started spontaneously embracing them. In India where there are caste and other differences, a young girl hugging everyone is not taken lightly, especially hugging men. But Amma says she does not see any difference between people (whether they are men or women) and herself so she hugs them all.
Part of the fishing village where she was born has now become Amritanandapuri and she has got her headquarters there. Sri Amritanandamayi Math, which was established in 1981, is an international charitable organisation aimed at the spiritual and material uplift of humankind without regard to caste or creed.
Today Amma is widely respected for her humanitarian activities. She has established a vast network of charitable institutions, which include hospitals, schools and colleges, orphanages, houses for the homeless, care facilities for old people, free meals and a regular pension for many poor women. Environmental protection is another priority with Amma and she emphasises cleaning up public places. Steps are taken to install trash cans on the public roads to keep the highways litter free. She also regards as important construction of public toilets.
Amma runs a university, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, which has five campuses. Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) is a world class institution of medicine. Amrita hospital in Cochin aims to set a standard of excellence in compassionate care. Apart from having different departments like cardiology, oncology, neurosciences etc. the hospital also does organ transplant. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, besides having the usual subjects found at universities, also conducts classes in yoga and meditation.
Among the several honours and awards conferred on Amma is also the Gandhi-King award for non-violence given to her in 2002 by the United Nations.
From 1987 Amma started conducting programmes throughout the world at the request of her devotees. The countries where she has held programmes so far are: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritius, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.
Every year she also tours around India. She has been coming to Australia every two years since 2004. This year her visit is very short and confined to the eastern states. Her tour starts in Melbourne on April 12 and ends in Gold Coast on April 24.
For anyone who may be interested in meeting Amma or who just needs a hug (Amma’s embrace is considered a precious and life-changing gift) here is her full programme in Australia:
Melbourne April 12-13 Public Programme 10a.m. and 7.30 p.m. April16 7p.m.
April 14-16 Retreat Venue; Sandown Racecourse, Springvale.
Sydney April 18 Public Programme 10a.m. and.7 .30 p.m. and April 19 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sydney Boys High School, Moore Park
Brisbane April 21 Public Programme 10a.m. and 7.30 p.m. Walter Burnett Building, RNA Showgrounds, Fortitude Valley.
Gold Coast April 24 Public Programme 7 p.m.
Retreat April 22- 24 Outrigger Surfers Paradise, 22 View Avenue, Surfers Paradise.