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Anandamayi Ma

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Anandamayi Ma

Sri Anandamayi Maa
Studio photo of Anandamayi Maa
Born Nirmala Sundari
(1896-04-30)30 April 1896
Kheora, Brahmanbaria, Bengal, British India
Died 27 August 1982(1982-08-27) (aged 86)
Kishanpur, Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India
Quotation "Who is it that loves and who that suffers? He alone stages a play with Himself; who exists save Him? The individual suffers because he perceives duality. It is duality which causes all sorrow and grief. Find the One everywhere and in everything and there will be an end to pain and suffering."[1]

Sri Anandamayi Maa (Bengali: শ্রী আনন্দময়ী মা) (30 April 1896 - 27 August 1982) was an Indian saint from Bengal. Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society) described her as "the most perfect flower the Indian soil has produced."[2] Precognition, healing and other miracles were attributed to her by her followers.[3] Paramhansa Yogananda translates Anandamayi as "joy-permeated". This name was given to her by her devotees in the 1920s to describe what they saw as her habitual state of divine joy and bliss.

Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )
Anandamayi Ma Ashram - Haridwar ( Kankhal )


Early life

Anandamayi Maa was born Nirmala Sundari (নির্মলা সুন্দরী; Nirmôla Shundori, English: "Immaculate, Beautiful") on 30 April 1896 to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devi in Kheora, Brahmanbaria District, British India, in what is now Bangladesh. Her father, originally from Vidyakut in Tripura, was a Vaishnavite singer known for his devotion. They lived in poverty. Nirmala attended the village school for approximately two years.[4] Although her teachers were pleased with her ability, her family thought she was dullminded because of her indifference and constantly happy demeanor. When her mother once fell seriously ill, relatives remarked with puzzlement about the child remaining apparently unaffected.

In 1908 at the age of thirteen, in keeping with the rural custom at the time, she was married to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti of Vikramapura, whom she would later rename Bholanath.[4][5] She spent five years after her marriage at her brother-in-law's home, where she was in a withdrawn meditative state much of the time. It was here that a devout neighbor considered insane, Harakumar, developed a habit of addressing her as "Maa", and prostrated before her morning and evening in reverence.[6] When Nirmala was about seventeen, she went to live with her husband in Ashtagram. In 1918, she moved to Bajitpur, where she stayed until 1924. It was a celibate marriage—whenever thoughts of sexuality occurred to Ramani, Nirmala's body would take on the qualities of death.[7] On the full moon night of August 1922, at midnight, twenty-six-year old Nirmala enacted her own spiritual initiation. She explained that the ceremony and its rites were being revealed to her spontaneously as and when they were called for.[6] She later stated, "As the master (guru) I revealed the mantra; as the disciple (shishya) I accepted it and started to recite it."[8]

In Dhaka

Nirmala moved to Shahbag with her husband in 1924, where he had been appointed caretaker of the gardens of the Nawab of Dhaka.[5] During this period Nirmala went into ecstasies at kirtans in a manner similar to that of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[4] Nirmala continued to perform household tasks, and also continued to practice silence, and was in a withdrawn state of ecstasy much of the time. These states began to interfere with her daily work.[9] In 1926, she set up a Kali temple in the Siddheshwari area and devoted herself to spiritual practices.[5] Nirmala underwent a mystic experience while praying in the temple one day.[5] In a deep meditative state, she held difficult yogic positions for long periods and spontaneously formed complex tantric hand positions and gestures.

During the time in Shahbag, more and more people began to be drawn to what they saw to be a living embodiment of the divine.[10] Jyotiscandra Ray, known as "Bhaiji," was an early and close disciple. He was the first to suggest that Nirmala be called Anandamayi Maa, meaning "Joy Permeated Mother", or "Bliss Permeated Mother". He was chiefly responsible for the first ashram built for Anandamayi Maa in 1929 at Ramna, within the precinct of the Ramna Kali Mandir.[11]

Scholars were attracted to Anandamayi Maa's spirituality and teaching, though she called herself "a little unlettered child".[4] Mahamahopadhyay Gopinath Kaviraj, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and principal of Sanskrit College in Kolkata and the physician Triguna Sen were among her early followers.[5] Uday Shankar, the famous dance artist, was impressed by Anandamayi Maa's analysis of dance, which she used as a metaphor for the relationship between people and God.[5]


She died on 27 August 1982 in Dehradun, and subsequently on 29 August 1982 was given Samadhi in the courtyard of her Kankhal ashram, situated in Haridwar in North India,[5][12][13] a shrine was later erected over the samadhi, now known as the “Ananda Jyoti Peetham”.[14]


Anandamayi Maa never prepared discourses, wrote down, or revised what she had said. People had difficulty transcribing her often informal talks because of their conversational speed, further the Bengali manner of alliterative wordplay was often lost in translation. A devotee, Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee, however made attempts to transcribe her speech before audio recording equipment became widely available in India.[6]

A central theme of her teaching is "the supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self realization. All other obligations are secondary" and "only actions that kindle man's divine nature are worthy of the name of actions". However she did not ask everyone to become a renunciate. "Everyone is right from his own standpoint," she would say.[4] She did not give formal initiations and refused to be called a guru, as she maintained that "all paths are my paths" and kept saying "I have no particular path".[15]

She did not advocate the same method for all. "How can one impose limitations on the infinite by declaring this is the only path—and, why should there be so many different religions and sects? Because through every one of them He gives Himself to Himself, so that each person may advance according to his inborn nature." As she herself has said ( ref Mother Reveals Herself ), all forms of sadhana, known and unknown just occurred to her in the form of a lila ( play) without any conscious effort on her part. Thus her Sadhana can not be slotted into a specific area, for to do so would mean that she was some how limited to that area and her mastery was also limited. This was not the case as many illustrious spiritual masters and thought leaders from various school of thought be it Shaivaite, Tantric, Vaishnav, or from Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism had found in their interactions with her.Every one was welcome and she was equally at ease while giving advises to all practitioners of different faiths. Even now, the Muslim population of Kheora still refer to her as "our own Ma".[6] She taught how to live a God-centered life in the world and provided the living inspiration to enable thousands to aspire to this most noble ideal.[4] She also advocated spiritual equality for women; for example, she opened up the sacred thread ritual, which had been performed by men only for centuries, to women. Her style of teaching included jokes, songs and instructions on everyday life along with long discourses, meditation and reading of scriptures.[16]

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote about her in his Autobiography of a Yogi. His meeting with her is recounted in the chapter titled "The Bengali 'Joy-Permeated Mother'", where she explains her background:

"Father, there is little to tell." She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. "My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, I was the same. As a little girl, I was the same. I grew into womanhood, but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, 'I was the same... And, Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the same."

The Publication Department of Shree Shree Anandamayee Charitable Society in [4]

Question of sadhana

At the age of fifteen, whilst sitting by a lake in Bajitpur, Nirmala had the inspiration to inquire as to what it would be like to be a religious aspirant (sadhaka). She then began what she would later describe as a 'game' (Hindi "khel") of investigating the path of the sadhaka. When Nirmala would sit for worship, she would witness her body perform yogic asanas and mudras hitherto unknown to her and Romani. She described these forms as arising automatically as in the manner of factory machinery when talking to devotees in later years. To the puzzlement of those around her, whilst in Shahbagh she became unable to feed herself. She would find that she could not bring her hand to carry food to her mouth. Consequently Bholenath or female rununciates used to feed her in the manner of an enfant child. Unable to comprehend the meaning and origin of Nirmalas religious practices at the time, Romani consulted priests, excorcists and medical doctors about Nirmalas condition, until a medical doctor reassured him that she was not insane.

After her marriage to Romani, Nirmala would also fall into ecstacies or trances at public kirtans, in a manner reminiscent of the Vaishnava spiritual personality Chaitanya. This led locals to accuse her of hysteria. Nirmala told Yogananda that when Romani once made physical advances to her, he received an intense electric shock. From henceforth they lived like wandering ascetics rather than householders.

Identity and state

According to what she later related to devotees: after completing her domestic chores and cooking, Nirmala would withdraw into her religious practices, where she felt there was a distinct inner guide instructing her in which religious actions to perform. When she would pose a question about the religious actions, instantly an answer would appear. She once questioned her guide on who it was, on which the instant response came "Your Shakti" (your power). The voice then prohibited her from paying obeisance to anyone in the customary or religious Hindu manner (by bowing or touching an elders feet). This would cause offense to her orthodox father when he visited her (seeming as a snub); however as she was observing strict silence (maun), she was unable to explain the significance to him at the time. Nirmala was also until then in the habit of bowing to the forms that surrounded her as manifestations of God. When she questioned the rule against her paying such obeisance, the voice responded "to whom do you want to make obesaince? you yourself are everything". At that point, she came to realize her identity with the physical universe.[17]

Anandamayi often described her presence as that of an infant child ("chhotee bachee"), and referred to her body as "yeh shorir" (this body). She described her state as immutable. She once explained to Amulya Gupta, a devotee and chronicalist, that her enlightened state preceded and was present at her "birth" (or in her description what the worldly viewpoint perceived as her birth). She differentiated this from the philosophical doctrine that describes one as always enlightened only one does not realize it until one's self-realization.[18]

In "Mother as Revealed to Me", Jyotish Chandra Roy noted that when asked who she was she would respond something akin to "whatever is said, that". Roy also noted her utterances in what became known in English translation as "Mother Reveals Herself", in which she stated she was able to see the future with the ease in which people look in a mirror and could also recall the exact events at her birth from memory.

Other devotees noted that when asked who she was, she responded that because she had no Aham-Buddhi (literal existence-experience of 'I-am') she could not say who or what she was, therefore was whatever the questioner thought she was.

She denied having any personal mission or motives, stating she travelled about on "kheyal" or where ever devotees invited her. When people would ask her questions, she either explained that the answer would come according to "kheyal" (sudden inclination or inspiration) if at all, or else compared her body to a musical instrument such as a drum or bell, stating "as you play the instrument so shall you hear". When people argued with what she said or asked questions with an ulterior motive, she would remain silent.

However, she also explained to devotees that all her actions, insights and revelations had been for "you all".

The thoughts of the Maa

Her public utterances seem to teach a kind of absolute theism, i.e. that only God exists, that all names and forms are His names and forms. "Vah he hai." ("He/That only is"). That He is identical with the Supreme Essence of everything (Atma). She often said "Hari katha he katha, aur sab vritha vyatha" ("exposition of God is the only exposition, everything else is futility and pain"). Anandamayi stated that God was self revealed, and that religious practices were only a means to remove the veil of ignorance that concealed him from the devotee.

She explained that the way to realize God was to become restless for Him (His Revelation). She accepted traditional modes of worship as well as philosophical enquiry. She encouraged people to follow their Gurus/religions instructions, or else to take whichever name of God was most appealing to their hearts and mind and to call out to Him with it constantly and unceasingly. She once advised a young woman who said she was an atheist to sit down in a calm state and meditate on her breath.

She advised a firm adherence to truth, saying that by doing so everything could be obtained on the spiritual path. She also advised those that chose a path or life of service that they should do so with the idea that it was God they were serving, or else they could fall prey to egotism.

She taught that "the supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self realization. All other obligations are secondary" and "only actions that kindle man's divine nature are worthy of the name of actions". She often said "Apne ko paana Bhagavaan ko paana, Bhagavaan ko paana Apne ko paane"- "to find yourself is to find God, and to find God is to find yourself".

Anandamayi maa always showed an outward reverence for ascetics, renunciants and devotees who had renounced the wordly life and devoted their lives to God. Once when asked how someone would know whether to choose the renunciate life, she responded "would one deliberate on whether to flee a massacre?". On another occasion when a widower approached her in his grief she laughed and told him that there was one less obstacle between him and God.

She did not however ask everyone to become a renunciate, and instructed householders that they could draw close to God whilst maintaining a family life by seeing God's presence in their family members and serving Him in that manner, and by maintaining the attitude of a 'manager' rather than 'master/owner' (i.e. the latter being God's role), then by devoting free time to worship and meditation. She often requested all householders set aside a fixed daily time reserved exclusively for divine contemplation, even if for only five or fifteen minutes to start.

Books on Sri Anandamayi Maa

See also


  1. ^ Ananda Varta, Vol. 9, No. 4.
  2. ^ Mother, as Seen by Her Devotees. Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha. 1995. 
  3. ^ Chaudhuri, Narayan (1986). That Compassionate Touch of Ma Anandamayee. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.   pp. 16-18; pp. 24-26; pp. 129-133
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Introduction, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance, Shree Shree Maa Anadamayee Sangha, Kankhal, Haridwar; Retrieved: 2007-12-08
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ghosh, Monoranjan (January 2003). Maa Anandamayi. Dhaka:  
  6. ^ a b c d Richard Lannoy; Ananadamayi: Her Life and Wisdom; Element Books Ltd; 1996; ISBN 1-85230-914-8
  7. ^ McDaniel, June (1989). The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal. University of Chicago Press. p. 194.  
  8. ^ (Hallstrom 1999, p. 39)
  9. ^ (Hallstrom 1999, p. 42)
  10. ^ (Hallstrom 1999, pp. 42–43)
  11. ^ Lipski, p. 66.
  12. ^ Anandamayi Ma resting place of body and image Anandamayi Maa Ashram Official website.
  13. ^ Life History: Chronology of Mothers life Anandamayi Ma Ashram Official website. "Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi arrives at noon, Maa's divine body given Maha Samadhi at about 1.30 pm near the previous site of an ancient Pipal tree, under which she used to sit on many occasions and give darshan.".
  14. ^ "Anandamayee Ma’s love".  
  15. ^ Mataji's Methods, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance, Shree Shree Ma Anadamayee Sangha, Kankhal, Haridwar; Retrieved: 2007-12-08
  16. ^
  17. ^ Dr Alexander Lipski, Life and Teaching of Anandamayi Maa
  18. ^ Amulya Das Gupta, Sri Sri Maa Anandamayi Prasang

External links

  • A timeline of events
  • MatriVani, a compendium of Anandamayi's teachings
  • Official Anandamayi Ma website
  • The personal papers of Anandamayi are in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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