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Anandamayi Ma

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Sri Anandamayi Ma
Studio photo of Anandamayi Ma
Nirmala Sundari[1]

(1896-04-30)30 April 1896
Died27 August 1982(1982-08-27) (aged 86)
SpouseRamani Mohan Chakrabarti

Anandamayi Ma (born Nirmala Sundari; 30 April 1896 – 27 August 1982) was an Indian saint, teacher, and mystic. She was revered as an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga.[2][3][4]

She was described by Sivananda Saraswati (of the Divine Life Society) as "la fleur la plus parfaite que le sol de l'Inde ait produite"[5] [the most perfect flower the Indian soil has produced].[6] Her life was suffused in Bhakti Yoga and she was considered an epitome of "divine grace" that inspired the societal cultural milieu to lead the path of service, love and constant remembrance of the divine.[7] Her followers experienced her spiritual attributes including precognition, faith healing and miracles.[8] Paramahansa Yogananda translates the Sanskrit epithet Anandamayi as "Joy-permeated" in English. This name was given to her by her devotees in the 1920s to describe her perpetual state of divine joy.[9]



Early life

Her idol at Kheora Anandamayi Ashram
Her idol at Kheora Anandamayi Ashram
Ramna Kali Mandir in 1967

Anandamayi was born Nirmala Sundari Devi on 30 April 1896 to the orthodox Bengali Hindu Brahmin couple Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devi in the village of Kheora, Tipperah District (now Brahmanbaria District), in present-day Bangladesh.[9][1] Her father, originally from Vidyakut in Tripura, was a Vaishnavite singer known for his intense devotion. Both parents were from well regarded lineages, though the family lived in poverty. According to Nirmala Sundari, her mother gave birth to three sons, all of whom died in infancy or early childhood. Nirmala attended village schools of Sultanpur and Kheora for approximately 2–4 months.[10] According to Anandamayi Ma's autobiographical account in "Mother Reveals Herself", the reason for her short attendance at school was that no one could accompany her on the long journey to school as her brothers had died.[11] Although her teachers were pleased with her ability, her mother worried about her daughter's mental development because of her constantly indifferent and happy demeanour. When her mother once fell seriously ill, relatives too remarked with puzzlement about the child remaining apparently unaffected.

In 1908 at the age of twelve years, 10 months, in keeping with the rural custom at the time, she was joined by arranged marriage to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti of Bikrampur (now Munshiganj District) whom she would later rename Bholanath.[10][12][4] She spent five years after her marriage at her brother-in-law's home, attending to housework in a withdrawn meditative state much of the time. It was at Ashtagram that a devout neighbour, Harakumar, recognised and announced her spiritual eminence, developed a habit of addressing her as "Ma", and prostrated before her morning and evening in reverence.[13]

When Nirmala was about seventeen, she went to live with her husband who was working in the town of Ashtagram. Their relationship was not in accordance with social norms as it was a celibate marriage—whenever thoughts of lust occurred to Ramani, Nirmala's body would apparently take on the qualities of death.[14] In Ashtagram Nirmala manifested symptoms of religious ecstasy for the first time in public, accompanied by extraordinary psycho-energetic and physical phenomena.[15] Her parents were then informed by the villagers that Nirmala Sundari had become "hysterical." Her husband, however, took her in defense and reported to his in-laws that Nirmala was perfectly healthy. In 1918, the couple moved to Bajitpur, where they stayed until 1924. In this period, Nirmala Sundari continued to fall back into spiritual rapture (bhāva) while listening to kirtan. Bholanath was somewhat concerned about that as she would then often fall to the ground and sometimes take hours to return to a normal state of consciousness.[16]

According to her spiritual biographers, from the end of 1918, Nirmala Sundari was completely absorbed in the name of God (harinām) at night, which emanated without effort and in unison with inhalation and exhalation. During this time, yogic postures (āsanas) are said to have manifested spontaneously:

"Sometimes the legs stretched of their own accord and then gradually formed themselves into the lotus position or some other body position without the help of the hands. [...] When the body became completely still and remained seated for a while, I went to sleep. The next morning when I got up early, the body felt light and from the feet to the head a wave of bliss flowed through me. Of this kind was the experience. Day and night, an overflowing light of bliss pervaded me."[17]

On the full moon night of August 3, 1922, at midnight, twenty-six-year-old Nirmala enacted her own spiritual initiation.[18][4] She explained that the ceremony and its rites were being revealed to her spontaneously as and when they were called for.[13] Although she was uneducated in the matter, the complex rites corresponded to those of traditional, ancient Hinduism, including the offerings of flowers, the mystical diagrams (yantra) and the fire ceremony (yajna). She later stated, "As the master (guru) I revealed the mantra; as the disciple. I accepted it and started to recite it."[19]


Anandamayi Ma on a 1987 Indian stamp

Nirmala moved to Shahbag with her husband in 1924, where he had been appointed as the caretaker of the gardens of the Nawab of Dhaka.[12] During this period Nirmala went into ecstasies at public kirtans.[10] Jyotiscandra Ray, known as "Bhaiji", was an early and close disciple. He was the first to suggest that Nirmala be called Anandamayi Ma, meaning "Joy Permeated Mother", or "Bliss Permeated Mother". He was chiefly responsible for the first ashram built for Anandamayi Ma in 1929 at Ramna, within the precinct of the Ramna Kali Mandir.[20] In 1926, she reinstated a formerly abandoned ancient Kali temple in the Siddheshwari area.[12] 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.[21]


Anandamayi Ma Samadhi (foreground) at Anandamayi Ma Ashram, Haridwar (Kankhal)

After her move to Dehradun, various scholars were drawn to Anandamayi Ma's light, gift, power and message of love, though she continued to describe herself as "a little unlettered child". Prangopal Mukerjee[10] Mahamahopadhyay Gopinath Kaviraj, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and principal of Government Sanskrit College in Varanasi and Triguna Sen were among her followers.[12] Uday Shankar, the famous dance artist, was impressed by Anandamayi Ma's analysis of dance, which she used as a metaphor for the relationship between people and God.[12] From the 1950s onwards, the establishment of an official headquarters of the "Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Sangh" in Varanasi marked the beginning of an institutionalization process. On the foundation day of this community (Sangha), more than five thousand disciples of Anandamayi Ma participated. During this period, Anandamayi Ma also traveled to South India for the second time, where she was received by the great temples such as Sri Rangam. On the occasion of these visits to the great temples, ten thousand people gathered to see Anandamayi Ma.[22] Furthermore, she was a contemporary of the well known Hindu saints like Udiya Baba, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Ramdas, Neem Karoli Baba, and Paramahansa Yogananda.[9]



Ma died on 27 August 1982 in Dehradun, and subsequently on 29 August 1982[1] a samadhi (shrine) was built in the courtyard of her Kankhal ashram, situated near the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar in North India.[12][23]

Teachings and public image


"As you love your own body, so regard everyone as equal to your own body. When the Supreme Experience supervenes, everyone's service is revealed as one's own service. Call it a bird, an insect, an animal or a man, call it by any name you please, one serves one's own Self in every one of them."

Ananda Varta Quarterly

Anandamayi Ma 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. However, her personal attendant Gurupriya Devi, and a devotee, Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee, made attempts to transcribe her speech before audio recording equipment became widely available in India.[13]


"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."[24]

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 advise everyone to become a renunciate. She would dismiss spiritual arguments and controversies by stating that "Everyone is right from his own standpoint,".[10] She did not give formal initiations and refused to be called a guru, as she maintained that "all paths are my paths" and "I have no particular path".[25]

She did not advocate the same spiritual methods 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." 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 somehow limited to that area and her mastery was also limited. She welcomed and conversed with devotees of different paths and religions from Shaivaite, Vaishnavite, Tantric, or from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism. Everyone was welcome and she was equally at ease while giving guidance to all practitioners of different faiths. Even now, the Muslim population of Kheora still refer to her as "our own Ma".[13]

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.[10] Her style of teaching included jokes, songs and instructions on everyday life along with long discourses, silent meditation and recommended reading of scriptures.

She frequently referred to herself in the third person as either "this body" or "this little girl", which is a common spiritual practice in Hinduism in order to detach oneself from Ego.[26] Paramhansa Yogananda wrote about her in his book Autobiography of a Yogi.[1][27] 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.[28]"

The Publication Department of the Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha in Varanasi regularly publishes her teaching in the periodical Amrit Varta quarterly in English, Hindi, Gujarati and Bengali. The Sri Sri Anandamayi Sangha in Haridwar organizes the annual Samyam Mahavrata congregation to devote a week to collective meditation, religious discourse and devotional music.[10]

Anandamayi Ma was understood by her followers as the embodiment of Bliss, as a healer, and as the incarnation of the goddess Kali. She has active disciples in India today.[4]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Hawley, John Stratton (2006). "Anandamayi Ma: God came as a Woman". The life of Hinduism. Univ. of California Press. pp. 173–183. ISBN 0520249135.
  2. ^ Newcombe, Suzanne (2017). "The Revival of Yoga in Contemporary India" (PDF). Religion. 1. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.253. ISBN 9780199340378.
  3. ^ Halstorm, Lisa Lassell (15 February 2008). Mother of Bliss (Illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 324. ISBN 9780195116489.
  4. ^ a b c d Prentiss, Karen Pechilis (1999). "Anadamayi Ma (Manada Ma)". In Young, Serinity (ed.). Encyclopedia of women and world religion. New York: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-02-864608-4.
  5. ^ Desjardins, Arnaud (1962). Ashrams: les yogis et les sages (in French). Editions La Palatine. p. 62. OCLC 1660335.
  6. ^ Mother, as Seen by Her Devotees. Shree Shree Anandamayee Sangha. 1995. p. 61. OCLC 609519888.
  7. ^ Mukherjee, Bithika (2010). The Most Gracious Presence Sri Ma Anandamayi Volume One 1896-1939. Shree Shree Anandamaye Sangha. p. 411. ISBN 9788189558307.
  8. ^ Chaudhuri, Narayan (1986). That Compassionate Touch of Ma Anandamayee. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 16–18, 24–26, 129–133. ISBN 978-81-208-0204-9.
  9. ^ a b c Lipski, Alexander (1993). Life and Teaching of Sri Anandamayi Ma. Motillal Benarsidass Publishers. p. 28. ISBN 9788120805316.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Introduction Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance, Shree Shree Ma Anadamayee Sangha, Kankhal, Haridwar; Retrieved: 8 December 2007
  11. ^ Rāy, Jyotiṣ Chandra: Mother Reveals Herself (Early period of Mātri Līlā: 1896-1932). Hrsg.: Shree Shree Ma Anandamayee Archive. New Delhi 2014, S. 34–35.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Ghosh, Monoranjan (2012). "Anandamayi, Ma". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  13. ^ a b c d Richard Lannoy; Ananadamayi: Her Life and Wisdom Archived 30 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine; Element Books Ltd; 1996; ISBN 1-85230-914-8
  14. ^ McDaniel, June (1989). The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal. University of Chicago Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-226-55723-6.
  15. ^ Rāy, Jyotiś Candra: Śrī Śrī Mā kā Ātma Paricay. Hrsg.: Śrī Śrī Mā Ānandamayī Smṛtī Saṃgrahālay. New Delhi 2014, S. 48–49.
  16. ^ Rāy, Jyotiś Candra: Mother Reveals Herself (Early period of Mātri Līlā: 1896-1932). Hrsg.: Shree Shree Ma Anandamayee Archive. New Delhi 2014, S. 86.
  17. ^ Rāy, Jyotiś Candra: Śrī Śrī Mā kā Ātma Paricay. Hrsg.: Śrī Śrī Mā Ānandamayī Smṛtī Saṃgrahālay. New Delhi 2014, S. 81–82.
  18. ^ In Hindu diksha, when the mind of the guru and the disciple become one, then we say that the disciple has been initiated by the guru.
  19. ^ Hallstrom, Lisa Lassell (1999). Mother of Bliss. Oxford University Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-19-511647-X.
  20. ^ Lipski, Alexander (1993). Life and Teaching of Sri Anandamayi Ma. Motillal Benarsidass Publishers. p. 66. ISBN 9788120805316.
  21. ^ Hallstrom, Lisa Lassell (1999). Mother of Bliss. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0-19-511647-X.
  22. ^ Mukerji, Bithika: Life and Teachings of Sri Ma Anandamayi. Indica Books, Delhi 2005, S. 265.
  23. ^ Life History: Chronology of Mothers life Archived 21 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine Anandamayi Ma Ashram Official website. "Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi arrives at noon, Ma'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."
  24. ^ Ananda Varta, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 283.
  25. ^ Mataji's Methods Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, As the Flower Sheds Its Fragrance, Shree Shree Ma Anadamayee Sangha, Kankhal, Haridwar; Retrieved: 8 December 2007
  26. ^ Aymard, Orianne (1 May 2014). When a Goddess Dies: Worshipping Ma Anandamayi after Her Death. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199368631.
  27. ^ Sharma, Arvind (1994). "Women in Hinduism". Today's Woman in World Religions. State University of New York Press. pp. 128–130. ISBN 0-7914-1687-9.
  28. ^ Hallstrom, Lisa Lassell (1999). "Anandamayi Ma". In Hees, Peter (ed.). Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression and Experience. Hurst & Company, London. p. 538. ISBN 9781850654964.


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