Gurus - Amma, the Avdhoota
by Suresh Kumar
Amma’s Teachings• Only purity of heart invites God’s grace
• Unshakeable faith in God empowers you
• Never give up faith in God under any circumstance or in any adverse situation
I have seen her only two or three times when I was nine or 10, but the impact she made was so profound that it still influences me today, at 50. Koodali Amma lived in Koodali, near Kannur in Kerala till she attained samadhi in 1971 at the age of 71.
Her ashram at Koodali is one of the most serene places I have ever seen. It is on the side of a hill, at the foot of which runs a stream. The ashram is built of red-freckled laterite stones. Amma used to come out in the evening and sit amidst her devotees. Although she never uttered a word, the devotees’ hearts were filled by her mere presence. If somebody asked for advice, Amma replied by writing with a stick, either in the air or on the floor. She was awe-inspiring in all respects. Her physical form was most elegant and beautiful. She looked like a burning flame, with hair cascading down to her feet.
A biography of Amma written in Malayalam by one of her ardent devotees, testifies to the many experiences of her followers that prove that Amma was not limited by time and space. The fact that Amma smoked tobacco continuously for half-an-hour every evening, did not bathe, yet smelled sweet were enough to lead one to the conclusion that Amma’s path was that of an avadhoota (a mystic or saint who has gone beyond body and ego consciousness and acts without regard for conventional social etiquette).
Interestingly, when she visited my uncle’s house, Amma relieved herself in the puja room. This upset the family terribly. But my uncle, who was spiritually tutored, told them that it was an expression of her grace, and asked them to check whether there was any foul smell in the puja room. The room smelled fragrant.
Colonel Nambiar was the commander of a battalion of the Fourth Maratha Regiment of the Indian Army in the 1965 war against Pakistan. During the war his family received a telegram from the army officials that he had gone missing from the warfront and his whereabouts were unknown. His family, residing at Kannur, rushed to Amma. After listening to them, Amma told them that Nambiar had been imprisoned by the enemies and would be released without much delay. While in prison, Nambiar was able to establish contact with a UN official and through him, passed on information of his whereabouts to his officers and family. Later, on account of the accord signed by Lal Bahadur Sastri and his Pakistani counterpart, Nambiar was released as predicted by Amma.
An old lady named Kallu was travelling from Bangalore to Kannur by train. As she was all alone in the cubicle, she got panicky. She prayed intensely to Amma, and after some time saw the image of Amma very clearly before her. Amma was looking at her lovingly and the devotee regained her confidence. The next day on reaching Kannur she rushed to the ashram. On seeing her, Amma asked if she had seen her (Amma) on the train.
Amma’s early years were unusual, marked by miracles and strange incidents. Forced into marriage, Amma walked out of the marriage and went straight to Palani where she met her guru, Padmapada Swami. Amma spent a considerable period of her life with the swami at Aivarmala near Palani and finally came down to Koodali where she established a small ashram. Slowly, people started pouring in at the ashram from different parts of Kerala, Karnataka and even Maharashtra.
The bhajan sessions in the ashram were unforgettable. Devotees poured their hearts and souls into the beautiful bhajans written by various saints during the bhakthi movement in India. Amma would often enter into bhava samadhi during such sessions. The sound of the wild stream, the soaring melody of the bhajans and, above all, the presence of the divine mother charged the air with so much fervour and spirit that even the crudest of persons would have been moved.
One month before her departure from her physical form, Amma announced her samadhi, and gave directions to devotees on managing the ashram after her passing. Today, pujas and other rituals are conducted as before. But the stream has lost its beauty and vigour and lies dry most of the summer. However, the streams of devotion created by Amma in her devotees’ minds continue to flow with abandon.
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