Thirty years ago, during the Ardha Kumbh mela in Haridwar, the author met Anandamayi Ma, one of india’s most revered spiritual teachers. A nostalgic rewind of the impact it had on her life
The making of a motherAnandamayi Ma was born Nirmala Sundari to Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and Mokshada Sundari Devie in what is now Bangladesh.
Wed at the age of 13 to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti of Vikramapura, she soon began to experience meditative states. Hers was a celibate marriage – whenever thoughts of sexuality occurred to her husband, Anandamayi's body would take on the qualities of death and she would grow faint. On the full moon night of August 1922, at midnight, 26-year-old Nirmala went through the actions of spiritual initiation – initiating herself, rather than following the tradition of initiation by a guru or priest. She later stated, "As the guru I revealed the mantra; as the shishya I accepted it and started to recite it." Soon, she began spontaneously chanting Sanskrit hymns, even though she was completely uneducated. She also performed intricate yoga postures and went for days at a time without food or drink.
More and more people began to be drawn to what they saw as a living embodiment of the divine. Jyotiscandra Ray, an early and close disciple, was the first to suggest that Nirmala be called Anandamayi Ma, meaning "Joy-permeated Mother".
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