Student Experiences from Amma’s Birthday Celebrations
September 27, 2009
Several thousand Amrita University students travel from four Amrita campuses to Amritapuri in September every year to take part in Amma’s annual birthday celebrations. This participation is mandatory usually only for first-year students, for all others, it is optional.
This year, students had an opportunity to participate in organizing the Vidyamritam Sangamam celebrations that were part of Amma’s 56th birthday celebrations.
15 students from different campuses shared their experiences. Please click on the names below or use the left and right scroll arrows to read the experiences.
Haripriya Vijayan, S5 IT, Amritapuri
Today the air in ashram and our campus seems to have slowed down. Roads and places seem to have emptied out. There is a huge gap in all our hearts. The big day is over.
It was a memorable event for all of us who stayed back to witness Amma’s birthday and take part in the celebrations.
All students and faculties were assigned duties. I was involved with Vidyamritham. We were told that we would have to each take care of 25 students. It came as quite a shock for me. The mere mention of children is enough to have me break out in a sweat. Then how could I take care of 25 kids, I thought. But the next minute, I thought that this may be the divine will. Still the thought of having to take care of the kids continued to nag me.
On the 25th, we were involved with sorting clothes for the children. The next day, the 26th we were asked to report on campus by 5:30 a.m. as our children from Kasargod were expected to arrive by 6:00 a.m. We waited for them but the children didn’t come. Children came from all other places and we helped those other kids out. But our kids did not come.
A huge disappointment was welling up in our hearts. Finally, the children arrived by 10:00 p.m. We distributed ID cards and uniforms to them. I overheard their coordinator tell our teachers, “We have come here just to see Amma and receive her blessings. Although the journey took so many hours to complete, it didn’t dampen our spirits.” Hearing this, I thought of my own impatience at having to wait for them and how much love flowed in their hearts towards Amma.
We took all the kids to their rooms and then took them for dinner. Then next morning was a great experience all together. We had to take the kids for a wash. It was fun. I felt like I was their elder sister. I could not believe that it was me, being so protective towards the children. I learnt that language and dialect is not at all a barrier with children. Children are so impulsive. Even if we raise our voice, they may smile at us, melting our hearts and making us forget everything.
That evening, the children were excited to see Mohanlal. Then they all attentively listened to Amma. The friendship between us blossomed. One thing I understood clearly is that children born with a silver spoon in their mouths are generally arrogant and care for none. But these kids have such good values. Even a tiny bit of chocolate is shared among them. I felt that we have to learn so much from them. They know how to smile even while living an austere life.
Amma’s darshan got over at 6:00 a.m. the next day. That afternoon, our children were to leave for Kasargod. They wept on my shoulder. Their innocence and the bond they had made with us in just two days was something that cannot be easily explained. I hope we get to meet them once again next year. An unshakeable bond of love has formed between us. The flow of vibrations from these innocent kids can generate bliss within anyone.
Overall, the whole experience was a true learning process for me. It was also a test for us. This present generation is not very patient and this was the perfect occasion wherein we could learn patience. We forgot all our bodily discomforts for three days. All that was on our minds was how to do our jobs with complete dedication. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I have taken the resolution to tell people about the importance of food and water as Amma asked us to.
Haripriya wrote this first-person account the day after the birthday. Senior students had the option of going home or staying back to participate in the celebrations. Together with her classmate, she was assigned the seva of taking care of 25 Vidyamritam scholar-kids from Kasargod.
Khyati D., Sreedevi M., S1 CSE, Amritapuri
Amma’s birthday was quite an unforgettable experience with memories that will remain indelible in my mind. This was an occasion when I saw people whole-heartedly giving themselves upto serving others. Every single person from teachers and students to other staff and ashramites was so full of enthusiasm when it came to the job they were assigned — be it plate washing, serving food, accommodation, crowd control or even rolling laddus!
Together with my friends, I had given my name for the night shift in accommodation and I really enjoyed being a part of it. The number of times we ran up and down the stairs, guiding people, helping them move to their allotted rooms, carrying their bags — didn’t matter — every single moment of it was fun! This was when I felt that this was the best experience one could ever get — helping others. It was then that I realized the true value of selflessness, of giving something without expecting anything in return. It was a nice feeling when someone thanked you or smiled at you just for showing them the right place or even handing them a mat!
Amma does this daily — serves people — and the huge crowd that turned up on the occasion to just get a hug from her was astounding! In a way, I was surprised to see the way in which Amma spent her birthday — that day on which all of us would normally treat ourselves and others and spend time doing what we liked — on that day, Amma was still sitting in the same position from dawn to dusk, giving darshan! On the whole, this was an occasion when I tasted the sweetness and the true meaning of seva. I am really glad I was part of the event and I can say that I had a really nice experience!
Sreedevi M., S1 CSE, Amritapuri
Two days before Amma’s b’day, almost all of us were in a mood of celebration. I saw so many of the Vidyamritham children. As I was in accommodation duty, I helped guide them to the proper places where they were accommodated.
Actually I didn’t know what was meant by selfless service. But from this opportunity to serve people who came for Amma’s birthday, I understood what selfless service means. I tried to do my best, as was expected from Amrita college students. All three days we were enquiring and looking after people’s needs.
I also got an opportunity to make laddu prasad and made it with a heart full of devotion. On the 26th, I had an opportunity to see Mohanlal and hear his speech. Yes, I agreed that devotion to one’s duty was an excellent source of happiness and satisfaction. I got so many good points from Amma’s speech also. We should not waste anything.
On the day of Amma’s birthday, I went to college early. All devotees were waiting for Amma’s darshan. Yes, Amma’s 56th birthday was one of the most memorable days in my life. I will be here for the Amma’s birthday next year also to do selfless service. I want to experience the sweetness of selfless service as much as I can.
Issha B Shah, Sharanya K Prasad, S5 IT, Bangalore
The trip was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I enjoyed it more than I had expected.
First day, when we arrived at Amritapuri, we were allotted our room. Then we went to the registration counter for students. I was given the work of crowd control. Although I don’t understand Malayalam, I could somehow manage with the help of sign language and a smile on my face. I guess that’s what is called the language of love. At night, we went to Ashram. It’s a beautiful place. The Kali temple is so beautiful.
On the second day, in the morning I helped serve breakfast and I even went to get some plates in a big vessel. In between, I enjoyed washing plates with Amritapuri students and aunties. Some people had come from Coimbatore as well, to do seva for the birthday and attend the celebrations. They were all working with a smile and enjoying their work. I helped with distributions of uniforms and ID cards to Vidyamritam students, that also went on well.
Next day, I worked in the food stall. Amritapuri students were also working hard, collecting plates and helping with crowd control. It was like everyone helping each other and not bothering about which campus one belonged to. The afternoon cheque distribution for the Vidyamritam kids felt like students were being given awards. Their faces were glowing with happiness and I felt as if I was distributing joy among them.
At midnight we got Amma’s darshan. I didn’t feel anything special at that time. Soon after that, I went to hand prasad to Amma. The bhajan being sung at that time was my favorite. I was also humming it, while handing prasad to Amma. Amma turned towards me and smiled and I felt as if all sadness left me and that I would be happy forever. I felt as if all problems in my life would get solved and there was no need to worry about anything. I don’t know what that feeling was exactly, but I enjoyed it.
As a whole, the trip was really very good. I enjoyed it to the core. Although I was so tired, my legs were paining and my voice was gone, I don’t know from where I got all the energy to work there. And yes I enjoyed working there.
Sharanya K Prasad, S5 ME
When we were informed of the trip just two days prior to departure, my initial reaction was that of pure anger. But when the journey began, I started having fun. I was able to mingle and enjoy with people I don’t normally talk to, otherwise.
When we reached Amritapuri and I saw the crowd assembled for Amma’s birthday, I was terrified. But somehow, we were able to put forth our best efforts in serving people, especially the kids who had come for Vidyamritam. And finally, when I got the chance to embrace our beloved Amma, I was enveloped by a strong feeling of love, a feeling that she would always be there with me, through all the good and bad times. Her very presence made me forget all the difficulties that I faced in accommodation.
Later I felt that I was blessed to get such a wonderful opportunity to serve mankind during Amma’s birthday and be engulfed in her vast expanse of love. One experience remains close to me personally — I was able to help a really tired and hungry mother of one of the kids. As I bought her some food to eat from the canteen and heard her story, I realized that whatever conditions I am put through are actually nothing when compared to what many others have to go through. I felt really lucky for having been blessed with all the joys of life and realized that I have no right to complain about silly things in life.
From Coimbatore ASE
Sep 24th to 28th — five blissful, evergreen days in the presence of Amma. I was happy and proud to participate in the seva activites. In spite of the exhausting work, we were in a state of overwhelming joy. I could really feel the intangible, mesmerizing spell of selfless service. I appreciate our teachers’ and warden’ care and guidance throughout the event.
Now I have this feeling that we all belong to one big Amrita family. This visit helped us cultivate within us, qualities like patience and endurance, which are mostly alien to all of us. These five days were remarkable days in my life and I eagerly look forward to getting this opportunity again and again, next year and every year.
– Vasavi, II M.Tech. (Biomedical Engineering)
I had a great opportunity to understand the joy and satisfaction in doing selfless service. I really enjoyed each and every moment in Amritapuri. I can never meet anyone else like Amma, who serves the world and its poor people. I am proud to have been part of this event.
– Jiyesh M.M., II M.Tech.
We had a wonderful time in Amritapuri. Really happy that we were given this opportunity to serve poor children. The response to Vidyamritam was immense and the Sangamam celebrations were very well organized.
I also enjoyed the chance to be with the Vidyamritam children and make them comfortable. It was a unique opportunity to understand the feelings of those who are less privileged. The moments with those children made me feel the oneness, that we all belong to the same Amrita family. I am ready to be a part of this team in the forth coming years also.
– C. Rajasundar, 4th Year B.Tech. (Polymer Engineering)
This trip made me understand the meaning of love and compassion. The Vidyamritam project inspired me a lot. I had an opportunity to interact with those children and understand them. I understood that all that Amma wants in return from us, is love for nature and people in need.
– Sajith S. Nair, I Year B.Tech. (Aerospace Engineering)
Sandeep, MBA Student
This was the first time I was at Amritapuri, the City of Love, which accepts all, regardless of their caste, creed or sex. For the first time, I saw the City of Love shaded in different colors of light. The reason was clear — it was Amma’s birthday. A festive atmosphere was in the air, as people had assembled from every nook and corner of the globe. All were here only to seek blessings from Amma. She is mother to all — the perfect role model for inspiration and motivation.
The festival lasted three days. On the second day, Vidyamritam students were awarded scholarships. It was great to see small kids speaking fearlessly to the crowd, which I would fear address. Not being a native speaker of Malayalam, I could not understand what they spoke, but I was really taken in by their confidence and courage. On that day the Guest of Honors were His Excellency, the Governor of Kerala and famous South Indian actor Mohanlal. The event happened in a big pandal, which was decorated with different colors.
On the next day, Amma’s birthday, there were an estimated 1.5 lakh people gathered in the same pandal. All were here because of one reason, because they loved Amma. There was not even the slightest space to walk. The program on 27th September began with Amma’s Pada Puja, followed by award of the Amrita Keerti Puraskar, release of new books and the mass marriages. Finally there were the cultural programs performed by the students. Amrita Vidyalayam students performed dances to represent the cultures of different countries of this world.
There were thousands and thousands of people on campus for the three days, but not a single stomach slept hungry. Moreover not a single person had to sleep out in the open, all were provided a place to stay.
I saw people working very hard, day and night, to make this event a grand success and a memorable one. Not one person was sitting idle, all were on their toes, working all the time.
The most amazing part to me was the building of the pandal. It came up at such a fast pace with everyone lending their hands of support to make the structure stand erect.
In the end, with so many people working so hard, day and night, the birthday became a grand event in itself. Amma started giving darshan which only ended the following morning. At times I wonder how this is possible. They say it is Amma’s grace. Even if a shopping mall were to come up at Vallikavu Junction in a couple years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised. It is from the Vallikavu Junction that one finds that a new world has begun. Even if we call it an entire city in itself or a self-sufficient place, that won’t be wrong. The City of Love, which beckons to the whole world.
Amrit Prakash, MBA Student, Amritapuri
When I joined the Amrita School of Business, I heard from people that Amma’s birthday is celebrated on September 27 every year. I also heard that the campus is very crowded at that time and that we students stay, 8 people to a room. This information made me a little scared but I was also looking forward to the adventure.
On September 24, I heard that the girls of our batch had shifted from their hostel so, we also got mentally prepared to move. The move was necessary, so that the increasing crowd coming for the holy occasion could be accommodated. On September 25, we shifted to the new hostel and we were 8 boys in in one big room.
On the same day, we received instructions from Meera Ma’am, that whoever wanted to do seva could come and join, there was no forcing anyone for any work. I wanted to participate and I was given the job of escorting the VIPs. On 26th, our job was to decorate the reception area for the special invitees. As a team, we were busy in doing the work, putting chairs and tables, decorating the counter by putting some flower pots, putting up the banners, showing directions towards the counter from the entrance. This first day of work was very good and we did our job perfectly.
On 27th, we received instructions to put another 20 chairs and make some changes in the VIP reception hall. But in the meantime, someone else asked us to go to the ashram to escort some VIPs and help them cross the bridge. We made the mistake of not informing our coordinator about this. When we returned two hours later, we got scolded by our coordinator. Actually I cannot say that was scolding, it was more like advice for us, we were told about the proper way in which to pass information. So, the whole day was good expect the one mistake and I want to correct that, next year.
I learnt many things from the experience. I saw that people loved to serve selflessly. They loved their work and loved to serve. There was a co-operative and jovial attitude among all. For next year, my target for this occasion is not to give anyone a chance to complain about myself or my team. I often get confused when thinking about my goals and objectives. I do not see my destination sometimes. I can say now, after this experience, that I have found a practical example of loving the work and loving to serve mankind. The best manager in the world is Amma, Our Chancellor.
Mithun Jay Kumar, Rahul Chakraborty, MBA Students, Amritapuri
Just a few days back, I had the great privilege and honor in my life to be a small part of Amma’s birthday celebrations. It was totally a new experience and feeling for me, as I had never witnessed such a grand event, one that is spiritually and mentally awakening at the same time.
As large crowds were expected, each and every student of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham was assigned a role to play. I was given a job in media. On the 25th, the thought crossed my mind that I can escape from my duty and simply enjoy the holiday. But when I saw the waves and waves of people who had started coming, even though the b’day was only on the 27th, the importance and intensity of the event dawned on me, and I decided that I would participate whole-heartedly, observe everything, and enjoy myself.
I realized that although I was physically tried, I was feeling mentally stronger. I can say that because of this event, I am now more inclined to helping others, thinking about others. Now that this year’s celebrations are over, I am waiting for the next year’s to come, so that I can once again get a chance to serve.
– Mithun Jay Kumar, MBA Student
Phew!!! … This in ‘D’ word that comes to mind, after the outstanding experiences on the occasion of Amma’s birthday celebrations. I came to know of Amma after joining the Amrita School of Business this year. I heard a lot about her from my friends and teachers.
Amma’s birthday was celebrated on September 27 but, the preparation for the 3-day festival started in the 1st week of September. I was given the responsibility of escorting and helping out the V.VIP’s. Anyways, I took it not as a responsibility, but as a seva for mankind; that’s what Amma says. The next day, i.e. September 26, was quite a tasking day. Our day started with placing the required materials in the V.VIP section and arranging the complete area, a task we completed within 4 hours. After that, I interviewed a lot of different people and took pics for the amritapuri.org blog, which was my other responsibility.
Then came the day, i.e. September 27. I expected that a lot of people would come and believe me, it was more than what I expected. I thought that people had gathered from different parts of the world. Thousands of Vidyamritam students were awarded their scholarships. It was an amazing experience to see the kids. I was also thrilled to have a chance to interact with and escort the V.VIP’s. I got a chance to interacte with a lot of Swamijis and Brahmacharis also. I got to know a lot more about Amma. I believe, the one best thing that I got to see, was the selfless service everyone put into the program. Last, but not the least, I felt that Amma for me means, the ultimate management guru.
– Rahul Chakraborty, MBA Student
Nikshep D Apasangi, VII Sem CSE, Bangalore
“To transcend all bondages and to realize the divine self within, is the true goal of humanity.”
The trip to Amritapuri was one, wherein the philosophy of our scriptures could be actualized.
Beginning with the journey itself, undergoing all the physical hardships along the way, being content with simple food was like a sadhana, in itself.
The best part was that, even in these hardships, there was the joy of simple living without bondages, there were duties to perform, giving one a strange sense of freedom and bliss.
But the real learning process was the work itself.
Our ancient philosophy states three paths of reaching and experiencing the divine within us –
1) Karma or the path of selfless action: – The program of Vidyamritam envisioned by Amma, was the best lesson in karma yoga. The entire process of distributing uniforms to the children, giving them their cheques and haggling with huge crowds, without a thought of personal discomfort, provided the perfect conditions to annihilate the ego. The rewards of this selfless work could be felt through the innocent smiles of the children and the contentment on their parents’ faces.
2) Jnana or the path of knowledge: – The entire stay at Amritapuri was one big learning process. Watching a Mahatma in action, one gained true understanding of equanimity. Seeing Amma sit for 21 hours on stage, give darshan and react to devotees’ sentiments, yet remain calm and collected throughout, with the attitude of a witness, enjoying the world’s play, showed the true essence of a realized soul.
Before darshan, Amma in her inimitable style, simplified the entire philosophy of life, through her simple, heart warming stories. For the active listener, subtle principles opened up, answering doubts regarding the mysteries of life.
3) Bhakti or the path of devotion : – During the entire darshan, Amma’s senior disciples sang bhajans which were enough to make any true devotee experience the taste of divine bliss.
The childlike innocence of the devotees and their faith in their spiritual master were enough to convince a skeptic regarding what innocence and belief can bring about. The ashram itself, at this time was transformed into an ancient Vedic site with sacred mantras permeating the air. Nature also seemed to bless everyone with girth showers and a cool breeze that purified the place.
The essence of the whole trip was perhaps learning how one’s birthday can be spent. We often end up celebrating our birthdays by blowing candles, cutting cakes and spending a lot of money to pamper ourselves. Also, we expect people to shower us with gifts and make us feel exalted. Amma however, didn’t do one single thing for herself. The only gift she perhaps received was the happiness of the thousands of children who had come to collect her blessings for their education, and the glee felt by thousands of devotees who got a chance to see their beloved Amma.
This kind of selfless action, day-in and day-out, not only shows us the great humanitarian that Amma is, but also her pure and unadulterated love for all beings. Just seeing her lead through example, of how a person should be, is enough to transform the hearts and minds of millions.
One just hopes that, at the end of the whole grand play of creation, we, humans learn how to love and live for the sake of others.
More from Bangalore
‘Don’t do your karma for getting the fruit at the end of it, do your karma regardless of the fruits and you will find the fruits coming to you.’ – Bhagavad Gita
This is what Amma had to say to me this time when I visited her ashram. She always teaches her students something all the time. She need not actually say it, but she will make sure that you learn. Amma has taught me patience, diligence, perseverance and the art of loving everybody equally over the last four years I have been in this institution.
This time we were presented with an opportunity to help over 2000 Vidyamritam students, coming from the district of Kollam. Call it providence, but over the last few months, I had done a lot of reading on India’s education woes. This was my chance to see for myself, the realities at the grassroots level, panchayat-per-panchayat.
The work schedule was hectic. But after having met the students that evening, we had a new drive and source of inspiration for our actions. I realized that every single action of ours was helping so many of these students come closer to the realization of their dreams and aspirations. Of course, we may not see an overnight transformation, but it will surely come one day.
Even if our actions were inconsequential, still the whole purpose of the camp was fulfilled. By the end of the 3-day camp, thousands of students were taken care of by the volunteers. Each child went home with a new set of clothes and an ID card. I talked to one of them, a boy named Mani from the Oachira Panchayat. He said that every one of these camps is something he looks forward to, because he feels cared for and loved by people who are not his parents or siblings.
I guess Amma’s lesson is quite clear from this. Each person earns his or her time with Amma. The 4 minutes and 30 seconds I have got to spend with Amma (over four years) have been, by far, the most vivid memories of my life.
– G.V. Krishnan, S7, IT
Since my first year, I have heard my seniors and juniors talk about this trip and how it is one of the most important journeys of their college life. So when the trip was announced, my first reaction was that of excitement. Now with the journey behind me, I realize that my life has changed and this was indeed the most important journey of my life.
We reached Amritapuri two days before Amma’s birthday. We slept and stayed in the same large hall, as 150 other devotees. This experience was a real eye-opener for me. I had heard about people who are below the poverty line, but this was the first time I had come face-to-face with such people. Here were people who thought that the same accommodation and food that I was cribbing about, was luxurious.
The next day, while doing seva, I had the opportunity to talk to these people. These were people who were so poor that they could not even afford to travel in ST buses. I met this particular woman who had come on cycle all the way from her home to the ashram. When I helped her out, she thanked me profusely and blessed me. It is surprising, how even the tiniest act of kindness meant so much to them.
After returning to Bangalore, I realized that my outlook towards life has changed. I can no longer ignore my duties and responsibilities as a human being. There are people who need and deserve all the help and kindness we can give them. Amma has changed my life, she has changed the kind of person I am, in a way that I thought was never possible.
– Nikhita Joy, S5 IT