"I have no sense of pleasure or pain, and I stay as I have always been. Sometimes Divine
draws me outside, and sometimes Divine takes me inside and I am completely withdrawn.
did hear inner guidance that told her what religious and meditative practices to perform. She
emphasized the importance of detachment from the world and religious devotion. She also
encouraged her devotees to serve others. She did much traveling and wandering, including, in
her twenties, she travelling to Dehradun and living in an abandoned Shiva temple for almost a
year without money and often in freezing temperatures without blankets.
An ecstatic child of ecstatic parents, she became a famous saint who, like many other female
Indian saints, stood on the edge of several religious traditions, and in the midst of none. She
influenced the spirituality of thousands of people who came to see her throughout her long life.
Anandamayi was born in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1896. Her mother, Moksada
Sundari Devi, was also known for her states of "bhava" or religious emotion. She was visited
by avatars and deities who shown with light as she performed her household duties. While
pregnant with Nirmala (Anandamayi's birth name), she would see visions of sages and statues
of deities which would appear, and then suddenly disappear.
Gestated in joy, Anandamayi was soundly and ecstatically connected to Source, within herself.
Her father, Bipin Behari Bhattacarya, sang devotional songs often, during her gestation and
throughout her childhood, appearing to be in an altered state. He would rise at 3 AM and sing
songs, and was given to wandering for long periods. His wife would go searching for him and
bring him back home. On one occasion, during a storm, the roof blew off the house and he
continued singing in the rain.
Anandamayi Ma was very sensitive to religious ritual as a child, and the sound of religious
chanting would bring about ecstatic feelings in her. At temples, she would also see religious
figures emerging from religious statues and reentering them. She was often distracted and
would be seen gazing into space, her eyes not focused on outer objects. Her education was
very limited and her writing skills were minimal.
She had a marriage arranged at 13 years of age to Ramani Mohan Cakravarti or "Bholanath" as
he was known, and spent a few years living in her in-laws' house, before cohabitating with her
husband at age 18. Much of her time in her teen years was spent apparently in trance. She was
a hard worker but sometimes had a difficult time concentrating on housework. Her relatives
assumed that the trances were due to overwork.
occurred to him, Anandamayi's body would take on the qualities of death and she would grow
faint. He had to repeat mantras to bring her back to normal consciousness! She later said that
she had given her husband spontaneous electrical shocks when he touched her the wrong way.
Bholanath thought the situation was temporary but it proved to be permanent. His relatives said
he should remarry but he did not follow their advice.
Later, her husband took initiation from her and accepted Anandamayi as his guru.
While living in Dacca, others came to recognize her spiritual qualities. At the sound of religious
chanting, she would become stiff and even fall to the ground in a faint. Her body would
occasionally become deformed during these events. Sometimes it would lengthen. She would
hold difficult yogic positions (asanas) for long periods and spontaneously form complex tantric
hand positions (mudras) and gestures. Though she was never formally initiated by a guru, one
evening she spontaneously performed her own initiation, visualizing both the ritual scene and
movements. Simultaneously, she heard the chanting of initiatory sacred words (mantras)
Her husband thought she might be possessed, and took her to exorcists. One physician
suggested she was not mad in the conventional sense but instead had a kind of god intoxication
- a "divine madness" for which there was no secular cure.
Inner voices would tell her what actions to perform and which images to visualize. Her yogic
practices (kryias) were spontaneous and she described them as occurring much like a factory
where the various machines all worked automatically and in perfect sequence to produce a
Anandamayi would shed profuse tears, laugh for hours, and talk at tremendous speed in a
Sanskrit-like language. Other unusual actions included rolling in the dust and dancing for long
periods whirling like a leaf in the wind. She would also fast for long periods and at other times
consume enough food for eight or nine people! At the request of devotees, she purposefully
gained weight in order to fulfill their request for "more mother."
considered to be spontaneous expressions of religious emotion. Anandamayi's changes were
more extreme than these more common sattvika bhavas (sweating, crying, change in skin color,
hair standing on end, etc.) which also normally indicate strong religious emotion. Some
respected Indian saints of the past were described as having had similar bodily changes.
Anandamayi went on various pilgrimages traveling throughout India stopping in ashrams and
attending religious festivals. She had a temple built for her by disciples in Dacca but left the day
it was completed.
As a virgin in body and mind, she was childless and yet the mother of many. She was known
for her siddhis or yogic powers where she could read her devotee's thoughts and emotions at a
distance, make her body shrink and expand, and cure the sick. Anandamayi was someone
always moving through a wide variety of psychic and religious states, each one expressing itself
Anandamayi considered individual identity to be a kind of spiritual disease. She called it bhava
roga, or the disease of feeling where every person looks at him or herself as a separate
While sometimes speaking of spiritual evolution, she also maintained that her spiritual identity
had not changed since early childhood. She claimed that all the outer changes in her life were
for the benefit of humanity. She sometimes would express a variety of roles, and later explain
that this was a performance staged to teach one of the people present some lesson. However,
such actions were not a function of her will and occurred without planning or intent.
There are many transcriptions of Anandamayi-Ma's "Divine Mother" messages and timeless
teachings as well as wonderful stories by her devotees, in several texts and articles, throughout
Anandamayi-Ma left her body in 1982.
|Anandamayi Ma, in her seventies.
The "Blissful Mother" - a self-taught holy woman known for her
spiritual emotion, yogic powers, and intuitive gifts.