The Hugging Mother’s Ashram, Amritipuri
We Enter The Headquarters Of A Amma’s Global Network
No one welcomed us and we wandered in and went to 3 different booths to try and find out some information about where to go and what to do. After an initial scope out of the grounds where we saw lots of people eating lunch served from pots big enough to hold 2 people inside we found out the the accommodation office opened about 20 minutes later and we would pay 3 euros each to stay the night. We settled down to wait and Mark went off and signed himself up for 2 hours of washing up.
At this point we really did not know what to make of it all. The people who live there seemed to be wandering around quite aimlessly, perhaps in circles, and no one took the slightest bit of notice of the two new people waiting with their bags under a tree.
When we first got off the ferry we had seen quite a large group of school children of secondary age all in uniform and had assumed it was some sort of school trip, however, once inside we saw perhaps hundreds of them all with an ID badge and under no supervision – they were attending school here! The rest of the population was made up of quite a large proportion of white people, many of whom were over 40 and the rest were from all over the world. Many people were wearing a sort of all white uniform which we found out later was one of the many things you could buy on site. No one looked very happy, even though, by chance, the Hugging Mother was in fact in residence at the ashram, having just returned from America.
There are many rules to obey, some expected ones like modest dress and quite voices and some quite unexpected like having to be inside the gates by 6.30pm because of the “dangers” outside the gate and lights out in the entire place at 8pm! Also, no photography at all allowed (hence the lack of photographic evidence.)
We had taken in the sights and sounds around us and still felt quite unsure about staying the night. Part of us wanted to give it a go and see what happened but another felt really wary of this strange environment. We decided we needed more information before making a decision about staying. Meanwhile, Mark had signed in and gone off to do his washing up duties.
A couple of young French girls arrived and we chatted to them about their plans. They had just flown from Paris to Trivandrum and then taken a 2 hour taxi ride to get there. One was planning on staying for 1 month and the other for 2. They had decided to come on the strength of feeling generated from meeting the guru in Paris and having a hug with her. They said we should stay for a few weeks and we would feel the same devotion to her as they did and our world would be opened up to a ‘whole new level of love’. Well, we’re both pretty cynical when it comes to that sort of thing and this was not a convincer. They went to check in and we continued to sit under our tree.
While walking away, back over the bridge, we saw massive adverts we had missed on the way in for her range of 164 Aryvedic products which are available on the mass market. All in all here is our verdict: it is a cult. A massive cult that makes millions and turns people into zombie like creatures who cannot even return a stranger’s smile.
(By the time of publishing we learnt that all the products in her range are produced there too, factory style, with no one being paid anything for their efforts.) You can see her website here.