Anandamayi Ma, Sri (1896-1982)
Anandamayi Ma, Sri (1896-1982)
Prominent Indian mystic, revered as a living saint and noted for her spiritual insight and perceptive instructions to devotees. She was born Nirmala Bhattachari on April 30, 1896, of devout Brahmin parents, in Kheora, a small village in the Comilla district of Bangladesh. The name "Nirmala" means "Pure." She began primary school at the age of five and showed unusual facility in learning. However, she preferred devotional songs to books and would often lose consciousness during the singing of hymns or the chanting of names of Hindu deities. At the age of 12, she was married to Ramani Mohan Chakravarty, but her trances continued, and her husband eventually concluded that she was to be his guru rather than a traditional wife. She renamed him "Bholanath," and thereafter their relationship was of guru and disciple rather than wife and husband.
At the age of 18, Nirmala went to the village of Bajitpur in East Bengal. During some five years there she spontaneously assumed yogic postures and recited mantras. For a year and a half she remained silent, then continued the period of silence for another year and a half on returning to her husband's home in 1923. Bholanath had her examined by various holy men and exorcists, but all believed her condition to be a spiritual one.
At the age of 27, Nirmala manifested a profound knowledge of spiritual teachings, although she had no formal training in scriptures, and she was able to fluently discuss spiritual matters with learned professors. One of her followers named Hara Kumar started calling her "Ma" (Mother) and revered her as a saint. In 1924, Jyotish Chandra Roy, a distinguished officer of the Bengal government, renounced his worldly life to become her disciple and attendant. She named him "Bhaiji," and he gave her the name of "Anandamayi" (spiritual bliss).
In 1932, Ma Anandamayi, Bholanath (now known as "Pitaji," or Father), and Bhaiji went to Dehra Dun in the Himalayan foothills and established an ashram there. Subsequently a second ashram (later to become the headquarters) was established at Varanasi (Benares). In time, a number of other ashrams were established throughout India, some with hospitals, high schools, orphanages, and charitable dispensaries. As her fame spread, Anandamayi Ma acquired devotees from Britain, Germany, France, and the U.S.
She never left India and visited her various ashrams without any special schedule, as the spirit moved her. She had remarkable presence, and many testified to her spiritual influence on them. She answered questions succinctly, with great spiritual insight. Her disciples in the United States were organized into the Matri Satsang.
Anandamayi, Ma Sri. Matri Vani. 2 vols. Varnasi, India: Shree Shree Annandamayee Charitable Society, 1977.
——. Sad Vani. Calcutta, India: Shree Shree Anandamayi Charitable Society, 1981.
Lipski, Alexander. Life and Teachings of Sri Anandamayi Ma. Delhi, India: Motilial Banaridass, 1977.