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Published: January 14th 2007
Hello Folkes. Yay! I'm nearly up to date with my blogs. It would be great to hear fRom you
all so I know how you are.
Grandad - How are you?
Chris - hope your recovering well.
Phil - you smell.
Uni people - where are you?
Hope you are all well anyway.
Something that you can't miss in Keralla is the backwaters. Basically they are a strip of
inland water very close to the coast, infact you can see the sea form them in some places.
We got on a boat in Kollam and had a lovley three hour boat ride to the Amritanandmayi
Ashram . This is the ashram set up by the wolrd famous huggy mother who people call Amma
(mother). She started out pretty young by feeding the poor and generally comforting people.
Her reputation grew and now she blesses and hugs up to 30,000 people a day. She travel all
over the world to do this. She has also set up many charitable projects including a spanking
new hospital that give free medical care and operations to poor people. A number of shcools
univeristy giving free education and she gives out thousands of free meals everyday.
After the tusnami she built 500 new homes etc etc. She is generally lovley anf hugs people
off all religions. Some people do belive her to be an embodiment of god but I think she is
also just a guru to many.
The ashram is not quite what I expected an ashram to look like. It has several pick tower
blocks all about 15 stories high. Thsi is to house the thousands of devotees who come to see
her. We were allocated a room in simple matres on the floor acomodation. It was a nice room
all the same. The ashram has about 3000 perminant residence. A lot of these are students who
go to the university that Amma set up but many are devotees too. It's a really nice place
and has a great western style cafe that does the best western style veggie food i've had
since i've been away.
The idea is that if you stay there you join in ashram life and do some work (seva) every
day. Me and Racheal
went and chopped vegetables for an hour in the morning which was
actually quite fun and sam served out breakfast.
On the day we got there not alot was going on as Amma had only just got back from a tour
that day. On the second day the bell ws rung to anounce that she would do a guided
meditation and some hugging (drashan). So we went and got a seat in the temple at 10
am......at 1pm we gave up and went to luch. I did go back for a while and we went to the
shops in the temple. At 5pm the bells were rung agian and about 500 people went into the
temple. Amma came in smiling as ever. Someone lead a very good guided meditation. Humming
'om' with 600 other people is and amazing experience. Then she anounched she would give
darshan to all new arrivals.
We lined up and she started hugging. Becuase it was a closed darshan she actually spent
quite a lonmg time with each person, about 10 seconds. During big darshans where she hugs
thousands the hugs lash about 1.5
seconds. It was great that we got a much more intimate
experience. I think it is so lovely for someone to just hug people and make peole happy
without any religious preaching or harsh rules attached. Obviously she is Hindu and has a
huge Hindu following but you don't have to be hindu to go and stay there and get hugged. She
particularly loves childern and had all the little ones sitting with her thoughout.
Later in the evening she performed devotional singing. This was like sunday evening in the
Siam tent time a billion, if you know what I mean. It was great music and they made it into
a good show too. During the last song, as the music was building, they turned off the lights
one by one until all that was left was the fire they had on stage. Then 'om' agian but this
time with over a thousand people. wow. You have to be there to belive it. It would have been
a Womad higlight if it was at the festival. I had a great time at the ashram in general.
On our last day we just chopped vegetables and left about midday to get the boat to Allappy. This was a lovley 5 hour ride. I think the backwaters get nicer further north. Lots of little waterways and rice paddies and more parlm trees than I've every seen. On the boat i even got to do some networking. We got talking to a woman about the ashram as she was planning on going. It turns out that she works for 'save the childern', has a degree in social anthropology and her mum was womens officer at manchester and national NUS womens officer. So i have her name and she said that if i want to i can look her up in London and go and have a coffee with her and she'll look at my cv and see what she can do. Pretty useful.
We are in Kochi at the moment whic is also really nice. We just went to the palace to look at some murals. They are so pornographic! Shiva with 8 arms and many big boobed women. Eight pairs of hands......and use your imagination......all the animals in the paintings were at it too.
I'm rather loathed to be leaving Kerala tomorrow but we are going straight to a beach in Goa for a week. I will definatly come back here for futer holidays.
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