Amrithanandamayi's 55th b'day celebrations begin

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Kollam, Sep 27 (UNI) The 55th birthday celebrations of spiritual leader Mata Amrithanandamayi, popularly known as the 'hugging sage,' began here with various religious programmes.

According to Mutt sources, about two lakh people flocked to have a glimpse of 'Amma' on her birthday.

The celebrations started with Amma's senior-most disciple Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri performing her ''pada puja.'' In her customary address to the followers, Amma said it was time for change and if we were not ready to change, Nature or God would take up the task. The need of the hour was to cultivate a good society of kind-hearted and broad-minded individuals.

Union Minister of State for Shipping K H Muniyappa, speaking on the occasion, lauded the services of Mata Amrithanandamayi and said she was doing what Gandhiji had envisioned.

Later, renowned Vedic scholar Prof R Vasudevan Potti was awarded this year's 'Amrita Keerti Puraskar,' annually presented to people who excel in Vedas and spend their lifetime spreading the essence of 'Sanatana Dharma.' To mark the occasion, Vidyamritam, a programme providing scholarships to children living below the poverty line, was extended to cover 1,00,000 students. The scheme was initiated to support the children of the farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra.

Students of 'Amrita Vidyalayams' and 'Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham' presented to Amma the funds they raised for the Ashram's ongoing Bihar flood relief and rehabilitation project.

The Mutt's 25 new publications were released on the occasion to commemorate the silver jubilee of 'Matruvani,' the monthly magazine brought out by the Ashram in 15 Indian and foreign languages.

Amma also solemnised marriages of 50 couples on the occasion.

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