Biography of Sri Ma Anandamayi: Life & Teachings

Anandamayi literally means ‘joy-permeated’ and so she was, always in a state of joy. She was believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga and a symbol of divine grace. Through her life and work, she exemplified service to humanity, great compassion for fellow beings and gratitude towards the almighty.

Born as Nirmala Sundari, she was highly respected as a saint, teacher and mystic. The Hindu spiritual teacher and yoga guru Sivananda Saraswati described her as the most perfect flower born in the Indian soil. Her followers called her Anandamayi Ma. Get to know more about her life and teachings in this biography.

Life Story of Sri Ma Anandamayi

Biography of Sri Ma Anandamayi (1)

She was born Nirmala Sundari Devi on April 30, 1896 in the Kheora village, Tipperah district in the present-day Bangladesh. Her father Bipinhari Bhattacharya was a Vaishnavite singer from Tripura. Her mother’s name was Mokshada Sundari Devi, who had three more children (all sons) who had died as infants or young children.

Anadamayi was able to attend school for just a few months, due to lack of pick and drop arrangements. As a child, she was different, quite indifferent and constantly happy. She came across as unaffected by things happening around her, and soon after she would often be seen self-absorbed or in a meditative state.

When she was 10, she was married off to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti (whom she later renamed as Bholanath). She spent five years after marriage at her brother-in-law’s house where she would be busy with household work but appear withdrawn from worldly pleasure or pain. During this time, once a neighbour observed her seemingly strange behaviour and declared her to be a mystic with spiritual powers and started calling her Ma.

She lived like an ascetic. She would fast for many days and at times she would consume food in quantities that could suffice 9-10 people. Once for almost six months, she ate only some rice grains and two ripe fruits as her daily meal.

Biography of Sri Ma Anandamayi (2)

At the age of 17, she went to stay with her husband in Ashtagram. They lived together but theirs was a celibate marriage. It is said that when thoughts of lust came to her husband’s mind, her body would take on qualities of death. During her stay in Ashtagram, she, for the very first time, displayed religious ecstasy, with some physical and psychoenergetic phenomena that were not ordinary. People thought her to be hysterical but her husband propounded that she was in perfect mental and physical health.

In 1918, Nirmala and her husband shifted their base to Bajitpur. The couple stayed there till 1924. During this span, Nirmala would often go into physical rapture on listening to kirtan, when she would fall on the ground and take hours to return to wakeful state. She was always seen meditating on the name of God (harinam), and her body would go into yogic postures on its own. Sometimes, she would fall asleep in such positions and on waking up early the next morning, she would experience lightness and a state of bliss.

On August 3, 1922, she was spiritually initiated. The rites were getting performed automatically by her. According to her, she was the master and the disciple; as a master she was revealing the mantra to herself, and as a disciple, she was accepting and reciting it. In 1924, she shifted base to Shahbag and during this time, she went into ecstasies at kirtans. Here she met one of her earliest and close followers, Jyotiscandra Ray (known as “Bhaiji”), who first gave her the name Anandamayi Ma, and played a major role in building an ashram at Ramna in 1929.

Biography of Sri Ma Anandamayi (5)

This was the first ashram built for Anandamayi Ma. While in Shahbag, she received a greater following and started being recognized as a form of the Almighty.

Biography of Sri Ma Anandamayi - Bhaiji

Later she moved to Dehradun where some noted scholars and philosophers started following her, adding to her popularity. From the 1950s, an official headquarters of the Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Sangh was established, and thereafter her followers grew in number. She travelled to South India, where around ten thousand people gathered to see her.

On August 27, 1982, Anandamayi Ma died in Dehradun and two days later her samadhi was built at the Kankhal ashram in Haridwar.

Teachings of Anandamayi Ma

  • Interestingly, she never prepared her lectures or wrote down speeches. She would speak spontaneously, converse in extraordinary speeds and use alliterative wordplay. Due to the complexity and speed of her speech, listeners found it difficult to comprehend what she said, but Gurupriya Devi her attendant and Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee, her devotee took the efforts to transcribe her speech.
  • According to Anandamayi Ma, the primary calling of every human is to achieve realization of the self. She said that only those actions that trigger a human being’s divine nature can be called actions.
  • She said that she had no particular path and that all paths were hers. She did not prefer to be called a guru, and stated that everyone is correct and has their own point of view.
  • She said that each one advances or grows according to his/her own inborn nature, and that the same spiritual methods may not work for everyone.
  • She maintained that all forms of sadhana came to her without conscious effort.
  • She would say that one must carry out his/her daily duties with love and sincerity and take efforts to elevate himself.
  • According to her, one must set some time daily for divine contemplation and to help it be a part of one’s nature, he/she must keep a fixed time each day for meditation and prayer.
  • Followers from all religions and faiths were welcome and she would converse effortlessly with people from different paths.
  • She guided people on how to live a God-centred life. She referred to herself in third person, which stands as an example of her detachment from ego.
  • Her teachings were rendered with jokes, songs and long discourses. She included silent meditation in her discourse and advised her followers to read scriptures.
  • Anandamayi Ma was widely accepted as a healer, believed to be a form of Bliss and an incarnation of Goddess Kali.

Today, Amrit Varta, is a periodical published quarterly in multiple languages, has her teachings. An annual gathering called Samyam Mahavrata is organized by the Sri Sri Anandamayi Sangha, where collective meditations are held and discourses are given. Shri Mata Anandamayi Ashram in Omkareshwar has been established as a meditation retreat. A school called Mata Anandamayi Tripura Vidyapeeth has been founded in 2001 which has grown over the years. There are many ashrams in her name, operating from major cities like Delhi and Pune among others.

Years after her demise, she continues to live through her work and words of wisdom, which are being carried forward by her devotees from different sects, spread across the globe. Explore Sri Anandamayi Ma’s life and teachings. Order your book now: Book link.

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