India’s ‘Hugging Saint’ Visits Australia

'Amma' drew thousands last week during her Australian stop on her humanitarian hug campaign.

You know those days where all you really need is a good hug? Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi can sympathise, and she'll even provide that warm hug...that is, if you are patient enough to wait in the queue.

Known to her followers as 'Amma', this Indian spiritual leader is on a hug campaign, having already shared the warmth of her hug with 31 million people worldwide.

Last week, Amma paid Australia a visit; she drew huge crowds in Sydney, Queensland, and Melbourne, all desiring one of her healing hugs. To be greeted by eager masses awaiting her arrival is nothing new for her: originally from Kerala, India, Amma travels have taken her everywhere from Sri Lanka to Haiti, into the arms of millions. During a recent trip to Penang, Malaysia, Amma hugged 40,000 devotees over the course of 20 hours. She claims that her connection to an "eternal power source" enabled her to deliver so many hugs, all without even pausing for a break.

With her hugs, Amma seeks to transfer a sense of peace and pure love. Her humanitarian efforts have extended into her organisation, Embracing the World, which has successfully established homes for the homeless, food kitchens for the hungry, and safe havens for women. She has also set up schools, orphanages, and environmental programs.

So, what exactly does it feel like to be hugged by one of the world's great humanitarians? You could ask one of the 4,000 Sydney Boys' High School Students who queued up on the 18th for their turn. Or any of the thousands upon thousands of Australians who waited for their chance. Or, perhaps, 43-year-old mother, Hema, said it best: "Tears just rolled down my cheeks. It was just like a mum giving you a loving hug and her love was pouring into me. That feeling lasts forever," she told BBC.

Published on April 26, 2012 by Anya Krenicki

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