On reaching Jillellamudi following the location map and the explanation provided in the accompanying article in the last (Jul Sep-2015) issue of Mother of All and on entering the premises through the main gate, the visitor first finds an imposing structure and is the recently constructed dining hall of Annapurnalayam christened so and established by Amma on 15th August, 1958 to feed her ever increasing number of devotee children. A seed of dream of Amma in her childhood has sprouted in 1958 taking roots and growing into a mighty tree of the present day.
It all started when she was just 5 years of age and while returning from an event near a snake pit on a Nagula Chavithi day in Bapatla the sight of a group of beggars who gathered in a Choultry eating together out of the alms collected by all of them attracted her attention. Pleased at this sight she thought how nice would it be if all the children of different levels of income and status lived at one place sharing their income equally among them irrespective of their quantum of their earning, the basis of a true socialistic society. So she immediately resolved to start a common shelter for all the children where each one earns to his or her capacity and live like a family sharing the food etc., equally among them and to construct a temple at a place where there did not exist one earlier.
To this end her thoughts started taking shape after she came to Jillellamudi as a housewife, wife of a Village Officer Sri Brahmandam Nageswara Rao (affectionately addressed as Nanna garu). A group of people from Chirala who were boyhood friends of Nannagaru started first visiting him in 1956-57, some of them being sadhakas on the path of spirituality. Having been enthused by their initial engagement in conversation with Amma and overwhelmed by her unusual countenance, they made frequent visits to get enlightened further on their spiritual path. The number of visitors started growing slowly. Realising the increasing burden entailed to the moderate income of Nannagaru in offering hospitality, they proposed to Amma that a separate kitchen be started and run independently of Nannagaru’s household to be run and maintained by those visiting this place. Thus came into being the Annapurnalayam (the abode of Annapurna, the deity representing food) on the 15th August, 1958.
Ever since that day the embers of cooking pit (Gaadi Poyyi) continued to burn to prepare food for the ever increasing number of devotee children thronging the place to have Amma’s darshan and receive her blessings. The uniqueness of the place is that the food is served free to all those visiting the place irrespective of the time of the day and caste, class, creed or religion, thus reflecting the ancient saying ‘Vasudhaika Kutumbam’ and the modern concept of socialistic society so vehemently professed and espoused by the Communists.
The present structure is a replacement to the big Asbestos shed where several thousands had their food. The Golden Jubilee Celebration of Amma’s 50th Birthday in April, 1973 was a historic event in the annals of the history of Jillellamudi that ever remains deeply etched in the minds and hearts of those who were fortunate to attend and participate in it.
Amma’s concern for the hunger of her children was so intense that she always used to harp on attending to this basic need first before anything else. Her constant refrain has been to ask anyone and everyone who came to have her darshan to first have the food. Her message to her devotee children has been “Have the food you have to your hearts content and serve food to others with love and compassion”. Her ardent wish has always been that no one should leave hungry from that place. Her pointed question to an astrologer who once visited Amma and who claimed to predict events very accurately was if there would be a day when hunger is totally wiped out. Sitting in her 2nd floor room, she once shed tears when one of those serving food in the ground floor had driven away one of the persons about to have his food sitting in the line along with others. She later in the evening summoned the person to her room and reprimanded him for his ignorant and unkindly act.
Thus Amma considered Annapurnalayam closer to her heart and even as her heart itself. She wanted this Annapurnalayam to remain an ever throbbing heart feeding and satiating the hunger of teeming millions of her children.