1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Viswajanani


D T S Sastry
Magazine : Viswajanani
Language : English
Volume Number : 15
Month : December
Issue Number : 5
Year : 2015

Once a stranger who visited Jillellamudi for the first time to have Amma’s darshan was asked by Amma, “have food and come dear! (Annam thini raa nanna! in Telugu)”. He wondered where to have food and enquired with those who were present there. They told him to go to Annapunalayam (the dining hall) on the ground floor.

Then on another occasion Amma asked another person to go and have food. He replied that he already had food before coming to Jillellamudi. But Amma insisted that he should have it in Annapurna layam as ‘Prasadam’.

“Have food and come dear!” (Annam thini raa nanna) is the usual refrain that one hears from Amma whenever people talk about Amma and Jillellamudi.

‘But why Annapurnalayam and what is the significance of having food there,’ the curious visitor would naturally like to know. He added that the word ‘Devalayam’ – is used for a temple or temples for different deities but-Annapurnalaym!!

Well, there lies the specialty of this place and the significance of Annapurnalayam. Amma as the Mother of all attaches great significance to Annapurnalayam not only because it satiates the hunger of her children but also because she showers her grace through the ‘Prasadam’. Usually the word ‘Alayam’ – is used for the place (temple) where the idols of different deities are worshiped. But Amma bestows the status of ‘Alayam’ to the dining hall where the deity Annapurna – symbol of the food is worshiped.

The gross food that we receive in Annapurna layam is an external gesture leading to the deeper concept of divine grace that Amma showers on us all.

So, being the Mother of all, Amma out of her infinite love and compassion for her children established Annapurnalayam, thereby fulfilling the need satiating both the physical as well as spiritual hunger.

We come to know that it all started as a seed in Amma’s mind – a childhood dream – nay, an early blueprint of a divine design after having witnessed in Bapatla a group of beggars gathering in a choultry and sharing the food collected by them individually. The sight of this incident attracted young Amma who felt that it would be nice if people (Children) of all classes, castes and creed collect at one place sharing their food unmindful of their individual status and so she wanted to establish a free shelter for all to provide such a facility.

Then her dream project or design started taking shape in a small way after her marriage to her paternal aunt’s son Sri. Brahmadam Nageswara Rao garu, (Nannagaru) and their entry into the village Jillellamudi in 1941 with Nannagaru taking up the job of Village officer (Karanam). During the early years of their life in Jillellamudi Amma used to cook the food and serve it herself to those who happened to visit their house. 

A small group of visitors comprising of Dr. Naraparaju Sreedhara Rao, Sriharsha Rao, Rajupalem Ramachandra Rao etc. of Chirala the boyhood friends of Nannagaru used to visit Jillellamudi during weekends in 1956 with the main purpose of meeting him. But the brief conversations they had with Amma during their first visit made a deep impression on them for her unusual clarity of thought on matters spiritual and thus had drawn them towards her leading to their subsequent visits. More amazing was the fact that she prepared food for all of them even as she spent time with them in conversation. They wondered as to how she could prepare food for so many of them who made their visit without notice and that too while engaging herself in conversation with them!

Gradually the number of visitors started growing and the group of people from Chirala felt it would not be fair on their part to cause a burden to Nannagaru who had a meager income as Village Karanam. So they all decided to raise funds through contribution among themselves and start a separate kitchen engaging a cook to prepare and serve food to all those who visited the place.

Thus, on the 15th. August 1958 an independent kitchen was established which was christened ‘Annapurnalayam’ by Amma. The running and maintenance of Annapurnalayam was the responsibility of the devotee children of Amma.

Since its inception it started growing with the ever increasing number of visitors to the place. The early seed in the mind of Amma’s childhood days has not only taken physical shape but also has grown into large dimensions over the years in terms of feeding thousands of her children.

Again true to Amma’s vision the food is served irrespective of the time of the day or night with no discrimination of caste, class, creed or religion, the criteria being hunger.

Wondering about  the free feeding (Anna daanam) being done in Jillellamudi. One of the curious visitors asked Amma “How do you manage to feed so many people (Anna daanam). Amma smiled and said, do you call it Anna daanam when a mother feeds her own children? They eat here because their food is here. Otherwise they cannot have their meal here even if you insist.”

The most important aspect of Amma’s infinite love and compassion for her children is her deep concern for their hunger and true to her motherly affection yearns to satisfy it. Few instances during early years demonstrating her concern to which I was a witness are worth recalling here. Once a group of people sat in the hall where Amma was giving darshan in the afternoon. A gentleman who also came for darshan sat quietly in the rear rows watching Amma, apparently praying to her. As she ended her conversation with the other group of people sitting close to her, she picked up that gentleman in the rear and asked him “have you had your meal dear! (Bhojanam chesava nanna!) Surprised at this question, the gentleman replied “No, Amma! In fact I did not have food for the past three days” Then immediately Amma asked one of the brothers there to take him to Annapurnalayam and serve him with food.

On another occasion as food was being served in the dining hall to a large number of people, one of the brothers who was serving food asked one of those sitting in the line to get up and go away, thus depriving him of the food. It was a general practice for the villagers to send their guests or visitors or who would come on their personal work in the village to send them to Annapurnalayam for a meal. But later in the evening Amma summoned the man who was serving the food and chided him for what he had done saying with a tone of pain in her voice “do you know the pangs of hunger? You people think I do not know the happenings in the ground floor because I sit here in a room on the second floor away from all of you. Don’t do this again nanna!”

She was also equally concerned about the way we treat the food while serving as well as eating it. She used to remark that we do not know the value of food as we get it without any effort but there are millions of them without food. She used to say that we should not waste food and not leave even a grain while eating. Accordingly the cook Sri Seshaiah garu during late 60’s and early 70’s used to give strict instructions to those serving food and show as to how each item was to be served.

Some interesting incidents relating to the running of Annapurnalayam as well as Amma’s playful ways are worth narrating here.

During the  early 60’s when Amma stayed in the hut, on a particular day there were not many visitors in Jillellamudi. But Seshaiah garu the cook prepared the food as per his usual estimate. Worried about the possible wastage of food in case none turned up, he came to Amma and expressed his apprehension. Smiling at this Amma playfully whistled looking through the window. In a short while two tourist buses arrived bringing a number of people to the great joy of Seshaiah garu.

On yet another occasion Seshaiah garu who was over-confident of his capabilities prepared the usual quantity of food for a moderate number of visitors. But suddenly during lunch time, around 12.30 or 1.0 pm busloads of people arrived for Amma’s darshan. Caught unawares by this sudden influx of large numbers of visitors he came running to Amma and prayed to her to visit the kitchen once, reporting about the situation. With a graceful smile, Amma followed him to the kitchen where she picked up a few grains of cooked rice from the heap that was kept ready there and then asked them to serve. After offering Harathi to Amma, with no hesitation in his mind and with restored confidence Seshaiah garu instructed those waiting there to serve the food. Much to his relief the food was enough and to spare to all those who might come later.

Running the Annapurnalayam has always been a struggle as it is dependent on the donations received from the devotees specifically meant for it. An incident took place during the early visits of Sri Menakuri Sundararami Reddy, a rich landlord of Vidavalur near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. One day there was a shortage of rice in Annapurna layam. As Bapatla was 7 miles away from Jillellamudi it would take some time to procure rice. So, everyone in Annapurnalayam was very worried and tense. But suddenly a bullock cart loaded with rice bags arrived as if from nowhere. The bullock cart driver said that the bags were sent by Reddy garu (that day Reddy garu was not in Jillellamudi). To everyone’s joy and relief the problem was thus tided over. The next day when Reddy garu returned to Jillellamudi everyone was praising him for the timely help. Perplexed by the compliments paid and the confusion caused, Reddy garu asked Amma for a clarification for he did not send any bags of rice. “What is there dear? Whoever had sent it the purpose is served”.

The politicians who were eloquent from the platforms about a classless society and social reform have never implemented those ideals in actuality. But Amma’s actions were very eloquent and she without any fuss or propaganda paved and established the way to a class – less and loving society by treating one and all as her children. Sri Veeramachaneni Prasad Rao, a Marxist MP then living Hyderabad happened to visit Jillellamudi at the insistence of one of his comrades (Communist) in Tenali, he was taken by surprise and was deeply impressed to witness the kind of social revolution taking place, the one what they (the Marxists) have hitherto been advocating through their speeches. From then onwards he who never visited any religious place earlier started visiting jillellamudi regularly. As he was a scholar in Sanskrit and Vedantic texts used to have discussions with Amma. He turned a staunch supporter of the activities in Jillellamudi.

When people asked Amma for a message she would always say “eat your fill and share it with others wholeheartedly”. Annapurnalayam is to be found not only in Jillellamudi but let every home be house of all and an Annapurnalayam. If this concept advocated by Amma is practiced by one and all will it not then be a universal family!! (Vasudhaika Kutumbam).

Attribution Policy : In case you wish to make use of any of the materials in some publication or website, we ask only that you include somewhere a statement like ” This digital material was made available by courtesy of Matrusri Digital Centre, Jillellamudi”.

error: Content is protected !!