Home >> Cover Story
MOTHER TO THE AVATHAR - MOTHER TO THE WORLD
The enlightening life of Divine Mother Easwaramma
For decades now, on May 6 every year, Sai devotees across India and the world pay tribute to the Divine Mother Easwaramma. To mark this day hundreds and thousands of Balvikas students, Sai Youth and Volunteers undertake special service initiatives to reach out to the poor and distressed in every corner of the globe.
What entitled the Chosen Mother of the Lord to such acclaim and respect? Even now, almost four decades after May 6, 1972, the day she shed her mortal coil, why do thousands straddling across countries and continents out of encompassing reverence for her, dedicate a day in her memory, in sacred celebrations and service activities?
In this H2H cover story on Mother Easwaramma, we offer you glimpses of this stellar soul whose legacy and glory will inspire generations to come. It is supplemented with the reminisciences of Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath, a long serving devotee of Bhagawan Baba who has had the privilege of interacting and watching the Mother at close quarters for several years.
This elevating tale is a peek into the life and times of One who was chosen to bear a Son destined to be a Teacher to the World.
PART - 1
"I resolved on My birth. I decided who should be My mother!"
This is what Bhagawan declared in a discourse, describing His Advent on earth. What a blessing and privilege it is to be the Chosen Mother of the Lord! Yet it came with a monumental measure of responsibility. Indeed, Mother Easwaramma’s life was replete with challenges and lessons.
Her biggest and enduring difficulty was that of acceptance – of the celestial nature of her 'little boy' who came into her life with a big master plan. Often, she was torn between her maternal instinct to protect and nurture her darling Sathya and the inevitable need to let go when Bhagawan declared His mission.
Eventually, she accepted His divinity and became His devotee for life, receiving His benedictions; yet, in her role as the Mother, she spurred His compassion for mankind into tangible acts of philanthropy. In retrospect, few women have influenced the destiny of this planet as silently and as significantly as this great Mother did.
Mother Easwaramma was born Namagiriamma. Modest, humble and pure, she was ordained for the rarest of honours – to be in the league of the likes of Kaushalya, Devaki, Yashodha, and Mother Mary. When she married Pedda Venkama Raju at the young age of fourteen, her father-in-law Sri Kondama Raju asked that she change her name to Easwaramma.
In the divine discourse on the occasion of His 81st Birthday, Bhagawan fondly recalled:
“Easwaramma was not the name given to the mother of this body at the time of her birth. She was named so by Kondama Raju, the grandfather of this body. He was a noble soul who had realised My Divinity even when I was a child. Realising that she was to be the mother of Easwara (the Lord), he changed her name to Easwaramma. She was not an ordinary woman; Easwaramma was a great soul who was adored and admired by one and all. Wherever she went, people greeted her with great love.”
Thus, long before Bhagawan was born, Namagiriamma was rechristened Easwaramma, meaning, the Mother of Easwara, or God.
The First Miracle
The Mother was ready, the stage was set. The Lord only had to make His celestial entry. As Mother Easwaramma was to reveal: “The mother-in-law had dreamt of Sathyanarayana Deva and she cautioned me that I should not be frightened if something happens to me through the will of God. That morning when I was at the well drawing water, a big ball of blue light came rolling towards me and I fainted and fell. I felt it glide into me.”
My Birth was not a Prasava (normal labour) but a Pravesa (an Entrance), Baba has revealed;
He was conceived when a blue ball of light entered into the Divine Mother.
23rd November 1926. It was Somavaara (Monday); the holy day dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the early hours of the morning, the Chosen Mother partook of the prasad (consecrated food) given to her by her mother-in-law after the hour-long Sathyanarayana Puja. And lo! The sacred moment had arrived for the Cosmic Advent. The Lord was born in the pious household of Sri Kondama Raju.
Sathya’s Attitude Baffles Mother Easwaramma
Christened Sathyanarayana; the cherubic newborn was Mother Easwaramma’s delight. She looked after her child with love and care, and lavished all her attention on Him. With His bewitching smile and captivating demeanour, little Sathya soon grew up to be the cynosure of all eyes.
His prodigious talent for music, dance and poetry would have done any mother proud. But Mother Easwaramma was worried. For, everything about her little boy was so unusual.
Sathya was mitha bhaashi and mitha aahaari (one who spoke little and ate little). Easwaramma was mystified by the strange behaviour of her son. Usually children are fond of eating. But her son was totally averse to food, especially non-vegetarian fare. He would not even visit the houses where non-vegetarian food was cooked.
His indifferent-to-the-world attitude extended not only to food but to clothes as well. Whenever clothes for the family were brought from Hindupur or Anantapur, little Sathya always sat aloof until the other children had taken their pick and then accepted whatever was left behind. In vain would the Mother try to get Him to confide His choice to her, but of no avail! His only response would be: “I do not need anything. Whatever you give Me, I will accept. That is enough for Me.”
Years later the Mother would recount:
“This was something I could not understand. What made Him so deeply sober and serious? At last I began to wonder whether the label Brahmajnani [a realized soul] the village elders had stuck on Him and which I had thought was a mockery was indeed a tribute after all.”
The poor mother could only wring her hands in despair, as the visitations of withdrawal in her Son became increasingly frequent. Anguish renting her heart, she watched the slow but sure transformation of her little Sathya to a little-known Sai Baba.
Bhagawan captured His Mother’s conundrum, when He once narrated a poignant incident from His childhood:
“When this body was twelve years old, I was in Subbamma’s house. I asked her to stitch a long gown for Me. She did not like it. She said, ‘Why do you want to wear a gown? You can wear dhoti.’ I replied, ‘No, time has come to do it.’ She obeyed Swami’s command and stitched a gown for Me. It cost two annas at that time. When I put on this dress, she asked Easwaramma to come to her house to see Me. She came, saw Me, and started shedding tears saying, ‘Swami, did you call me here for seeing this form of Yours?’ I told her, ‘Don’t grieve; I am setting an ideal for the whole world. When one wears the ochre robes, one’s evil desires will vanish.’”
Mother Easwaramma was shocked and sad when Swami donned the ochre robe
stitched for Him by Subbamma for the first time.
Being a mother to such a Unique Child proved to be a baffling experience for Easwaramma – one she would have to grapple with for decades to come.
Despite her son’s growing fame and stature as God, the mother in Easwaramma only saw the ‘little Sathya’ in Sai.
Baba’s Eating Habits – A Constant Concern for the Mother
Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath, who has had the opportunity of watching the Mother at close quarters for many years, recalls how Baba’s eating habits were always a subject of concern for the Mother:
Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath
“I have had the privilege of visiting the little house of Bhagawan Baba in the village and seeing Mother Easwaramma there. Once Baba constructed the ‘Old Mandir’, He asked the Mother too to come and stay there along with Him. The most wonderful thing was that the Mother would always be near Swami and would diligently see to it that He ate well because Swami was always a small eater; He never bothered about His food.
"So whenever Swami turned to His left or right in the process of a conversation, the Mother would quietly serve some food on His plate, and then Swami would look at her mischievously. That was a wonderful sight to see.
“Perhaps, the Mother knew it more than the others did that Swami was God, but at the same time she never forgot that He was her beloved son. That was the most bewitching part of their relationship. Baba would always talk to her lovingly and, at times, even tease her and she would laugh; those were her moments of happiness. But there were times when she was extremely concerned about Bhagawan, especially about Swami’s spartan eating habits.”
In fact, Mother Easwaramma would bring Swami’s food all the way from the village and personally serve it to Him. Even when Bhagawan travelled somewhere, the Mother would oversee the preparation of the menu for Swami in the host’s kitchen. Perhaps, her Sathya would eat a few more spoonfuls if He was served Andhra cuisine, or better still, authentic Rayalaseema, the region to which Puttaparthi belonged; so she believed.
Once, when Bhagawan was at Jamnagar with the Rajmatha (Queen) of Nawanagar (in Gujarat), the Mother worried that Swami may not do justice to His food as He was unaccustomed to Gujarathi dishes. She therefore smuggled herself into the palace kitchen to prepare a little chaaru – a soup based on boiled pulses – so that Bhagawan could have some food of His liking. Such was her complete concern for her Divine Son, a concern that extended to every detail of His life.
The Trip to Africa and the Mother’s Worst Fears
Another subject which troubled the Mother immensely was Bhagawan’s frequent travel. Baba was giving Himself so freely to seekers across India, and she was always apprehensive of Him leaving Puttaparthi even if it was for only a day to a nearby city or town. So when in 1968 she heard that Swami planned a trip to East Africa with a group of devotees, the Mother was aghast.
Africa maybe under developed but for Swami this continent
is special; His Love for them is exceptional.
Africa! Where danger lurked at every step and cannibals vied with wild beasts for the taste of human blood! This was the prevailing impression of the continent way back in the 70s. So one can well imagine Mother Easwaramma’s distress who feared that Swami would be in mortal danger if He went there! She resolved to have the trip cancelled and expressed her reservations to anyone she could. It frustrated her a good deal when she realized no one was taking her misgivings seriously.
At one point, she sought out a senior devotee and conveyed her worst fears to him. This devotee said, “Mother, it is true that there are many dangers in Africa. But how can they affect Swami? He is God, is He not?” Hearing this Mother Easwaramma lost her patience and snapped back, “You fool! I know Swami is God and you know He is God. But do those savages and wild animals in Africa know He is God?”
Such was her childish yet innocent love for Swami, which many a times deluged her awareness of His divinity. Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath recalled this incident for us as her father Late Sri Vittal Rao was among the devotees whom the Mother had initially sought help from. She said:
“Baba’s trip to Africa was decided and all those who were concerned with it made all the appropriate arrangements. Mother Easwaramma came to my father and said, ‘Emi Vittal Rao, meeru andaru Swamini adaviki pampischesthunaare … Voddu, voddu! Akkada pedda pedda yenugulu unnayata, pulilu unnayata, chiratalu unnayata… Akkada unde manushulu nallaga peddaga manushulne tinestaaru ata. Ma Swami inteey unnaaru. Meeru cheppandi Swamiki. Swami akkada vellakodadu. Ma Swami yelaaga atla untaadu? Voddu babu, meeru Swamiki cheppali...”
[Mr. Vittal Rao, what is it that I am hearing? You are all sending Swami to the jungles of Africa! Please do not do this!….they say that place is full of huge elephants, tigers, leopards… it seems the people there are tall and menacing like cannibals who can devour other human beings… see our Swami, He is so tiny… you all must tell Swami not to go there… how can our Swami manage there? Please…. you must beseech Swami not to make this trip…please.]
Swami with African devotees on His only foreign visit, 1968.
"She was almost weeping.
“When Swami would hear this, He would just smile, that is all. But Swami did go to Africa and it was a grand trip. All the people there revered Swami and how He loved and treated them!
“And it was only to Africa that Mother did not accompany Swami. Otherwise, Swami solicitously took the Mother everywhere in His own car. Sometimes, if she was not in Swami’s car, she would definitely be in the vehicle that would follow His car.”
The Challenge of Being a Mother and a Devotee
For Mother Easwaramma, to witness her son Sathya grow into a Divine Master, adored and hailed as an Avatar by people twice or thrice His earthly age, was a complex journey.
During those distressful moments, she vacillated between being a mother and a devotee. Clearly the transition from a doting mother to an adoring devotee was difficult.
Early in life, Sathya declared His life plans. He was here on a mission. His devotees were waiting for Him. This strange talk was a far cry from the dream of His parents; that He gets an education and seeks a top job in the government, bringing financial security and social respectability to the family.
Despite declaring her as maya or illusion, the young Sathya was always conscious of His responsibility to play every role in life to perfection, for millions would look up to Him as a role model. Hence, He continued to confer the respect, concern and love on the Mother as an ideal son should, and the Mother on her part let her son pursue His mission, despite all her misgivings about His welfare or safety.
But it wasn’t easy. Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath recalled Easwaramma’s inner struggle to reconcile His divinity with her maternal instincts as she beautifully described the Birthday celebrations of yesteryears:
“…the birthday celebrations of Bhagawan were conducted in a wonderful way in the Old Mandir with all the festoons and decorations. The altar would be bedecked beautifully, illuminated by the huge lamps. Baba would be taken in a procession around the village. The villagers would stop the palanquin, offer their prostrations to Swami and give flowers to Him.
"And Baba would bless them with so much love. When the palanquin was gently brought to rest, Swami would get up and just shake His Kaphni (Robe). Lo! Plentitude of Vibhuti would be scattered all around. At these moments we would feel that our Baba looked so divine, so out of reach. And we lost ourselves in that wonderful darshan of our young Swami with His flock of hair and a wonderful beaming divine face…”
“But what did the Mother do? She did not go with the procession. Instead, she would sit in the Mandir and sob. There were many elderly ladies there who would ask, 'Why amma, why? Your son has become God. Why do you weep?'
"And she would say, 'Amma, He is no more my son. He is God'.
“And that would hurt her. Had Baba remained only a son, she could’ve fondled Him and spoken to Him in whichever way she liked. But now, she always felt – ‘No, I cannot take that sort of an advantage. My Son has become God.’ That was what she felt all the time.
“And Baba would come to her and say, ‘Enduku edusthaavu? Edavoddu. Edavakodadu (Why are you crying? Don’t cry. You shouldn’t cry).’ He would be so kind to her and would give her prasadam. And the day would pass like that. Well, the Mother would wipe her tears. What else could she do? That her son has become God was one of the greatest truths one could ever erase out of the mind of anyone. So the mother eventually accepted it.”
Soon, the Sai mission grew. People from distant lands and different backgrounds came to behold her dearest son. They treated Him with reverence and sought so much from Him. She felt concerned for His well-being. But to her credit, the simple lady embraced all as her own. It was not easy. With each passing year, Baba’s time was increasingly taken up by His devotees; and Easwaramma strained to retain whatever contact she could with Swami.
Sometimes, the rumour mill around the village got to her. People spread strange and unpleasant stories about her son. She felt concerned. Often, she would come rushing to Him and pour her torrent of protests at the things He was doing like proposing the construction of the current Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir which was then a rough patch on the outskirts of the village.
At such times, Swami would only smile, and then assure her, “Why do you bother with peoples’ talk? There will be no jungle and no snakes when I go there. There will be hundreds of pilgrims pouring in every day – and that place will become a Shirdi, a Tirupati, and a Kasi.”
This is how the Prasanthi Nilayam mandir was in 1950s. Today it is the magnificent Sai Kulwant Hall.
Easwaramma learned quickly to stay open to her son’s ideas which were totally new to the local population. He promoted oneness, foretold of a future when the world would converge at their village, which till then did not even have a road connecting it to the next town.
A wonderful quality of the Mother was this - Great love and concern for her Divine Son and the same concern for all the devotees. Aggrieved people came to her young son seeking solace. Their sorrow pained her deeply. Mother Easwaramma had a soft heart especially towards women who were widowed by fate and ostracized by society as if their misfortune was infectious. She also sought out young women deserted by their husbands and left alone and helpless. She was always there for the devotees, and tried hard to get them to meet her son, for she knew they would find solace in Him, even if she wasn’t sure why or how. Many a times, she would put in a good word for them.
The Divine Mother (to the left of Swami) was as concerned about the devotees as she was for her beloved Son
Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath elucidates:
“Mother Easwaramma had no airs about her whatsoever. She never felt that her being the mother of God; people should fall at her feet and pay homage. She was as simple as a child, and was very loving and concerned about all the devotees. Whosoever came to her, she would talk to them with such love. If she found a devotee crying, she would readily console and comfort.
“If ever she took any liberty of her accessibility to Swami, it was for the sake of some distressed and disconsolate soul. For them, she would go out of the way to plead with Baba, 'Swami, this family is in such a predicament. Swami, please talk to them.'
"If any devotee was unwell, she would go to Swami at once and tell Him, 'Swami, that lady is sick, please, Swami, give her some Vibhuti.' Her whole life depended upon this – that all the devotees, everybody, should be happy, well and secure at the feet of Bhagawan. And this, in turn, would make her immensely satisfied.
“Ingrained in her was the sense of love and charity. She would help women who found it difficult to make both ends meet, and would even bring them sarees. Any sort of suffering, physical, financial or otherwise, would melt her heart. And if, per chance, Swami was preoccupied, the wonderful Mother would go behind Him until He had responded to her petition and pleas.
"He would then come with her among the devotees and she would show Him – ‘Swami, this one; Swami, that person’ and Baba would undoubtedly help them. But it was Mother who, with her selfless recommendations, demanded solace and solutions for one and all. Swami, in turn, would have a benign smile on His face. Simply to witness the relationship between Mother and Son was an indelible experience.”
- Bishu Prusty
Dear Reader, did this article help you in anyway? Please share your feelings with us by writing to [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.