Backwaters and Amma’s Ashram (Kerala, India)
We had the nice plan to drive with this state ferry from Kollam to Amma’s Ashram, which is normally only about 150Rs cost. In the morning we start extra early from Varkala , but in Kollam we seem to have bad luck: either a strike or the ferry is broken, who knows. But there are quickly a few private boats who like to take us to Amritapui, of course for more than twice as the money. Well, that’s luck now for us, we don’t say no. Let’s go to the Backwaters in the direction of Alleppy. The ride is very nice, some channels are totally contaminated with trash but it is fun to watch the fishermen and see the palm trees and houses on the sides. Practically, the ferry stops right at the bridge to the ashram, it is worthwhile to make at least one of the ways by boat. The resort is located between Backwater and the beach and not only in the first moments it looks bombastic, it’s like a small town. But very colorful with many nice people.
I am traveling with my mother and registered online at the Ashram in the hope that we will get a double room. It worked, we are given a simple room, with two mattresses and private bathroom, all we need. Per night we pay 150RS, which includes even the meals. But you can buy a bit of western luxury in several restaurants, juice bar or cafés..
In the beginning, we are a bit lost on the huge terrain, but there is a daily guided tour and after that we slowly understand. We spend most of our time taking part in the daily routine, we just join whenever we feel like: early in the morning they chant the 1000 names of the holy mother at 4:50, we make it only at 5:30. The meditative singing takes us then fast and remains in the head all day. Afterwards there is hot chai for all, for some 3000 people huge pots of tea are carted. During the day, Amma spent all day hugging, the crowd is singing or just watching. The waiting line was quite long, so we took the opportunity to sit near her on the stage and renounce the hug. We are thinking a lot about the person Amma, it is already touching how she receives a large Indian family after another and shares her time with them. In the afternoon, we did our karma yoga (selfless work) and spent hours with nice people cutting vegetables.
In the morning after the tea, you can walk to the beach and meditate, on some days you can still watch the fishermen, which are rather nocturnal. We often treat ourselves here and there a juice and the food from the Indian and from the Western restaurant, everything not expensive and super delicious. In the afternoon, Amma’s elephants often pass by and are then spoiled by the guests with fruit. Although this Ashram is so huge, you can get to know people when doing your karma yoga and somehow it all distributes quite well.
Since there are so many people, there are hardly strict rules or presence requirements, one can simply drift. Even if Amma is not there, there are many courses, workshops, retreats, silence seminars, you can spend wonderful relaxing days here! I would totally like to come back.