Thousands wait for hours to meet 'hugging saint'

Thousands of people waited patiently for up to six-hours today simply to receive a warm embrace from an Indian spiritual leader known as the ’hugging saint’.

Thousands of people waited patiently for up to six-hours today simply to receive a warm embrace from an Indian spiritual leader known as the ’hugging saint’.

On her first visit to Ireland, Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma (Mother), is expected to inspire over 12,000 people with a hug.

The 51-year-old has spanned continents passing on her message of selfless love and compassion to over 23 million people from all races, religions and colours around the world.

“Amma passes a message of love and cmpassion through the hugs,” the minute figure said as she leaned in to embrace one of the many Irish people kneeling before her in the vast hall in Dublin’s RDS venue.

Amma, who began spreading her message as young girl in a poor fishing village in Kerala in India, said she was trying to awaken the “motherhood” in both men and women.

The continuous line of men, women and children shuffled slowly forwards in pairs on their knees towards the Indian woman, who was dressed all in white.

Some carried a customary Indian offering of a flower, with others carrying apples.

A vast charity network has sprung up around Amma and her devoted followers. One of the organisers of the Amma Ireland event said every penny of the money gathered from the bracelets, books, DVDs, clothing and offerings sold in the hall went to various charity work.

Yvonne O’Gorman, who was on the organising committee for Amma Ireland, said: “People arrived on buses from the North, Mullingar, from all over the country. They came from all over the world as well, from Australia, America and Europe. They came as she is here.”

Margaret Carroll from Shankhill in Dublin, who was there with her daughter Tara, said she had came as believing it would be a peaceful experience.

“What struck me was the beautiful smell when she hugged me. I felt very light and very serene,” she said.

Moya, from Cork, who did not want to give her surname, said: “It felt like a almost a pulsating feeling.

"There was a very beautiful distinctive smell. She was chanting a mantra.”

Anna Colley, 65, from Dublin, who was waiting patiently for her hug, said she saw a leaflet for the event and found it fascinating.

She added: “I feel warm just being here.” Some people had tears in their eyes. Some openly wept as they moved away from Amma after she embraced them and whispered blessings in their ears.

As Amma embraced another tearful soul, she said: “Amma’s hope is that each person will become well-rooted in their own religion and faith and more expansive.

As love and compassion are the basic principle of all religion.” The Indian spiritual light said: “When people come me seeking guidance or advice I actually give them advice depending on their faith.”

After a short meditation in the RDS Hall, Amma sat from 10am yestercay until 4am this morning. The continuous trickle of followers began flowing into the hall around 10am again today.

Amma has been known to sit for up to 20 hours and hug up to 30,000 people in one day.

In October 2002, Amma was presented with the Ghandi-King Award for Non-Violence by the late Sergio De Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with previous winners including Nelson Mandela.

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