2 days before the 2014 new eve, we are in a mood for celebration. Precisely Amritanandamayi's 50th birthday was celebrated 10 years ago, in 2003 and yet the whole world still remembers this incredible event. Join us for a backstage tour.
First of all, how to reach the place of the celebration? Don't worry the transportation has been planned :
"the Ashram established a fleet of about 2,500 buses in order to bring in devotees from neighbouring districts and states"
2500, that's a lot. How much does it cost to rent a bus for several days in India?
There we are, at the right place, at the right moment, where can we drop our luggage? Easy. The ashram has planned the accommodation as well :
"All lodges and hotels located within 12 square kilometres of Cochin were booked by the Ashram several months in advance of Amritavarsham50"
"Devotees were able to specify ahead of time the quality of lodgings they required, with everything from mats to five-star accommodations available"
Locating all accommodations? Even the 5-star ones? Incredible. Does it means that the ashram subletted the accommodations to the devotees? Does it mean that the devotees had no choice and couldn't plan their trip independantly from the ashram? That's a convenient way to spot the richest followers.
Let the party begin! It is held in a stadium which underwent a complete lifting :
"The Ashram literally transformed the stadium, even erecting a facade of the Amritapuri Ashram temple at its entrance."Yes, this facade is impressive. How tall and how wide? So much work and material just for 3 days? Such a theatrical setting cannot be stored to be reused 10 years later. This scene makes the event look like a huge rock n' roll show.
Well, in fact rock n' roll is not as far as we may think :
"In order to outfit the Amritavarsham50 stadium with adequate sound and video, the Ashram located a system that had last been used for the legendary hard-rock group Deep Purple. The total output: 80,000 watts."
"It was used for a concert of Deep Purple in Bangalore some months ago, and it comes from the U.S. It is a system worth 50 million rupees, but we rent it cheaply for Amma."It sounds expensive but it's just $800,000 and by the way Amritanandamayi has been granted a discount.
Now that the party is going on you surely want to text your friend and share some photos with them. No panic. The ashram provides you with communication facilities :
"the Ashram set up a Media-IT Hub, a temporary building located next to the stadium, to service the press, media and the Ashram web team"But you'll have to be patient if you want to access this Media-IT Hub for it is overbooked by Amritanandamayi's PR team :
"A dedicated web team of 60 people, comprising reporters, feature writers, photographers, videographers and specialist writers covered every event, ’round the clock. Some of the writers—all of whom were devotees—had professional experience.
News reports, features and photographs of Amritavarsham50 events were uploaded every half hour on the Amritavarsham50 website. The main functions of the Celebrations were webcast live, along with interviews of VIPs from various fields and continents."This narrative report reminds us of Amritanandamayi's own words :
"Amma needs no propaganda. Does the ever-radiant Truth need any propaganda? Those who have purity of heart and thirst for God will seek Amma and reach Her."So don't forget that in addition to a pure heart and a thirst for God, you also need a computer, a smartphone or a touchpad to seek and reach the ever-radiant Truth.
Every year Amritanandamayi reminds us that she doesn't care about her birthday, that it's just an occasion to celebrate world peace. Does world peace really need so much staging, expenditures, frenzy and environmental pollution? Where did the money come from to afford for such an event? From the charities donations? From the various businesses? Did the profits from the sublettings and the stores in the stadium cover or exceed the expenses?
Amritanandamayi has celebrated her 60th birhday this year. This time, the PR team remained more modest and sober regarding the communication, focusing on the celebration (and the celebrities) instead of the upsetting logistics.
Maybe we are nasty. She organizes such overawing celebrations because she has so much to bring to the world. Indeed, Amritanandamayi, who reminds us that she is not a feminist, gave important advices, 2 days before the 2003 celebration, in order to re-establish harmony between men and women :
"Women too should pay attention to certain matters. Today, many Indian women wear trousers and jeans. There is nothing wrong with that. But they should not lose their values ... Sorrows will not end by choosing to dress as one likes or by choosing to be with the man that one prefers all in the name of freedom"