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Atmananda: An Austrian woman who became a devoted Hindu sadhvi

Atmananda had a profound effect of Anandamayi Ma’s teaching in her life

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Ghats in Varanasi. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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  • Atmananda was a 29-year-old Austrian woman who came to India in 1935 and never looked back
  • Fascinated with Jiddu Krishnamurthi even as a teenager, she taught English in a school for 18 years in Varanasi
  • Her diaries are published with a title ‘Death Must Die’

It is not a fact unknown that Indian culture and religion has inspired many westerners to visit the country in their quest of spiritual inspiration from times immemorial. However, settling and adopting the culture as its own is a rare case and a little too heart-warming. One such story is that of Atmananda.

Atmananda was a 29-year-old Austrian woman when she came to India in 1935 and never looked back from then. Blanca, as she was known in her youth in Vienna started this journey because of Jiddu Krishnamurthi but was later fascinated with Anandamayi Ma and became her disciple.

She made the country her home for 50 years and lived in Dehradun in the surroundings of Anandmayi Ma till she died.

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She made a small cottage her nest and had khichdi (made of pulses and rice) for most of the meals. She had her head shaven and wore a saffron cotton sari, symbolic of her denouncement of the world.

Talking about Atmananda, Maria Wirth in Chakranews.com said, “In spite of her age, Atmananda was aware, interested, open minded and knew for each topic an appropriate comment by Anandamayi Ma or other sages like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda or Ramana Maharshi.”

Fascinated with Jiddu Krishnamurthi even as a teenager, Atmananda taught English in a school for 18 years in Varanasi.

Apart from teaching, she also gave piano concerts to All India Radio (AIR).

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Atmananda had a profound influence of Anandamayi Ma’s teaching in her life. She came in contact with her because of Lewis Thompson, an Englishmen in 1945.

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Recalling her first meeting with Anandmayi Ma, she said, “Ma said only a few sentences, actually nothing new, and yet – the effect was out of proportion. It was as if someone had switched on light and I suddenly clearly saw the path. I was confident that I would always see the next step before me. My thoughts had not stopped to wander, but worries had stopped.”

Atmananda was also proficient in many languages. After her mother died, her  father  employed teachers in his upper middle class home to teach her daughters many languages.

In India, Atmananda further learnt Hindi and Bengali. She also maintained a diary about the conversation in the ashram and published them in the monthly magazine.

She later handed the diaries to Ram Alexander, who she thought was Lewis Thompson reborn. Alexander later got them published under the title ‘Death Must Die.’

Soon after the death of Anandmayi Ma, Atmananda also fell sick. When she was taken to Haridwar for better care a friend told her “You will be back soon”. To which Atmananda replied, “I go now and won’t come back.”

Three days hence she passed away and her body was immersed in Ganga (a holy river) – a privilege exclusive to Sanyasis.

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  • AJ Krish

    Great minds are always inclined to spiritual understanding. They train under a Guru to reach higher grounds and attain salvation. Sages are practitioners, the scientists whose lab is the world.

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