Mataji - Celebrating Mother as a cosmic principle of love and protection is the significance of this simple address which has deep roots in Indian culture. Mataji is all-embracing love and protection of all creatures that are as close as one’s own. Mataji means strength, the strength of tenderness, the power of simple life originating from gentleness and harmlessness. She also means security, caresses, smiles and peace. The Indian culture celebrates mother as the giver of life. The position of a mother in the family is qualified as the highest award that a woman can achieve. The word Mataji for a woman in general, mother, expresses this highest respect.
Jagat Mataji Sadhvi Swami Punyanand Bharti Ji, or Phuldevi by birth name, was born in the village of Nipal, nearly 100 years ago. Nipal was also the birthplace and a childhood memory of our beloved Sat Guru Hindu Dharm Samrat Paramhans Shri Swami Madhavanandaji whom we remember as Holy Guruji. Some excerpts and references to Mataji, Guruji’s sister, can be found in His holy book Lila Amrit. Mataji spent most of Her life in the village Rupavas, where She brought up five children. Her life was simple and pure. She worshiped God Shiva and taught love and humility to Her children. After losing Her husband, She took care that they got everything they needed.
The biography of our beloved Gurudeva, Paramhans Swami Maheswaranandaji, as Her youngest child is also described in the holy book Lila Amrit. She had six children of which two sons and one daughter passed away during Her lifetime. At present time, two of Her daughters are still living and a very large family of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
After fulfilling Her secular duties, Mataji left Her home in Rupavas and found the care and protection in Jadan Ashram. She devoted the rest of Her life to divine Seva. This small and fragile old woman received all that were looking for blessings and comfort at Her feet with love. Her mere presence in the ashram opened the hearts of all, both bhaktas and random arrivals.
She was loved by all Swamiji’s disciples, the school children, the workers from the Om Ashram and the Indian workers living in ashram houses. Her heart was kind and wide. She behaved with the same love towards everyone, Her heart was full of tenderness. Whenever She left Her room, people came to Her for a smile and a kind word. She was surrounded by people everywhere.
Everyday Life in the Ashram
Every morning, Mataji started the day with taking a bath and singing the Arati. In the mornings, She also performed a puja in Shiva Mandir. After that, She joyously sat on the stony stairs with Her mala. At lunchtime, the children from school were attracted to Her as a flock of yellow butterflies. In the evening, on the way to Bhakti Sagar, they pushed over each other and argued who will lead Her on one side and who on the other, who will carry Her pillow for sitting, and who will take Her walking stick.
Mataji loved children. She spoke with them seriously as with adults and She was never angry at anyone.
At each full moon-Purnima-She gave small gifts to scavengers and cleaners. She was talking to the pigeons which flew on the steps of Shiva Mandir. She also stroked the horses, which walked freely through the Ashram at the time of green grass after the monsoons and scrounged treats from Her. Ashram dogs often came to Her bed to greet her. All were beta-mitha for Her, sweet children.
On Her rides in the wheelchair, She liked to stop at the talab gate and threw a handful of Prasad inside. She looked with admiration at the vast areas of water and watched the birds which flew to her.
Mataji also stopped at the second gate leading to the Om Ashram and again blessed the entrance with a dose of Prasad. She also counted how many floors had already been built. Though Her eyes were already weak, She always counted three floors. She also observed the workers who flickered there as ants. When the building was abandoned, She asked where they all were. Mataji watched with pleasure how many Neem trees grow here, in Jadan Ashram.
Mataji regularly participated in all the official celebrations in the Ashram, where a place of honour had been especially reserved for Her. To name a few, India's Independence day celebrations, pujas in Shiva Mandir, or burning of the Holika during the holidays of Holi. She also could not miss pouring libations on Shivalingam during Shivaratri night.
Mataji liked to attend the gosala and feed the cows there. In the last five years that had almost become a rule. On Her lap there was a big bag of chapati as Prasad for gau-mata and a small bag with white beads called Makan. On Purnima days, cows received a special Prasad - Ladu balls.
People from gosala used to meet Mataji with pleasure and greeted Her with great reverence. They came to receive Her darshan and got Prasad with folded hands. She spoke with all of them, as if they were Her own children.
Each cow got one chapati and they stretched their necks in order not to miss them. Mataji used to sit in Gosala under the evening sun, chatting with the milkmen. On the way back, we passed a car with milk which was usually driven by Swami Phulpuriji. He slowed down every time, greeted Mataji and asked how She was doing.
Indian workers, men, women and especially children, were attracted to Mataji wherever She appeared. Residents of the houses often invited Her for tea as well as for food. When parents got a newborn baby, Mataji could not miss the celebration. She always felt very happy in the company of ordinary rural people. The atmosphere around Her was always full of love, understanding and safety. Sitting near Her, you could feel how your heart trembles with happiness.
On the road
From time to time, Mataji left the ashram for a few days to visit Her family and Her house in Rupavas. In summer of 2010, She stayed in Rani ashram for a few weeks and also went to Her native village Nipal.
Meeting up, chatting with old friends and seeing the habits of Her environment had a great effect on her. People drove from afar to meet Her and expressed great respect and interest towards Her. Wherever She was, whether in Rupavas, Nipal or Rani, She sung Arati in the mornings and evenings and repeated Her mantra with mala.
Mataji was very fond of bhajans. We often sang them at Her bed and She liked to listen and remembered Guruji’s words. When eating, She always first thought of others and never put anything into mouth until we gave some chapati to the dogs who were waiting outside. In the mornings, Mataji used to sit in Swamiji’s large garden with many fruit trees.
We also went to the grove with a temple of Ganeshji. A group of women always sat there and sang. A chair was prepared especially for Mataji.. Peace and calmness ruled the atmosphere, and everyone enjoyed Her darshan. We also visited the Sai Baba temple and sat in a nice green garden.
All Swamiji’s disciples on their arrival to Jadan, felt an extraordinary blessing and great luck because of receiving darshan at Her feet. She kept all karma-yogis and students from the ashram in Her heart and all swamis were like Her own sons. She lived an ashram life without being separated from anything and Her blessing hand had the same power as holy nectar.
Once She got a question. It was in a hospital room in Jodhpur. An unknown woman asked with great admiration and reverence whether Swami Maheshwaranandaji is Her son. Mataji sat on the bed with folded hands, looked into the eyes of the woman and very simply said: “He is not mine – He belongs to God.”
Mataji left this world on July 2, 2011. Her life left all of us enriched and inspired. Her spiritual energy, infinite kindness and simple behaviour will remain in our hearts and minds forever. It was the way of Her speaking, laughing and narrating, the humility with which She accepted all the events in Her life. It was the love and compassion with which She cared for all of us, all the children who came to her.
Mataji represented a Manifestation of the Divine Mother as a powerful Shakti in Jadan ashram.
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