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Parvatamma Allaka

Parvatamma Allaka, Swamiji’s mother.

Who took care of Swamiji’s body [during tapas]?

“Swamiji’s mother took care of his body.  She was always with Swamiji.  She and a few devotees looked after him.  It was not like an ashram.  Only Swamiji's mother and grandfather accepted and supported him.”

Parvatamma:  Incarnation of the
Divine Mother

Swamiji said that each time he was born, his mother’s soul had to contain a portion of Goddess Parvati and his father’s soul had to contain a portion of Lord Shiva.  Swamiji privately confirmed that his mother, Parvatamma Allaka, was an incarnation of Parvati Devi, an aspect of the Divine Mother.

Anasuya, Mother of the Gods

Swamiji also said that in a prior life, his mother had been Anasuya, the mother of the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, and he would tell devotees the story of Anasuya.

Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, the wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, were very proud of how faithful they were to their husbands.  They thought they were the best wives in creation, and they asked the Sage Narada whether he agreed.  He told them there was a woman on earth who was more faithful.  She was Anasuya, wife of the great Rishi Atri.

The three wives sent their husbands to test Anasuya’s marital fidelity.  The three gods appeared as travelers and asked Anasuya for food.  Anasuya’s husband was away, but she obliged the travelers by offering traditional hospitality.  She brought them food, but the three travelers made a strange request.  They told her that they had taken a vow to accept food from a woman only if she were naked.  Anasuya withdrew to consider their request.  She was a great sage in her own right, and she determined within herself that these were no ordinary strangers but the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara in disguise.

Anasuya had long, thick hair.  She removed her clothes and loosened her hair so that it covered her almost completely.  Her modesty protected, she returned to serve food to her guests.  She sprinkled water on the three strangers and turned each of them into an infant who could have no interest in her underlying nakedness.  She put the three babies in cribs and cared for them as if they were her own infants.  In that way, she became the mother of the three gods.

Meanwhile, the three goddesses began to wonder what was delaying the return of their husbands.  They again went to Narada who blamed them for their husbands’ absence.  The three wives decided to visit Anasuya to find out what happened.  When Anasuya saw the goddesses, she challenged them.  If they were such good wives, then each should be able to recognize which infant was her husband.  None of Saraswati, Lakshmi or Parvati was able, so Anasuya had to restore their own husbands to them.

Parvatamma Does Not Have Enough Food

Swamiji used to tell this story about the love between him and his mother, Parvatamma.  (Story as related by Shivarudrabalayogi.)

When Swamiji was a very young boy, hardly five years old, he used to ask his mother for food, and she readily would give it with love.  Occasionally he noticed that his mother’s face was covered with sadness, and he wondered why.  The thought occurred to him that he had never seen his mother eating a proper meal.  So he thought of a plan.

He went and asked his mother for food and, as usual, Parvatamma gave him some.  This time Sathyaraju insisted that his mother should eat with him.  She replied that she was busy working and that she would take food a little later.  The boy wouldn’t agree.  He wanted her to share the food. Finally she took half of the food, but instead of eating immediately, she told her son that she would have it a little later.

Sathyaraju finished his part of the food and made like he was going outside.  But instead, he quietly hid himself behind the door and kept a watch on the food that his mother had set aside for herself.  Nearly two hours passed by and the boy waited patiently to see whether his mother ate any food.  What he doubted was true.  She took none.

After some time, Sathyaraju came out from behind the door pretending as if he was coming into the house from outside.  He called on his mother and asked for food, as he usually did, saying he was hungry.  Parvatamma gave him the food that she had set aside.

Sathyaraju asked, “Mother, did you take some of the food that you set aside two hours ago?”

Parvatamma replied, “Yes, yes! Don’t ask me questions.  You are hungry.  Come eat.”

Satharaju WeavingSathyaraju argued with his mother. “No, Mother, you are lying.  You haven’t eaten any food.  I have been watching all the time for two hours.”  At this, tears rolled down from Parvatamma’s eyes and she had to turn her face away.

Puzzled and pained whether he had hurt her, Sathyaraju went to his grandfather, Goli Sathyam, and demanded (that was his style), “Why doesn’t Mother eat proper food?  Why does she give her share of food to the children?”

Grandfather explained, “You see, we are poor, but you need not worry just now.  Concentrate on your studies.  Mother cannot bear her children’s hunger.  She eats very little — hardly a proper meal for many days.”

The five year old demanded to know what poverty was and why they were poor.  Grandfather replied, “Your father died when you were barely two years old and hence your mother has to work to feed her four children.”

The incident motivated young Sathyaraju to earn money for the family so they had enough to live on and his mother would not have to work.  He felt ashamed that his mother did not have gold bangles to wear.  He was about six when he started saving small coins which he got from work.  He would put one or two paise (one hundred to the rupee) at a time in a small box.  By the time he was twelve he had saved sixty rupees which he used to buy gold bangles for Parvatamma.

The Life of Parvatamma

During the twelve years Shivabalayogi was in tapas, it was his mother who devotedly cared for him.  After she had darshan of the Trimurthy gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), she ceased to regard Swamiji as her son.  She recognized him as a great soul and paid him all the regard and reverence due a saint.

Throughout Shri Swamiji’s tapas, many people accused Swamiji and his mother of being frauds.  Swamiji said — and the villagers and devotees agree — that it was his mother who took care of Swamiji throughout tapas.  No one else served him as faithfully or as selflessly, or endured so much hardship and mistreatment on his behalf during those twelve difficult years.

Parvatamma Bannerghatta Ashram

Shivabalayogi's mother, Parvatamma Allaka, serving food at the Bannerghatta Road ashram in Bangalore.
Below:  Her Samadhi at the Bannerghatta Road ashram.

When Shivabalayogi transferred his center of activities from Adivarapupeta to Bangalore, Parvatamma went with him.  She stayed at a house some distance from the ashram but she nevertheless managed to supervise the running of the ashram, especially taking care of Swamiji.  She was given considerable honor and deference, but all the reverence she received did not affect her.  She continued to be a straight-forward, motherly lady.

Parvatamma accepted all who came.  She never forgot her own days of poverty and want, so she had a special place in her heart for the poor and destitute.  She gave to the poor whatever was needed, food, money, or clothes.  There were times during the early days of the ashram when there was not enough food to give to the poor.  She preferred to go without rather than turn away a poor person.  She was very, very fond of feeding people.  She fed the important and the humble.  She made special dishes and devotees praised her cooking as the very best.  Whoever came to the ashram, Parvatamma always made sure they had something to eat, even if people came at twelve in the night.  That was her main work at the ashram, cooking and feeding the devotees.  Although Shivabalayogi drew people to the ashram by his spiritual greatness, many were equally affected by the care and love shown by his mother.

Parvatamma also took a personal interest in each devotee.  She would ask them how they were doing, and if they had any problem, she would go to Swamiji and ask him to help them out.  She would actually force Swamiji to help them solve their problems.

There was a time when there was a scarcity of rice in Karnataka.  There were very strict rules that no big functions should be held where rice could be wasted.  It was very difficult to get rice to feed the people in the ashram.  It was not available.  Swamiji had to get a hold of some officers in the public distribution system to somehow get some rice.  He got a few bags and expected that it could feed the devotees for about a month or so.  A week later his mother informed him that the rice was all used up.  She had cooked it and given it away.  She would not accept that Swamiji was having difficulty getting rice.  All she was concerned about was feeding people. S o Swamiji again had to go to the officers and ask for more rice.

Lord Yama and the Passing of Parvatamma

Parvatamma’s life had been difficult and as time passed she developed a heart condition.  She did not slow down but she knew her time was nearing.  Many times when she was alone with Swamiji she spoke to him about her increasingly frail health and asked whether he would release her from her worn-out body.  Swamiji would make light of the matter and say he wanted her to stay a little while yet.

Some time around 1973 or 1974, Parvatamma suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized.  Swamiji told several devotees on different occasions the story of how he saved her life.  He did not want her to leave, so he went into meditation and traveled to the world of Yama, the god of the underworld, Yamaloka.  There some fierce fellows tried to bar his way and one even hit him as he passed by.  But Swamiji continued and entered into the great hall where Lord Yama was sitting on his throne.

Yama recognized Shivabalayogi as a yogi of great stature and gave him a seat next to his own throne.  Nothing was said.  Nothing had to be said because Yama knew why Swamiji had come, and he was powerless to refuse the yogi.

A few years later, early in the morning on June 15, 1976, Parvatamma suffered another severe heart attack and was taken to the hospital.  At about five o’clock she woke up, opened her eyes and asked for water.  After she had the water, she closed her eyes and started saying, “Shankara,” “Shiva” and “Swami.”  People thought she was getting better because she was talking, but at seven-thirty that morning she passed away.

There was no time to inform Swamiji because he was at the airport.  He had been staying at the Dehradun ashram and a devotee in Bangalore had arranged for an airplane ticket for Swamiji to fly from Delhi to Bangalore to attend a family wedding, and then fly back to Delhi.  Swamiji was waiting for the return flight to Delhi when the news arrived that his mother had passed away.

(Later, Swamiji explained that the soldiers of Yama — those who take a person’s soul at death — knew that Swamiji’s mind was towards Dehradun so he would not be interfering with their work.  They took that opportunity to take her life away.)

The passing of Parvatamma was felt by all of Swamiji’s devotees.  She had been their mother as well.  A large crowd gathered for her funeral and her body was laid to rest in a Samadhi at the Bannerghatta Road ashram in the presence of Swamiji and with all the honors due a yogi and a saint.

Many years later, in 1994, Swamiji described what happened.  “Swamiji was very sad when his mother died.  He did not want to go on living.  He wanted to leave Bangalore and return to Adivarapupeta to stay.  It was Mataji, Adinarayana and Aradhya who came and reminded him about his mission and that he had come too far to stop.  Mataji spent the next year with him, keeping company with him until he overcame his grief.”

Parvatamma’s Samadhi is a sacred shrine to the mother who selflessly served Swamiji and his devotees.  It is the Samadhi of an incarnation of the Divine Mother.  Swamiji continued to show his deep love by visiting the Samadhi frequently, offering puja and sitting in samadhi in her presence.  Each time Swamiji left the Bangalore ashram on a significant trip, or returned from one, he would first go to his mother’s Samadhi to pay his respects.

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