Contemporary Female Gurus, their Movements and Followers

The Case of Amma and Mata Amritanandamayi Mission


  • Samta P. Pandya Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai


Female gurus, new religious movement, followers, well-being, embrace, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Mission


Based on a random sample of 543 followers of a new religious movement called Mata Amritanandamayi Mission in India, this paper argues that these followers derived their sense of well-being through the gift of embrace by its iconic teacher Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma also known worldwide as the ‘hugging saint’. Followers are recipients of her embrace which is looked at predominantly as a healing touch as well as an expression of maternal love and proximity to the divine. I have studied the ways followers get associated with the movement and the roles they play, the images they have of Amma and their experiences and perceived efficacy of her embrace. The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being scale has been used to measure well-being. The efficacy of the embrace creates a habitus of Amma’s followers who have various positive experiences through the association. Simultaneously it also generates a collective memory and exclusive cultural identities for Amma followers.

Author Biography

Samta P. Pandya, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Samta P Pandya is a faculty member at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. Her areas of interest include faith, religion, spirituality, social work and aging issues.


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