Anandamoyi Ma was a spiritual teacher, Guru and saint from the Bengal, who was held as one of the prominent mystics of the twentieth century.During her lifetime she was considered the embodiement of spiritual bliss. The name Anandamoyi Ma literally means Joy Permeated Mother.Swami Sivananda had said that She was the finest flower that the soil of India had produced. Anandamoyi Ma was also called Dakshayani, Kamala, Vimala and 'Mother of Shahbag'.
Anandamoyi Ma was born as Nirmala Sundari in Kheora, Brahamanbaria District on 30th April, 1896. Her father was Sri Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and mother was Mokshada Sundari Devi. Her father whoi originally came from Vidyakut in Tripura was a Vaishnavite singer. There is a legendary story about his devotion. It is said that once there was a storm while he was singing. The roof of their room blew off in storm but he continued in the heavy rainfall also. His daughter Nirmala Sundari experienced the presence of divine power in her since childhood and often went into trance (Bhava) on hearing Kirtans (the sacred songs). She attended the village school for two years only.
At the age of thirteen, in the year 1908, Nirmala Sundari was married to ramani mohan Chakrabarti of Vikrampura. She used to call her husband Bholanath and Pitaji. After her marriage, she spent five years at her brother-in-laws' home, where she often used to undergo translike state. When Nirmala Sundari was about seventeen years old, she went to live with her husband in Ashtagram. The marriage was a celibate one because whenever he thought of sexuality, Anandamoyi fainted and her body would take the qualities of a deadbody. Their devout neighbour Harakumar addressed her as 'Ma' and prostratated before her every morning and evening.
In the year 1918, they used to live in Bajitpur, where she became famous for her beauty.They stayed here till 1924 and Nirmala's tendency to go deeper in trances occurred more frequent. Most of the days while Bholanath returned from his office, he found his wife lying senseless in the kitchen floor and the food was either half cooked or burnt. In the August of 1922, on a full moon night Nirmala went through the actions of spiritual initiation all by herself. Bholanath calmly accepted his wife's strange behaviour but his family members could not do it. His relatives asked him to remarry but he became his wife's first disciple. Her second disciple was Bhaiji.
Nirmala moved to Shahbag of Dhakka with her husband in the year 1924. Bholanath was appointed caretaker of the gardens of the Nawab of Dhaka. During this period Nirmala used to manifest her ecstasy and resembled Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In 1926, Nirmala founded a Kali Mandir in the Siddheshwari area and devoted herself to the spirituality. She experienced a mystic event while praying in the temple one day. In her trance she underwent difficult yogic positions for a long period of time and spontaneously formed complex tantric hand positions and gestures. Since then Nirmala was known as Anandamoyi Ma. She established an ashram at Ramna within the premises of the Ramna Kali Mandir. Though her parents were Vaishnava devotee she followed Tantric way.
Many scholars were attracted to Anandamoyi Ma's spiritualism.She called herself a 'little unlettered child'. His devotee list included Mahamahopadhyaya Gopinath Kaviraj,the Sanskrit scholar and philosopher and principal of Sanskrit College, Kolkata and physician Triguna Sen. Uday Shankar, the famous dance artist, was impressed by Anandamoyi Ma's analysis of dance, which she used as a metaphor that defined relationship between human and god.
In 1932, Ananadamoyi Ma went to Dehradun with her husband and started working there. She travelled in various parts of Indian subcontinentto enlighten others. Several Ashrams were founded in her name at Ramna(near Shahbag) and Kheora in Bangladesh, Beneras, Kankhal and other areas in India. Twenty five ashrams are named after Anandamoyi Ma. She also renovated many decayed holy places, including the Naimisharanya, where she established a temple and arranged for the recitation of the holy names and Kirtan and many other religious rites. Many foreigners also became her disciple like Arnaud Desjardins, the French producer of sprititual films, Melita Maschmann, the German novelist, and Dr. Collin Turnbull, the English author etc.
Kamala nehru, who was the wife of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, became a devotee of Anandamoyi Ma in the year 1933. She was then staying in a small temple in Dehradun, while Pandit Nehru was imprisoned by the British Government in dehradun jail. Anandamoyi Ma took Kamala Nehru with her to the Ambika Temple in Kajpur to perform a three-day Yajna. Mataji gave her a rosary, that she gave to her daughter Indira. Mahatma Gandhi also came to know about Anandamoyi Ma through Kamala Nehru and sent his aid, Jamnalal Bajaj to visit her. Jamnalal Bajaj became a devotee of Anandamoyi Ma. When Jamnalal died unexpectedly, she went to Wardha to console Mahatma Gandhi.
Anandamoyi Ma visited Ramana Maharshi at his ashram as well as she met J.Krishnamurti. Paramhansa Yogananda mentioned about Anandamoyi Ma in his book 'Autobiography of a Yogi'. His meeting with her is narrated in a chapter named The Bengali "Joy Permeated Mother" as:
"Father, there is little to tell." She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. "My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, I was the same. As a little girl, I was the same. I grew into womanhood, but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, 'I was the same... And, Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change[s] around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the same."
Anandamoyi Ma passed away on 27th August 1982 and was cremated at the banks of Ganges near the Kankhal Ashram in Haridwar in North India.
Anandamoyi Ma never prepared her discussion or never wrote down anything of her saying. It is said that to copy whatever she spoke was not easy as the musicality and alliterative word-play of her saying was not present in writing. Only Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee had the ability to transcribe her discourse with conscientious faithfulness.
The central theme of Anandamoyi Ma's teaching is to aspire self realization by supreme calling. She refused to introduce herself as 'guru' as she believed that all paths were her path and kept telling that she had no particular path.She said that "only actions that kindle man's divine nature are worthy of the name of actions". She dis not advocate any restriction or limitation. Though she was Tantric, Anandamoyi Ma blessed Saivas, Saktas, Muslims and Christians,Vaishnavas and all. Even now Muslim population of Kheora refer her as their own mother. She taught how to live a god-centered life in the world and provided the inspiration to enable thousands of common men by aspiring to the most noble ideal. Her way of teaching included jokes, songs and instructions on everyday life along with long discourses and reading out sacred scriptures.