Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani on Wednesday inaugurated the 50th birthday celebrations of renowned spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi saying Indians recognised the importance of spirituality and derived strength from it.
"We in India believe physical strength, economic strength and knowledge strength are important. But spiritual strength is above all these," he said addressing nearly 100,000 devotees from India and 191 countries who had gathered in Kochi for the four-day event. "Agriculture can energise us, industry can enrich us, knowledge may enlighten us, but spiritual power elevates us," he said.
Advani offered a garland of roses and marigold to Amritanandamayi, affectionately called Amma and touched her feet before his speech. He said the congregation was the biggest he had ever addressed.
"There are occasions when speeches do not matter; it is the presence of an enlightened soul which gives a sense of enlightenment to all who have gathered. I have addressed many meetings. But this gathering is unique and unprecedented," he said.
Hailing her qualities of love, compassion and charity, the deputy prime minister said, "May the almighty give her many more years to spread her love to the entire world."
On the occasion, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad launched the Amrita channel.
Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony, Union Ministers I D Swamy, P C Thomas and O Rajagopal, former US senator Larry Pressler, Malaysian Deputy Minister Senator Datuk Kayvenes, Mauritius Minister Alan Ganoo and Yolanda King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, were among those present at the function.
Earlier in the day, the celebrations commenced with an inter-faith meeting in which Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Jain leaders discussed promotion of universal human values, freedom of expression, respect for essential human rights, and reflection, dialogue and service. Swami Madhavacharya Vishvesha Tirtha, pontiff of the Pejavar Mutt in Udipi, inaugurated the meet.
The inter-faith meeting passed resolutions to create a sustainable vision for all members of various religions to work together as one family through an interfaith unity network. It also resolved to promote universal values by envisioning new religious norms by finding common ground in the religions, balancing freedom of expression without sacrificing basic human values and promoting equality of women in religious activities.