'Hugging Saint' Embraces NYC

Indian spiritual leader squeezes thousands in marathon session
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2008 8:30 AM CDT
Celebrated humanitarian Mata Amritanandamayi Devi of India, better known as "Amma" or the "Hugging Saint" hugs a follower on Wednesday March 26, 2008 in Singapore.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Over the past 2 days one woman has hugged more than 8,000 Manhattanites, reports the New York Times. Her name is Mata Amritanandamayi, but her followers call her Amma, or the “Hugging Saint.” She has been hugging anyone and everyone since she was a teenager in India, and now her unconditional love has come to New York, for a 3-day hugathon ending today.

Some people waited as long as 7 hours for their hug yesterday, standing in huge lines that spilled out onto the street. But for the devoted, who believe Amma’s hug has healing powers, it was worth it. “The feeling is like sunshine or moonlight shining on me,” said one 45-year-old devotee. (Read more religion stories.)