She is said to have psychic abilities

Rajathi Amma, 57, is the sixth generation caretaker of Pandi Kovil, a famous Hindu temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu in India. Above and behind her is a portrait of her late father, Saint Veeramalai Swamigal.
PHOTO: The Star/ ANN

A man is told to stop looking for his cow, as it is no longer in this world. A woman is consoled that her estrangement from her husband was destined. A goat herd wakes up after being unconscious for a day. A baby is cured of fits and breaks into a smile.

These are some of the "miracles" performed by Rajathi Ammal, 57. She is the sixth generation caretaker of famous Hindu temple Pandi Kovil in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. The Hindu temple - believed to be over 300 years old - is run by generations in her family.

Fondly known as Ammal, she is believed to have psychic abilities, although she herself does not make such claims. People call her the oracle.

A popular figure in her temple, she dispenses advice to people who come to see her. They need not tell her anything. She already knows their problems.

Sometimes, she goes into a trance involuntarily and transmits messages which people believe are from deities or spiritual beings. This is according to V. Rammachandher, who hosted Ammal during her recent visit to Malaysia for a holiday. He acted as interpreter as Ammal could only speak in Tamil.

Ammal was born 13 years after her parents' marriage and after her father had "a vision". Her father was 21 and her mother, 18, when they wed.

"The Hindu god Lord Muneshwara appeared in father's dream, instructing him to go to Rameswaram, a holy town in Tamil Nadu, to bathe in the sea. He then asked my father whether he wanted a boy or girl. His wish was granted," she says.

The family considers Ammal "a gift from god". She married at 15 and has four children.

As an only child, she inherited extraordinary spiritual abilities from her late father, a Hindu priest, after his death in July 1991. A diabetic, he became blind in 1980 and had his right leg amputated from the knee. During the last 11 years of his life, he became "a recluse" in his quarters in the temple grounds but continued to meet those who wanted to consult him.

Grief-stricken when her father died, she fell ill and had bouts of fits.

Five days after his demise, family members helped the weakened Ammal to perform prayers. When the camphor was lit, she wailed at the sight of her father's portrait. Then, all of a sudden, she had an immense boost of energy.

She went into a trance and seemed to assume the tone of her father. At that moment, she is believed to have received "divine powers" enabling her to take care of people.

A month after her father's death, Ammal woke up and walked a distance of 2km from her home to the temple. She then took her place in her late father's quarters. Three devotees came to see her. Before they told her anything, she spoke with authority.

To the first man, she told him to forget about his missing cow. It was gone for good.

She chided the second man: "You want good news but you're doing nonsensical things when you come to the temple. Change yourself." To the third person, a woman, she advised: "Your separation with your hubby was for the better. You don't get along."

Towards the end of the interview, soon after a question was fielded, Ammal suddenly broke into a trance. The living room fell into a dead silence - except for the clicking of The Star photographer's camera.

Her voice changed and took on a gruff and authoritative tone. Her eyes rolled and her tongue stuck out for a split second.

I was momentarily frozen when I saw Ammal in that state. Earlier, I wondered if Ammal would give me a hug and blessing.

When the interview ended, I took a photograph with Ammal. Soon after, she turned to me for a hug. Later, Rajaletchumy said Ammal asked if she could bless me and apply ash on my forehead. I nodded with delight.

I told them that Ammal had read my thoughts. She must, indeed, be psychic.