Topi Amma – The Mentally Disabled Woman Worshipped as a Divine Mystic in India

Topi Amma, the mysterious ‘Hat Mother’ of Tiruvannamalai, a Hindu pilgrimage city in Tamil Nadu, is a controversial religious figure that has divided Indian society.

India has no shortage of mystics and real-life incarnations of Hindu deities that people flock to worship, but even in this context, Topi Amma is an unlikely religious figure. The hat-wearing woman is often referred to as a ‘siddha’, an enlightened being who has attained perfection, but to those with a more secular view of the world, she is just a mentally disabled woman in need of medical help. Where believers see a mystic walking through the streets of Tiruvannamalai and speaking in an ancient Tamil dialect that no one understands, others see a homeless woman wandering aimlessly and mumbling jibberish. It’s all a matter of perception, but considering Topi Amma doesn’t even seem to realize the religious craze she has inspired, the latter is probably true.

Topi Amma’s life before she became a symbol of Tiruvannamalai and attracted hordes of followers remains a mystery, and one that has most likely contributed to her popularity. Since she doesn’t seem capable of putting together a couple of coherent phrases, she is unlikely to shed any light on the subject, and that leaves plenty of room for made-up stories to hype her up even more.

The internet is full of short clips of people running into Topi Amma in Tiruvannamalai and either following her as she aimlessly drones through the city or picking up her discarded cups of coffee to sip the leftovers as ‘prasad’ (blessed offerings). It’s a bizarre sight to behold, considering that the elderly woman looks like a mentally disabled homeless person who wears filthy clothes, most likely never bathes, and appears to be in a constant daze.

“A mentally disabled woman is being worshipped as ‘Thoppi Amma’ in Tiruvannamalai,” one person sharing a video of the controversial mystic wrote on X (Twitter) wrote. But for every person who says she is suffering from a psychiatric condition and is in need of help, dozens sing her praises and interpret her every mindless action as divine and full of purpose.

“In this video, we dive into the life and teachings of Thoppi Amma, shedding light on her profound spiritual wisdom and the transformative impact she has on those fortunate enough to encounter her,” one person describes a clip of Topi Amma simply eating some food and giving no teachings whatsoever.


Ironically, due to her apparent mental disability, Topi Amma mostly ignores her devotees and doesn’t seem to understand that she is being worshipped as a perfect being with mystical powers. She just goes about her day, followed by dozens almost everywhere she goes.

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