I am very happy that I am now a married woman. I never thought I would get married. In fact, my long-time partner Rishi had been asking me to marry him for the past ten years. Each time, I kept saying, “I feel like we are already married.” It was not only that Amma, our spiritual teacher, has blessed us in so many ways, showering us with flower petals, holding our hands together and kissing them, giving us our spiritual names at the same time. It was also because as of our first date, I knew he was the one with whom I would spend my life. We have openly spoken about this with each other time and time again. Despite our share of trials and growth, as all couples have, an indescribable bond ties us so that no matter what bumps we experience, a soul-centered groundedness provides us with sobering stability and fuels a love that we feel is greater than each one of us.
But last fall, when Amma said “yes!” to marrying us, I realized that I had a golden opportunity to be married by the Divine Mother Herself. Such grace!
My wedding was divine. Taking place at the very end of Amma’s North American tour, the marriage was the culmination of Amma’s four-day Toronto program. Over the course of that time, we experienced guided meditations, devotional music, individual embraces, the auspicious Guru Purnima celebrations (an annual honouring of the spiritual master over July’s full moon), Amma’s gracious peace ceremony, Devi Bhava (the mood of the goddess), a Jewish legal wedding, Amma’s spiritual wedding and a wedding reception.
Our celebration extravaganza went something like this:
Thursday, July 10 was an all day public program in which Amma gave darshan (a blessing in the form of a hug), while people chanted, offered selfless service and meditated. The ballroom at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto was brimming with energy as the 3000 or so people milled about to take in the grace.
The following day, Friday, July 11, the retreat with Amma began. The program was similar to what I mentioned above, but there were fewer people (about 1400). That day I chose my wedding sari (a white, red and gold silk sari that had been worn by Amma in Devi Bhava), bought my wedding jewelry, ordered the required flower baskets and garlands for the ceremony and made sure the official Amma photographer and videographer knew I wanted a record of the ceremony.
Saturday, July 12 was the second day of the retreat. After a full day of chanting, meditating and self-less service, we stayed up all night until 5am the following morning celebrating Guru Purnima with Amma. There was a beautiful Padapuja ceremony (washing of Amma’s feet), a talk by Amma, chanting, dancing and delicious prasad (blessed dessert).
The last day of the retreat was Sunday, July 13. It was the day before my wedding! I did all I could to get as much meditation in as possible early on, knowing I would be up all night. By mid-afternoon, my guests started to arrive, some from as far away as Florida, London and Vancouver.
After I spent over an hour ironing my heavy silk sari, my dear childhood friend Lily from Montreal and I retired to her room at midnight with the hope to get a couple hours of sleep. I was due to be up at 2:30 am to get into my wedding sari. I did not sleep a wink!
Back in the meditation hall pre-dawn, the Amma tour staff helped me into my beautiful sari. Two Toronto girl friends were like ladies in waiting and did my hair for me. Then women from the Toronto Amma satsang (community) garlanded my hair with fresh jasmine flowers and roses and put bangles on my arms. I wore jewelry from the Kali temple in Amritapuri, Amma’s ashram in India.
At 6am our cantor arrived who was to perform the Jewish wedding before the ceremony with Amma. Friends gathered at the back of the darshan hall where my mother, Rishi’s parents and brother held up his talis (holy shawl) over our heads as we read our ketubah and the cantor sang. Soon we were officially married!
Then before noon, Amma married us both with flower petals, prostrations, garlands, chocolates, kumkum (red holy powder), sandalwood paste and rings. It was heavenly! First we garlanded Amma together, then we took turns waving a burning camphor lamp (arati) to each other. We placed rings on each other’s fingers, and fed each other chocolates, that Amma herself had blessed. We each dotted each other’s forehead with sandalwood paste and kumkum that we took from Amma’s finger. We placed flower garlands around each other’s neck, and then prostrated to each other. All the while Amma showered flower petals on us, and finally pulled us in together for an embrace before Rishi and I walked together in a circumambulation around Amma’s seat. Amma’s senior monastic disciples were singing devotional music at this time. During our wedding, the song was of Radha and Krishna, the lover and the beloved. I felt that I was going to burst with joy.
We have witnessed many of these ceremonies in the past and I have felt awed and moved by their power. It was clear to me that Amma’s massive spiritual energy was there to inform and guide the two souls’ journey together. When Rishi and I were married by Amma, our close friends remarked – and I felt – that this marriage ceremony reverberated through lifetimes. Our friends also felt that we both became tremendously luminous and present during the ceremony. I learned later that many of our dear ones were in tears of wonder and love watching the ceremony.
We have two dear ones in our lives who are photographers – Rishi’s dad Jeff Gerald and our friend Eric Benchimol. So we posed for photos in our Devi Bhava finery. Then we went back to our place to change for our evening dinner reception.
We went to set up the lighting and sound system, check in on flower arrangements and preparations. My Toronto girl friends did my hair again and two other girl friends (from Edmonton) had made me jewelry to go with a long white dress I had made (the one that you will see in the Shanti Om music video soon for the angel scene!).
The garden patio was beautiful, the food and cake delicious. The speeches were heartfelt. Rishi and I jettisoned into another dimension during our first dance. The room was full of love. There was not a dry eye around us!
We still receive emails and phone calls about how deeply people were touched by the experience, even those who just came to the reception.
For more images from my wedding and reception, check out my Facebook.
My wedding was divine. I would not change anything from it. I felt I was in the right place at the right time and everything was perfect. Now that is grace!