When Swamiji told us the night before the marriage ceremony that we were to get dressed up in sarees, with make-up, jewellery, etc. I saw red! All this rebellion came up for me and yet I could not pinpoint exactly what it was I was reacting to. This was not sannyasa, getting all dressed up, frilly and pretty. No, our Satyananda style was more austere, straight.
Against my better judgement I began shopping that night in Deoghar for a petticoat, blouse, jewellery, and many other people were doing the same thing. The faint stirrings of excitement began to develop. I noticed the energy building up as we all participated in our preparations for the ceremony. It was as if we were the guests. I flowed with this feeling and as the night unfolded into the morning, with it came an extraordinary change. During the night I saw myself dressed in a red saree, one I had bought to decorate my pooja table, and this meant shopping again for the appropriate accessories.
Before I rose in the morning I had planned my preparations hairstyle, jewellery, make-up. I wondered if the red and gold saree was over the top, being a bridal saree, but the urge was still there to wear it. I began having fun, singing, I'm getting married in the morning, Ding dong the bells are going to chime. As I dressed it felt as if I were actually preparing for my own marriage ceremony, my union with my Divine Beloved. The make-up, the trinkets, the elegant saree were like using my femininity at a symbolic level for my Beloved. I was symbolically preparing for my union.
As the time grew closer my feeling intensified. I became quieter. When the ceremony between Sita and Rama began, I looked into my Beloved's face also, I walked the circles with Sita and the chanting by the pandits reined in the threads of gold, creating a cosmic web shimmering in the light as the sun was setting. I had a sense of the exquisiteness of God.
I don't profess to have had actual union with the Divine, but this opportunity showed me another side of myself, my femininity, my softness. It was interesting to feel pretty at the age of forty-four. The flowing of the saree as I walked, each step rippling out to the layers of cloth was so feminine. Acknowledging and honouring my femininity was good for me.
Paramahamsaji encouraged us to give and gave perfect examples, such as when one of his neighbours came to express her appreciation for the sewing machine given to her by Sivananda Math. When she presented Paramahamsaji with three beautiful dolls, the first things she had made, he let us admire the dolls, then gave them to three delighted children, and also quietly gave the young woman some money.
Paramahamsaji spoke to us about the power and beauty of women and gave us examples such as Sannyasi Tripura playing the tabla, the tantric yoginis expressing the power of Shakti in the fire ceremony, Reverend Antoinette Schoenmaker conducting mass, local village women being presented with hoes, and Swami Kankeshwarananda, a modern day Meerabai, holding me spellbound with her narrations from Ramayana, even though I didn't understand a word she said.
Paramahamsaji encouraged us to practise bhakti yoga and gave us the example of early morning chanting of Ramayana, prasad for my heart and soul. He enjoined us to see marriage as a spiritual union, and to celebrate weddings accordingly, and again he gave us the example of the marriage of Sita and Rama. Paramahamsaji played the part of host magnificently, dressed in brilliant gold and orange robes, shining like the sun, his brilliance reflected in the gold and orange marigolds that adorned the stage. The young couple who personified Sita and Rama so beautifully, radiated devotion, love and purity. Shiva shone through his image painted on the back wall of the stage, and we, the thousands of guests, drank spiritual champagne.