What do seven steps in Hindu wedding mean?

Marriage is a sacred institution in India. In India, marriage is not only a two soul affair, but it is the marriage between two families. This sacred thread binds two people together, and the families of the duo unite together to be a part of the family. These days, there are several matrimonial sites to search bride and groom for your child, sibling or a friend.

According to Hindu beliefs, Marriages are made in heaven & once the marriage is solemnized, the two souls are joined for seven lifetimes. The seven vows of marriage are the seven promises which the bride and the groom make to each other for a happy & prosperous life. They are bound together by an unseen bond protected by these promising words. The Seven vows can be said to contain the crux of an ideal marriage that is to be practised by the bride & groom.

The seven vows, known as Saptapadi, are performed along with Mangal pheras, which are walking around the sacred fire. Any Hindu marriage is incomplete once they are conducted. On the day of the wedding, the bride and the groom sit under the Mandap for this ritual. The Sacred fire is lighted along with the customary home puja done by the priest/Pandit. They are then asked to stand up & take 7 ‘Pheras’ around the sacred fire, all the while uttering a different promise with each phera. The bride is seated towards the left of the groom before the pheras, while towards the right after they are complete. The seven vows, along with the seven pheras, are the most important ritual in a Hindu wedding as it Sanctifies the union & affords social recognition to the marriage.

The concept of matrimony is the same across the world. Still, the culture, rituals and traditions differ from place to place and what I believe is that the Hindu marriage follows extensive rituals and customs to solemnize the marriage.

Among the customs and rituals, the important ones are Jaimala, Sindoor Daan, wearing of Mangalsutra and the Seven vows taken by the bride and groom while taking Saat Pheras around the sacred fire. The couple seeks the blessings of God and fire to be together for the next seven births by taking the Saat Phere.

Religious Background

According to Hindu beliefs, marriages are made in heaven, and once the marriage is solemnized, the two souls are joined for seven lifetimes. The seven vows of marriage are the seven promises which the bride and the groom make to each other for a happy and prosperous life. They are bound together by an unseen bond protected by these promising words. Without exaggeration, the seven vows can be said to contain the crux of an ideal marriage that is to be practised by the bride and groom.

The Origin of Saath Pheras

Hindu marriages are deeply rooted in the rich Indian culture as well as the history that we all have been told at some point or the other in our lives. The Saath Pheras also known as Shaptapadi is one of the traditional ceremonies during a wedding which is performed along with the chants of a Pandit based on the Hindu scriptures where the bride and groom have to take seven rounds around the fire. It is believed that the God Agni resides in the holy fire that solidified the union and bond of the bride and groom who take seven vows in his presence. 

While written in Sanskrit, four of the seven vows are recited by the groom while the remaining three by the bride. Hindu marriage traditions are incomplete with the mention of Saath Pheras, and the couple is not considered married till they complete this ceremony. It is also the symbol of an eternal promise of companionship that keeps the bride and groom together for seven lifetimes. This important tradition has a number of variations as well in different cultures and regions, where there are three or four Pheras instead of seven. But regardless of it, it is one of the most significant and important parts of the Hindu marriage that all couples need to perform for a blissful journey ahead. 

The Ritual of Saath Pheras

The seven vows, known as Saptapadi, are performed along with Mangal pheras, which are walking around the sacred fire. Any Hindu marriage is incomplete without these vows and is deemed complete once they are conducted. On the day of the wedding, the bride and the groom sit under the Mandap or the sacred canopy for this ritual. The sacred fire is lighted along with the customary Home puja done by the priests. The corners of the bride’s saree and the groom’s Uttariya are tied in a sacred knot by the priest. They are then asked to stand up and take the seven ‘Pheras’ or circumambulations around the sacred fire, all the while uttering a different promise with each Phera. The bride is seated towards the left of the groom before the Pheras, while towards the right after they are complete. The Seven Vows along with the Seven Pheras are the most important rituals in a Hindu Wedding as it sanctifies the union and affords social recognition to the marriage. This is evident from the fact that when love marriages performed in the temple, without a social gathering, marking the holy priest and the Almighty as the only witness, they only consist of seven vows or pheras around the fire.

The Seven Vows

The Priests of the family chant the mantras of Seven vows, and the bride and the groom repeat them during their turns. But do they really understand the terms of the Seven Vows that they promise to abide by. I believe very few of them understand the vows fully and follow the promises in life. Majority of couples chant after Pandit without understanding the real meaning.

They are sacred vows, and if it is followed religiously by both the partners, they can lead a happy life with no grudges because it teaches them the principles to lead a happy and caring life taking care of each other’s responsibility as their own. The united soul can bring a great difference in the life of each other while treading on the path of life as great companions.

The seven sacred vows are the Vedic scriptures, and it has been segregated as holy vows to bring husband and wife on the same platform of understanding and love.

FIRST PHERA – PRAYER FOR FOOD AND NOURISHMENTS

“With God as our guide, let us take the first step to live with honour and respect. Let us walk together, so we get food.”

The groom vows to the bride that he will be responsible for providing nourishment, welfare and happiness to the wife and the children.

The bride vows to the groom that she will take care of the family and household and will share his responsibility as her own.

SECOND PHERA – STRENGTH

“Let us be happy and enjoy life. Let us walk together, so we grow together in strength,”

The groom vows to the bride that he will remain loyal and faithful to his wife and will stand by her throughout the thick and thin of life. He will be with her providing mental, physical and financial stability and security to her and family.

The bride vows to the groom that she will willingly share the responsibility by helping him in every possible way and be ready to endure all with courage and strength.

THIRD PHERA – PROSPERITY

“Let us share joys and pains together. Let us walk together, so we get wealth.”

The groom vows to the bride that he will work hard, putting all his efforts to bring wealth and prosperity in the house and giving education to their children.

The bride vows to the groom that she will act responsibly in maintaining the resources and devote her love exceptionally to her husband, and all other men would be secondary in her life. She will be loyal throughout life, maintaining chastity.

FOURTH PHERA – FAMILY

“Let us not forget our parents and elders. Let us walk together, so we get happiness by sharing our joys and sorrows,”

The Groom thanks the bride that through this sacred affair of marriage, she has made his life beautiful and complete, and he vows to respect both sets of families. He will respect her wishes and will include her in all his major decisions.

The bride vows to groom that she will stand by his side in all rituals, family and religious commitments and will walk by his side, giving her consent for his decisions. She will respect and regard his decisions and include his say in all her decisions. In case any danger intercepts his way, she will stand before him to save him and will be ready to sacrifice her life for him.

FIFTH PHERA – PROGENY

“Let us observe all acts of charity. Let us walk together, so we have a family.”

The couple vows to be with each other sharing their happiness and sorrows with great understanding and care. They together pray to God to bless them with healthy children, and they both will strive to nurture their children with enriching values and a generous lifestyle.

SIXTH PHERA – HEALTH

“Let us live a long and peaceful life. Let us walk together, so we have joy.”

The couple vows to love and respect each other and stand together in times of joy and grief. They together pray to seek the blessings of God to bestow them with a healthy and long life filled with joy, peace and prosperity so that they can carry their duties and responsibilities towards each other.

SEVENTH PHERA

“Let us be friends with love and sacrifice. Let us walk together, so we have a friendship.” 

The couple vows together that through this ritual of Sacred Seven Vows, they have become husband and wife uniting their soul. They are united with a divine thread of togetherness, and they will love each other and be there for each other till eternity. They as a couple will walk together as great companions, sharing each and everything of life, honouring and loving each other unconditionally. They promise to abide by all the holy seven vows with pure and honest intentions that they have promised during the ritual of marriage.

Significance

The marriage vows from the centre of any Wedding ceremony. The words are uttered by the couple as an expression of their future intentions as well as promises they wish to uphold in their married life. The vows cover the generally accepted dos and don’ts of a successful married life. So, they cover almost everything; from individual roles to the promise of putting each other’s happiness first. They promise to bear the responsibility of rearing a family together and do right by their children. The promise is to enter the union as equals, as friends rather than submitting to some age old defined roles. Not just for the Hindus, during a Vedic wedding ceremony, but in every other culture, wedding vows outline the same goals – lifelong commitment, devotion and mutual respect. Marriage is a bond that is everlasting, and all these vows reinforce the couple’s intent to stay together through thick and thin of life, till death separates them apart.

The Indian wedding vows are nothing but the seven promises of love which the newlywed couple make to each other on the auspicious occasion, and this custom is prevalent in every marriage, irrespective of the religion or nation. 

The segregated vows were compiled ages before, but it has an essence of modern values. They stand for equality among the couple and together, they form a pure bonding of love, understanding and care entering into matrimonial relationships

All the would-be husbands and wives should read these sacred seven vows and understand their true meaning that lies in the vows and try to adopt in their life when they unite as a couple to bring love, peace and harmony in their life.

Hindu weddings are the reflection of the rich culture, and thus, to savour the opulence of this, you need to be part of a wedding in India. You’d be surprised to see different wedding rituals being performed in different parts of the country, while some rituals are common in almost every Hindu wedding. Marriage is a lifelong commitment and wise decisions usher’s life with happiness.

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