Saptapadi (or seven steps/feet) is one of the most important rituals and is of immense significance in most Hindu marriages. The saptapadi is the rite of seven steps taken together by the bride and the bridegroom, at a slow and measured pace side-by-side and step-by step in the northeastern direction. While moving forward the bride is always on the right side so that the bridegroom’s right hand is on her right shoulder. With each step, the bride and the bridegroom take a pledge together.
In saptapadi, (the customs for these steps vary with the groom leading his bride by holding her by the toe or the bride pushing a grinding stone on to 7 betel leaves/nuts) with each step the groom says:
O dear, I ask you to put your first step to make you the mistress of food grains etc in my house
O dear I ask you to put your second step so that you may become strong and powerful
O dear I ask you to put your third step so that you many earn fame and wealth in life
O dear I ask you to put our third step so that you may have the pleasures and facilities in life
O dear I ask you to put your fifth step for the growth of wealth in the form of cows
O dear I ask you to put your sixth step so that you may enjoy health and happiness during all the six seasons
O dear I ask you to put your seventh step so that you may enjoy all the seven pleasures of the world and always remain devoted to your husband like Jaanki.
In the saptapadi that the couple take together, each step is supposed to lead the bride away from her own family and with the seventh step she becomes an integral part of her husband’s family.
Different regions have their own variations and rituals and it can consist of only seven steps taken together by the couple along with the chanting of mantras. Or it may involve the bride and groom going around the consecrated fire seven times (or the saat pheras), reciting specific vows with each parikrama or round.
Vows made in the presence of the fire are considered unbreakable. Agnideva or the Fire god is believed to both witness and bless the couple’s union. Before circuiting around the holy fire, the robes of the bride and the groom are usually tied into a knot. They may or may not hold hands while circuiting and either one may lead the circuits around the consecrated fire. Pheras or circuits around the fire may number four, three or seven circuits round the sacred fire. Usually four circuits are led by the groom and the remaining three by the bride. However, again, this varies from place to place.
There are certain promises that the groom and the bride make to themselves and to each other, as they unite in the holy matrimony. These vows are taken during the pheras as the Vedic mantras are recited.
The Seven Vows are in Sanskrit (with translation as interpreted from the ancient Vedic texts):
Phera 1: Blessing for nourishing food and noble and respectful life.
Groom’s vow: Om esha ekapadi bhava iti prathaman (I will love, cherish and provide for you and our children. You will support me and offer me food)
Bride’s vow: Dhanam dhanyam pade vadet (I will honor you. I take upon myself the responsibilities of the house and children).
Phera 2: Pray for strength (physical and mental). Also pray for a peaceful and healthy life
Groom’s vow: Om oorje jara dastayaha (I promise to support you forever. Together we will defend our family and home)
Bride’s vow: Kutumburn rakshayishyammi sa aravindharam (I promise to stand side by side with you in protecting our family and home)
Phera 3: Pray for prosperity and wisdom. Also pray for religious and spiritual strength and reaffirm their commitment to each other.
Groom’s vow: Om rayas Santu joradastayaha (I promise to work for the prosperity of this family. I also promise to be faithful to you and lead a spiritual life)
Bride’s vow: Tava bhakti as vadedvachacha (I promise to be faithful to you and to support you)
PHERA 4: Pray for the happiness of the couple
Groom’s vow: Om mayo bhavyas jaradastaya ha (I am fortunate to have you as my wife. I pray for a happy life and good children)
Bride’s vow: Lalayami cha pade vadet. (I will do my best to please you)
PHERA 5: Pray for happy children and happiness for all beings
Groom’s vow: Om prajabhyaha Santu jaradastayaha (I pray for the happiness and well being of our family. May we have righteous and obedient children)
Bride’s vow: Arte arba sapade vadet (I will trust and honor you. I will be with you always)
PHERA 6: Pray that we live in perfect harmony. May we have a long and happy life
Groom’s vow: (Oops – original missing! Anyone know it?) May we be happy together forever.
Bride’s vow: Yajne home shashthe vacho vadet (I will always be by your side in your endeavors)
PHERA 7: May we always be good friends
Groom’s vow: Om sakhi jaradastayahga. (With this last phera we forever belong to each other)
Bride’s vow: Attramshe sakshino vadet pade.(I am delighted to be your wife. May we be together forever)
According to prominent Hindu texts, a marriage has no strength or recognition if this rite is not duly performed. Until the bride has performed the saptapadi she is considered unmarried. As per the tradition, initially the bride sits to the right of the groom and once saptapadi is solemnized, she is seated to the left of the groom, closer to his heart.
Note: The number 7 has an important significance in Hindu culture. For more information on this, click here.
Quote of the day: “Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin
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