Yesterday, my daughter, Anushka while playing with the TV remote accidently switched on a family soap. Not surprisingly there was a scene of a couple getting married the traditional Hindu way of Saat Pheras and Saat Vachan. As they were reciting their vows in the presence of the holy fire, one of their nephews curiously asked what the seven vows meant and why are they considered so important. That’s when the entire cast went speechless, only to be rescued by the Panditji (Hindu Priest) who enlightened everyone.
Almost every Hindu marriage follows this ritual. In fact, this is the single most important ritual in a Hindu Wedding upon whose completion only, a couple is deemed to be married. However, many of us don’t even know or remember the meaning and significance of the Saat Vachan (Seven Vows) and Saat Pheras (Seven Circles). I confess even I don’t!
But then watching the scene on TV, I couldn’t help but wonder about my wedding when I too had taken these Saat Pheras and Saat Vachans (vows) with my husband, but barely remembered any of it.
So I sought the help of Google to give me some insight into this sacred Hindu custom, and that’s when discovered that this ritual is named – Saptapadi simply translates to ‘Seven Steps’. These Seven Steps or Vows are part of a Sanskrit Mantra (Prayer) which usually precedes the groom tying a Mangalsutra (an auspicious necklace with black beads and gold) around the neck of the bride. The Saptapadi commences when a family member ties a knot through a Chunari (drape) adorned by both the bride and the groom signifying their amalgamation. Then the couple circumambulates seven times around the sacred fire called Agnikund reciting the holy vows as directed by the Pandit. Each and every vow has its own significance individually and mutually for the couple and there is a specific order in which they are recited. Once these seven circles are complete, the couple is officially declared husband and wife.
This custom is more or less the same across all Hindu marriages across India. As Sanskrit is not understood by all here is the English translation of the Seven Vows that you have either taken or about to take soon:
Groom: You will offer me food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide welfare and happiness for you and our children.
Bride: I am responsible for the home and all household responsibilities.
Groom: Together we will protect our house and children.
Bride: I will be by your side as your courage and strength. I will rejoice in your happiness. In return, you will love me solely.
Groom: May we grow wealthy and prosperous and strive for the education of our children. May our children live long.
Bride: I will love you solely for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man in my life will be secondary. I vow to remain chaste.
Groom: You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble and obedient children.
Bride: I will shower you with joy, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way I can.
Groom: You are my best friend, and staunchest well-wisher. You have come into my life, enriching it. God bless you.
Bride: I promise to love and cherish you for as long as I live. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust and honor you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes.
Groom: May you be filled with joy and peace.
Bride: I will always be by your side.
Groom: We are now husband and wife, and are one. You are mine and I am yours for eternity.
Bride: As God is witness, I am now your wife. We will love, honor and cherish each other forever.
Having recited the Seven Vows the couple is then asked to take a common vow after they have finished the Saat Pheras. Here is the vow that both the bride and groom take together as a married couple (credits - Wikipedia):
“Now let us make a vow together. We shall share love, share the same food, share our strengths, share the same tastes. We shall be of one mind; we shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Samaveda, you the Rigveda, I shall be the Upper World, you the Earth; I shall be the Sukhilam, you the Holder – together we shall live and beget children, and other riches; come thou”.
Having understood the concept of Saat Pheras and the Saat Vachan, I realized that this ritual has far a deeper significance than just being a symbolic act. When the couple takes seven steps around the fire, it suggests that married life should be pure, sacred and immortal like the fire. The holy fire is the witness to the promises the bride and groom make to each other and these seven vows form crux of a good marriage.
Feeling enlightened, I have now decided that the next time my husband picks up a fight with me, I am going to remind him these Seven Vows!