Marriage is an important part of an individual’s life. It marks as one’s true entry into adulthood as now he or she is now fit for taking on the responsibility of another human being. Under all those flashy, extravagant Indian wedding ceremony lies the austerely honest Vedic Hindu wedding rituals. The 13 intricate stages of Hindu wedding ceremony show the seriousness of what a marriage entails through various rituals and mantras. Every ritual or mantra pronounced during the wedding has its own significance and cannot be done away with. All these rituals revolve around one main ritual known as the Saptapadi where the bride and the groom utter the seven vows of the wedding, while they revolve around the sacred fire, seven times.
According to ancient Hindu beliefs, marriages are made in heaven and solemnized on earth and once the marriage is solemnized, the two souls are joined by an unseen sacred thread for seven lifetimes. The seven vows taken during the Saptapadi are the seven promises which the bride and the groom make to each other to lead a happy and prosperous life. They are bound together by an unseen thread that is protected by these promising words.
The seven vows also known as Saptapadi are performed along with the Mangal Pheras, where the bride and the groom walk around the sacred fire. Any Hindu marriage is considered incomplete without these vows and is deemed complete once they are conducted. The seven vows along with the seven Pheras is the most important ritual of a Hindu wedding as it sanctifies the union of two souls and also gives social recognition to the marriage. This fact became evident to me when I saw a couple getting married in a temple without any social gathering, marking the holy priest and the Almighty as the only witness.Their marriage only consisted of seven vows or pheras around the fire. When I asked the couple the reason they said it was a love marriage and these seven vows are way more important than any registry marriage.
After knowing the importance of these pheras I was curious to know the meaning of each phera and it significance so I asked the priest of the temple and he told me. So, here is what the priest told me about each of the seven vows of Hindu marriage:
For the First Vow, the Groom promises his bride: “om eshaekapadibhavaitiprathaman” which means ‘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’. The bride complies in return: “dhanamdhanyampadevadet” which means ‘I will take the responsibility for our home and all household, food and our finance’. In short, the bride and groom promises each other prosperity by fulfilling their respective roles in their lives.
For the Second Vow the groom promises his bride: “om oorjejaradastayaha”, which means ‘We will protect our house and children together’. The Bride in return promises that “kutumburnrakshayishyammisaaravindharam” which means ‘I will be there by your side as your courage and your strength. I will rejoice in your happiness and in return, you will love me solely’.
During the Third Vow, the Groom promises to his bride that “om rayassantujoradastayaha” which means ‘we may grow healthy and prosporous and strive for the education of our children and our children may live long.’ In response the Bride promises, “tava bhakti as vadedvachacha”, which means ‘I will love you for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man who exist in my life will be secondary. I also vow to remain chaste’.
During the Fourth phera, the groom promises his bride that “om mayo bhavyasjaradastaya ha” which means ‘You have completed me and brought sacredness into my life. He continues his promise by saying may we be blessed with noble and obedient children’. In response to his promise, the Bride says “lalayami cha padevadet”, which means, ‘I will shower you with joy and will strive to please you in which ever way I can’.
During the Fifth phera, the Groom promises his bride, “om prajabhyahasantujaradastayaha”, by which he means ‘You are my best friend, and my only well-wisher. You have come into my life and enriched it.’ To this the Bride replies by saying, “arte arbasapadevadet” meaning ‘I promise to love and cherish you for all my life. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow too. I will trust you and honor you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes’.
During the Sixth phera, the groom says to his bride, “Rutubhyah shat padibhava” which means ‘Now that we have taken six steps together, you have filled my heart with immense joy. Will you do the kindness of filling my heart with such happiness at all times?’ to this the bride says, “yajnahomshashthevachovadet” which means ‘I will always be there by your side’.
During the Last and Seventh phera, the Groom promises his bride that “Om sakhijaradastayahga”, by which he means ‘We have become husband and wife, and are one. You will be mine and I will be yours for eternity.’ The bride readily accepts this proclamation and says “Attramshesakshinovadetpade”, by which she means ‘With the witness of the almighty, I am now your wife and we will love, honor and cherish each other as long as we live.’
After hearing the meaning of all the vows I understood that the marriage vows are the heart of any wedding ceremony. The words that are uttered by the couple is not only an expression of their future intentions but they are the promises that they make to each other and they wish to uphold in their married life.
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