Hindu weddings are known for their vibrancy and vivaciousness. The prelude to a Hindu wedding is done by holding very many pre-wedding functions that are full of fun and frolic. But it is the main vidhi or the wedding ceremony which is the core of the entire celebration. It is because of the vidhi that a wedding becomes a wedding.
Likewise, the vidhi has a multitude of little rituals; each one having its own meaning and significance. But at the centre of all these rituals lies the most important ritual called Saptapadi. ‘Sapta’ means seven and ‘padi’ means steps, hence it is commonly known as the seven steps. It is alternatively known as ‘Saat Phere’. Each step has a vow attached to it, a vow that the bride and the groom make to each other.
Various deities are invoked to attend the wedding and bless the couple. This is done through various rituals. Similarly, the Saptapadi happens around the Mangal Agni or the Holy Fire. The belief is that Agnideva or the Lord of Fire shall bear witness to the vows exchanged by the couple. Any vow made in front of Agnideva is considered strong and unbreakable. It is only after the Saptapadi that the wedding ceremony is considered complete.
The Saptapadi takes place with the bride and groom circumventing the holy fire, seven times, holding hands as a sign that they shall walk together in life and shall be in this marital journey together till their last breath.
During the first phera, the couple walks around the Holy Fire with the groom leading the bride. The first phera is a prayer to invoke all Gods to come and bless the couple so that there is abundant love, harmony, peace and prosperity in their marital life.
In the second phera, the couple seeks blessings for a strong mental as well as physical health so that each of them gets to live a healthy married life.
In the third phera, the bride and the groom take a vow to protect and increase their wealth by legible means.
In the fourth phera, the couple takes a vow that they will be there with each other in all joys and sorrows of life.
In the fifth phera the bride takes the lead and while circling around the fire they take a vow that they shall flow freely in the processes of nature and beget noble children.
In the sixth phera, the couple takes a vow of longevity and self-control.
In the seventh and the final phera, the couple vows that they shall be each other’s friends, confidantes and companions for life. Now that they have become two beings but one soul they shall vow to associate spiritually to each other for eternity.
After the Saptapadi is complete, the bride and the groom have made promises to each other regarding harmony, joy, love, duties and fidelity. These vows also extend to taking care of each other’s families and basing the marriage on mutual love, admiration and respect for each other’s families.
Saptapadi instils strong sense of commitment in the bride and groom. Once they begin implementing their vows and keeping their promises well, no person or situation can break that holy bond!