‘Saat Phere’, seem to be taken straight out of a Bollywood movie, but they are as romantic as a Hindu wedding can get. Also known as Saptapadi, Saat Phere means seven steps or seven rounds taken around the holy fire by the bride and the groom. Each round or step symbolizes the seven vows that the bride and the groom make to each other. These vows are available in the ancient Hindu scriptures and are considered to be the most sacred part of the entire wedding. The promises are based on treating your partner equally, being respectful and having a harmonious married life. The Saptapadi is carried out in Sanskrit mantras which is chanted by the Pandit and is repeated by the bride and the groom.
Saptapadi is mainly performed by the people in the Hindu community. Saptapadi is seen in the Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa and other regions where Hinduism is followed. While the Saptapadi is spoken by different terms in different regions, the vows and ritual methods remain the same. The importance of fire or fire and the recitation of vows are prominent factors in the Saptapadi ritual.
- The first vow is for good health, flourishing household, accepting responsibilities toward each other and respective families and respecting the long-followed traditions.
- The second vow is to work toward a comfortable mental and spiritual self-existence together.
- The third vow is regarding the significance of prosperity and a promise to earn it with complete righteousness.
- The fourth vow is about mutual understanding, equality and respect towards one another, faith, commitment and a promise to oneself to obtain knowledge throughout life.
- The fifth promise is seeking blessings from the Almighty for a fruitful life and carrying on the generation with healthy progeny.
- The sixty vow is about a healthy and long life.
- The seventh and final vow is a promise to each other to stay committed, honest and true to each other for life.
How the Saat Phere function is performed?
Although little details are bound to change as per different regions, the alignment of steps to perform Saptapadi is almost the same everywhere. The important step is the auspicious time during the wedding eve, which is finalized by the priest after checking the horoscopes of the bride and the groom. Once the timeline to perform the Saat Pheras is set, the couple and their parents gather around the Agni (fire) along with the priest seated near the Agnikund.
The ceremony begins by tying a knot with one end of the bride’s dupatta or saree’s end with the groom’s stole or “Uthariya”. The bride and groom then circumambulate around the sacred fire in clockwise direction. The groom holds the little finger of the bride’s right hand as he leads the first four vows. The remaining three pheras(rounds) are concluded by the bride. As the couple performs the Saptapadi, the families seated around the mandap shower flowers and rice on the newlyweds indicating their blessings. The Saptapadi ritual is concluded by reciting shlokas, seeking blessings from Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the world and his consort, Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. With the reciting of the Shlokas, the Saptapadi ceremony comes to an end, describing that the couple have vowed to each other to be with each other for seven lifetimes. With this, the couple is now officially and legally married.
Things to remember while doing Saat Phere
- Take little steps when you perform Saptapadi to avoid tripping over.
- Ensure that you and your partner have sufficient space in the Mandap when you circumambulate the Agni.
- Pay extra attention to while the Pandit is reciting or the rituals he asks you to perform as it will help you in understanding the Saat Phere traditions more clearly. It will help you to connect emotionally with the marriage further.
- Do NOT disrespect any kind of such rituals as it is often considered a disrespect for the family and their traditions.
- Stay away from the marriage shenanigans at bay during the Saat Pheras.
What to wear for the Saat Phere function?
Many brides prefer their regional wedding saree only, as certain regional rituals call for different wedding wear for the Saat Phere ceremony. After the Varmala, the bride moves to change her attire for her Saptapadi look. The Saptapadi outfit consists of a yellow-red saree, lighter gold jewelery and a simple nose ring. Many brides in North and West India wear a headdress called Mukut throughout the Saptapadi ceremony.
For the groom, however, the attire remains the same throughout the wedding ceremony. This is the time when he takes off his shoes, leading to the unofficial Joota-churai ceremony where the bridesmaids steal the shoes and receive a small token of gift from the groom.
What happens next?
After concluding the Saat Pheras, the husband and wife take blessings from the Almighty and seek blessings from the family. In certain regions, there are slokas to be recited post-Saptapadi for each other. The shlokas are about accepting one another officially in front of the families of the bride and the groom and having accepted each other for the next seven lives. They promise to be honest towards one another and be with each other through the highs and lows of life. They also promise to take care of each other and conclude by thanking God and the five elements of the Earth for their union.
This is followed by the Vidaai ceremony which signifies the bride leaving her parents’ house and towards her husband’s house.
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