Saptapadi quite literally translates from Sanskrit to ‘seven steps’.There are many regional differences that occur in the execution of this ritual. Some Ritis (rituals) sound straight out of a romantic movie, but they indeed are as romantic as a Hindu wedding can get. Popularly known as ‘Saat Phere’ or Saptapadi, meaning seven steps, this ritual between the bride and the groom is what officiates the wedding ceremony as per Hindu marriage traditions. In South Indian tradition it is customary that the couple take seven steps due south. This portion of the ceremony takes places following the tying of the Mangalsutra and establishes the commitment the couple makes to each other during the Hindu wedding ceremony. The couple takes seven steps, representing the seven principles and promises they make to each other.
These seven steps parallel that ideal in that the couple ‘vows’ to successfully fulfill these principles during their married life. Although Saptapadi is addressed by different terms in different regions, the vows and ritual methods remain almost the same.
What are the 7 vows and their meanings?
While the couple is taking the steps, the priest dictates mantras pertaining to each specific step. The Groom takes the pinky finger (or hand) of his Bride and leads her take steps. Each of these steps signifie a specific meaning for both the Bride and Groom. Complementary meanings that ensure that they will work as a unit to make this marriage successful, healthy, and prosperous.
The first vow is for good health, a better household, acceptance of responsibilities towards each other’s families. The second vow is to work towards a richer mental and spiritual self-existence together. The third vow is about the importance of wealth, a promise to earn it with full honesty. The fourth vow is about mutual understanding, respect towards each other, trust, happiness and a promise to self to acquire knowledge throughout life. The fifth promise is seeking blessings from the almighty for a fertile life and healthy children a head. The sixth vow is for a healthy and long life. The seventh and the final vow is a promise to stay committed, honest and true to each other, for life.
This saptapadi ceremony off by having the bride touch seven beetlenuts in turn with her toe, while her groom helps her keep her balance.
After the conclusion of Saptapadi ceremony and taking blessings of gods and goddesses, both the bride and the groom proceed towards seeking blessings from the elders of the family. In many regions, there are a certain set of shlokas that the couple recites post Saptapadi, for each other. These recitals speak about accepting officially, in front of the family. That both the bride and the groom, have accepted each other as their partners for the next seven lives.