According to Hindu beliefs, Marriages are made in heaven & once the marriage is solemnized, the two souls are joined for seven lifetimes. The seven vows of marriage are the 7 promises which the bride and the groom make to each other for a happy & prosporous life. They are bound together by an unseen bond protected by these promising words. The Seven vows can be said to contain the crux of an ideal marriage that is to be practiced by the bride & groom.
The 7 vows known as Saptapadi, are performed along with Mangal pheras, which is walking around the sacred fire. Any Hindu marriage is incomplete once they are conducted, On the day of the wedding the bride and the groom sit under the mandap for this ritual. The Sacred fire is lighted along with the customary home puja done by the priest/Pandit. They are then asked to stand up & take 7 ‘Pheras’ around the sacred fire, all the while uttering a different promise with each phera. The bride is seated towards left of the groom before the pheras, while towards the right after they are complete. The seven vows along with the seven pheras are the most important ritual in a Hindu wedding as it Santifies the union & affords social recognition to the marriage.
The 7 vows are described as follows:-
First Vow : For the first vow, The groom promises & says you will offer me food & be helpful in everyway. I will cherish you & provide welfare & happiness for you & our children. The bride complies in return & says I am responsible for the home & all household, food & finance responsibilities concisely, the bride & groom promise each other prosperity by fulfiling their respective roles in their lives.
Second Vow : For the Second vow the groom says together we will protect our house & children. The bride in return promises I will be by your side as your courage & strength. I will rejoice in your happiness . In return, you will love me solely.
Third Vow : During the third vow, the groom says may we grow wealthy & prosperous & strive for the education of our children & may our children live long. In return the bride promises 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.
Fourth Vow : During fourth vow, the groom declares you have brought sacredness into my life & have completed me. May we be blessed with obedient children. The bride says in return I will shower you with joy, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way I can.
Fifth Vow : For the fifth vow, the groom says you are my best friend & well wisher. You have come into my life, enriching it. God bless you & the bride says I promise to love & cherish you for as long as I live. Your happiness is my happiness & your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust & honor you & will strive to fullfill all your wishes.
Sixth Vow : During the Sixth vow the groom ask now that you have taken 6 steps with me, you have filled my heart with immense happiness will you do the kindness of filling my heart wih happiness like this for all the times ? The bride replies I will be always be by your side.
Seventh Vow : For the Last & Seventh vow the groom says we are now husband & wife & are one. You are mine & I am yours for eternity. The bride accepts this proclamation & says As god is witness, I am your wife, we will love, honor & cherish each other forever.
The words uttered by the couple as an expression of their future intentions as well as promises they wish to uphold in their married life. The vows cover the generally accepted do’s & dont’s of a successful married life. Not just for the Hindu’s during a Vedic wedding ceremony, but in every other culture, wedding vows outline the same goals- lifelong commitment, devotion and mutual respect. Marriage is a bond that is ever lasting & all these vows reinforce the couple’s intent to stay together through thick and thin of life, till death separate them part.