Hindu marriage ceremonies are probably the most festive in the world.
The colors, week-long celebrations, and food are truly a sight to behold. I got married through a Hindu ceremony two years ago and enjoyed it with all my heart.
An interesting thing about Hindu marriages is the variance of their customs and rituals across different regions. For instance, Nepali and Sri-Lankan Hindus are quite different from Indian Hindus. Indeed, in India, our rituals change almost every time you cross a state boundary.
One thing, however, that remains constant throughout the world are the rituals of Saptapathi and Saat Vachan. Saptapathi means the seven sacred steps, and Saat Vachan refers to the seven holy vows or promises the bride and groom make to each other. The word Vachan literally means vows.
In western weddings, the bride and groom can write and declare their own vows. In Hindu weddings, the vows are mentioned in their holy books, the Vedas. The groom wears a long scarf that is tied to the bride’s veil (the expression “tying the knot’ comes from here) and they walk around a holy fire seven times. This is called agni sakshi, which means the fire is a witness to the holy wedding.
The seven rounds around the fire represent the seven sacred steps (saptapathi) I mentioned above. Every round signifies one promise or vow. The purohit (the religious master who solemnizes the wedding) chants the mantras that denote these vows during the pheras or rounds and the couple declares their consent by completing each round.
Although the vows were written thousands of years ago, they remain relevant, practical, and meaningful today.
Before I describe the vows, note that I’ve used the words “bride” and “groom” throughout to make it understandable. Their meanings and significance remain equally effective if you interchange their places. The first vow, for instance, says that the groom should bring home the resources and the bride should take care of the household. You might find this offensive. However, if you look beyond the literal meaning of these terms, you’ll see the vow is asking individuals to fulfill their separate duties toward the family. Who earns the money and who does the household chores is not relevant.
So, with that being said, here we go with the seven sacred vows or Vachans of Hindu marriages:
1. The first Vachan:
The groom promises to take care of all the earthly needs of his bride and their future children. In response, the bride promises to manage and take care of the household.
2. The second Vachan:
The groom promises to protect his bride and their family from all the troubles that may come their way. In response, the bride promises to stand by her groom in all circumstances, provide power and support in times of need, and never leave him alone.
3. The third Vachan:
They mutually agree that whatever collective wealth they earn by honest and hard work, they will have equal rights over it.
4. The fourth Vachan:
The groom expresses his happiness that the bride has chosen to be his wife and promises to give her a happy family life. He wishes they will have noble and wise children and they will live a long, happy life. The bride in turn promises to support him, help him provide for their family, and contribute toward a happy family life at all times.
5. The fifth Vachan:
The groom promises that he will never make any important decisions about their lives without the bride’s counsel or consent. In response, the bride promises that she will always provide the best and the most moral suggestions and prioritize their family’s welfare above everything else.
6. The sixth Vachan:
The groom promises that he will always love his bride, respect and be loyal to her. The bride too promises to always remain loyal and faithful to him.
7. The seventh Vachan:
The groom promises to uphold all the promises throughout his life, and never take another wife while she is alive and with him. He also declares that she is not only his wife, but his most loving and loyal friend. The bride too promises to uphold all her promises, never take another husband while he is alive and with her, and declares that he is her closest confidante and friend.
So, what do you think? Are you up for taking up any of these vows at your own wedding? Which one did you find the most fascinating? Let me know!