Photos by Joy Marie Photography
Saptapadi means seven steps in Sanskrit and it’s a very important element of Vedic Hindu weddings. The bride and groom go through seven circuits of the Holy Fire (Agni), which is considered a witness to the vows they make to each other. In some regions, sashes worn by the bride and groom are tied together for this ceremony. In other places, the groom holds the bride’s right hand in his own right hand.
Each circuit of the venerated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. In most cases, the bride leads the groom in the first circuit. In North India, the first six circuits are led by the bride, and the final one by the groom. In Central India, the bride leads the first three or four circuits. With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow towards a happy relationship and household for each other.
The best man will give a speech to the men and the maid of honor gives a speech to the women. The bridesmaids will carry a young tree that the couple will keep as a symbol of their new life together and a young girl will spray the bride with fragrant incense, such as rose water.
In South Indian weddings, after the bride and groom both recite a mantra at each of the seven steps, the couple will then say these words together: “Now let us make a vow together. We shall share love, share the same food, share our strengths, share the same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Samaveda, you the Rigveda, I shall be the Upper World, you the Earth; I shall be the Sukhilam, you the Holder – together we shall live and beget children, and other riches; come thou, O beautiful girl!”
In North Indian weddings, the bride and the groom recite this mantra: “We have taken the Seven Steps. You have become mine forever. Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound. May the night be honey-sweet for us. May the morning be honey-sweet for us. May the earth be honey-sweet for us. May the heavens be honey-sweet for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us. May the sun be all honey for us. May the cows yield us honey-sweet milk. As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable, so may our union be permanently settled.”
Photos by Arrowood Photography