This month has a different significance for everyone around the globe. Some people must have started making resolutions, some are running errands before the calendar ends. Some, I hope are still clueless like me, as to where did this year vaporize!!
In the U.S everyone is caught up with the holiday fever but my Facebook updates show most of my friends and family in India are enjoying grand celebrations, as this is the much awaited wedding season! That automatically means a lot of anniversary celebrations going on as well. All this big fat Indian wedding craze got me thinking about the truly meaningful part of these ceremonies.
Beneath all the loud music, dance, great food with tons of calories, gorgeous clothes, cheers and fun rituals, there lies a beautifully masked commitment of two individuals to become one for life. It’s the same in every country in every religion just the customs change. I think the most romantic part of Christian weddings is the part when they read their vows. United Methodist Church:
I, hubby, take you, wifey…
to be my lawfully wedded wife,
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part.
This is my solemn vow.
Ahh… simply beautiful !
Here, I must confess something… I did ‘hear’ my wedding vows being chanted by the priest, I sort of translated the meaning as well (thank you mom and my Sanskrit teacher for that!) But I actually understood their real meaning only after a few months into our marriage.
I believe many brides go through the same emotions like I did. You nod in deep contemplation trying to grasp the vows but that moment is so unreal especially as it is right after the ritual of Kanyadaan (when parents give away the bride to the groom). It’s almost an avalanche of emotions that you can’t express as the second avalanche of commitment awaits… Oh and I forgot to mention all this is happening while there are multiple eyes fixated on you and your partner. Well all said and done the true meaning of those vows can only be felt, not defined.
Love does not require a stamp paper to officiate it, but there is something pious and spiritual in the act of accepting your life partner with the Lord and your loved one’s as witness. In Hinduism the final ceremony of the wedding is performed by a priest, with him and the couple seated around a holy fire (Ajna / Agni Dev – considered the Fire God) in an area called the Mandap (a temporary structure constructed with pillars, beautifully decorated to perform the Vedic rituals.)
There are various rituals and prayers that are performed by the priest (which greatly differ regionally) but the final ritual is Saat phera’s or the seven Vow’s the couples take by walking 7 circles around the holy fire in clockwise direction. After the 7 circles, the union is considered complete in the eyes of God and the couple seeks blessings from the priest and elders of the family by touching their feet, as a symbol of respect.
I went through various articles and found slight differences in some interpretations but the basic idea or concept is the same. Some rituals differ regionally. In some places the bride leads the Pheras first, signifying her determination to stand first beside her husband in all happiness and sorrow.
These 7 circles/ Pheras are representative that the couple is uniting, with God as their witness, to achieve the four goals in life:
Dharma : religious and moral duties;
Artha : prosperity;
Kama : earthly pleasures;
Moksha: spiritual salvation and liberation.
Now, here are the seven vows that the couples pledge :
THE SEVEN VOW’S
1. In the first round or phera , the couple prays to God for the basic necessities of life food, clothing and shelter. They pray that the gods provide them strength to take the good with the bad that life has to offer, and be in the prime of their health while doing so. They pledge to nourish and take good care of each other, and cater to the other one’s needs.
2. In the second round, the couple prays to God for a healthy and prosperous life. They ask for the physical, spiritual and mental health from God. They urge the deities to give them the strength to protect not only each other, but their children too from the rigors of life. This phera also incorporates the promise of becoming one entity, and looking at life together. Whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual, they will now grow as one single force.
3. In the third phera the couple prays to God for wealth. The groom vows to earn with full honesty, deepening his love for his wife, whereas, the bride promises to utilize the wealth optimally. What’s more, they also pray to the deities to never back out from providing quality education to their children, when the time comes.
4. In the fourth round the couple prays to God for the increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families. The groom and the bride promise to bring sacredness to their pious relation, and pray to the gods for auspiciousness in their lives. The bride also promises to devote her life to her husband as a chaste wife, whereas, the groom promises to never cheat on her, and retain the sacredness of their marriage.
5. In the fifth round, the bride and groom together pray for the beautiful, heroic and noble children from God in the fifth step. They also pray that their children grow up to be noble, respecting all fundamental values of life.
6. In the sixth holy round around the fire, the couple asks for the peaceful long life with each other. The couple promise each other that they will bring immense joy and peace to the other. They vow to lead a harmonious life together by minimizing fights, and supporting each other always.
7. In the final seventh round the couple prays to god for companionship, togetherness, loyalty and understanding between themselves. They ask God to make them friends and give the maturity to carry out the friendship for lifetime. The couple vouch for a friendship that stands taller than any other relation in the world. They promise each other eternal companionship, trust, loyalty, and unity in all forms. In the presence of gods and family members, they assure that they will love, honor, and cherish each other, no matter what stage of life they are in. It is the basic pillars of a strong relationship that the couple requests from the gods, which will help them lead an eternally blessed life with each other.
This blog post is for all of you who are going to get married, or people celebrating anniversaries and even those who don’t plan to get married. For anyone who believes in companionship and promises. Adding the ‘vow’ factor makes life a lot more beautiful and complete.