The Hindu method of marriage is an ancient Vedic tradition which involves ritual of fire and couple taking seven steps around this fire, called as Saptapadi or Saat Phere.
Just like hindus have the Vedic Sapta-Padhi (सप्तपदी) or the ‘Seven-Steps‘ , native americans have a ritual of using fire and ‘Seven Steps‘ along with ‘Seven Vows‘ during their wedding ceremonies.
Saptapadi, or the taking of seven steps by the bride and the bridegroom before the sacred fire, is considered to be the rite of prime importance in solemnizing a marriage.
According to Paraskar Grahaya Suktram and various other prominent Smritis, marriage has no strength or recognition if this rite is not duly performed.
Until the bride has performed the Saptapadi she is considered unmarried.
Saptapadi is the only ritual that gives the right to a girl to choose her husband in front of the sacred fire (Agni).
A question that often comes to the mind is why seven steps? Seven has a very deep spiritual, philosophical & divine significance in it. There are seven matrikas or seven aspects of mother energy. The sacred fire has seven flames, there are seven porous pious rivers, seven phases in the life of a woman, seven elements of body, seven notes of music, seven rays of the sun and seven main planets. Therefore, seven is always considered to be a mystic number that bestows long life. In the famous puranic story of Savitri and Satyavan, Savitri mentions to Yamaraj (Lord of Death) that I have moved with you for seven steps, so we are already friends. As a friend how can you make me a widow by taking away my husband Satyawan’s soul. Hence the concept of Saptapadi is very closely related with our mystic legends in the tradition of fulfilling the four ends of human life i.e. Dharma, Kama, Artha and Moksha in family life (grahasta).
While performing this rite, the bride, bearing in mind all previous ceremonies of Kanyadaan and Laja Homa, agrees to take the seven steps as the beginning of her life together with the bridegroom.
It is important to mention here, that this ceremony i.e. Saptapadi is mostly confused with pheras or agni pradakshina. The agni pradakshina or pheras is a totally different rite of four, three or seven circuits round the sacred fire, three of which are led by the bride and rest by bridegroom. The Saptapadi on the other hand is the rite of seven steps taken together by the bride and the bridegroom, at a slow and measured pace side-by-side and step-by step in the north-eastern direction. While moving forward the bride is always on the right side so that the bridegroom’s right hand is on her right shoulder. He says to her “Let not your left foot surpass your right foot.” With each step, the bride and the bridegroom take a pledge together.
Bridegroom Says : “Om esha ekapadi bhava iti prathaman”
“My beloved, our love becomes firm by your walking one step with me. You will offer my food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide for your welfare and happiness and that of your children“.
Bride Says : “Dhanam dhanyam pade vadet”
“I humbly submit to you, my lord. Kindly give me the responsibility of the home, food and finance. I promise you that I shall fulfil all responsibilities towards the welfare of the family and the children.”
Bridegroom Says : “Om oorje jara dastayaha”
“My beloved, now you have walked the second step with me. Fill my heart with strength and courage and together we shall protect the household and the children.”
Bride Says : “Kutumburn rakshayishyammi sa aravindharam”
“My lord, in your grief, I shall fill your heart with courage and strength. In your happiness, I shall rejoice, I promise you that I will please you always with sweet words and take care of the family and children. And you shall love me and me alone as your wife.”
Bridegroom says : “Om rayas Santu joradastayaha”
“My beloved, now you have walked three steps with me. By virtue of this, our wealth and prosperity are going to grow. I shall look upon all other woman as my sisters. Together, we will educate our children and may they live long”
Bride Says : “Tava bhakti as vadedvachacha”
“My love, I will love you with single minded devotion as my husband. I will treat all other men as my brothers. My devotion to you is that of a chaste wife and you are my joy. This is my commitment and my pledge to you.”
Bridegroom Says : “Om mayo bhavyas jaradastaya ha”
“My beloved, it is a great blessing that you have walked four steps with me. You have brought auspiciousness and sacredness into my life. May we be blessed with obedient and noble children. May they live long.”
“Lalayami cha pade vadet.”
“My lord, I will adorn myself from head to toe with flowers, garlands and ornaments, and anoint myself with sandalwood paste and fragrance for your sake. I will serve you and please you in every way I can.”
Bridegroom Says : “Om prajabhyaha Santu jaradastayaha”
“My beloved, now that you have walked five steps with me, you have enriched my life. May God bless you. May our loved ones live long and share in our prosperity.”
Bride Says : “Arte arba sapade vadet”
“My Lord, I will share your joys and sorrows. Your love will make me trust and honour you. I will carry out all your wishes.”
Bridegroom Says : “Rutubhyah shat padi bhava”
“My beloved, you have filled my heart with happiness walking six steps with me. May you fill my heart with joy and peace at all times and seasons.”
Bride Says : “Yajne home shashthe vacho vadet.”
“My Lord, in all acts of righteousness, in material prosperity in all enjoyment and divine acts, I promise you I will participate and I shall always be with you.”
Bridegroom says ” “Om sakhi jaradastayahga.”
“My beloved, as you walked the seven steps with me, our love and friendship became eternal. We experienced spiritual union in God. Now you have become completely mine and I offer my life to you. Our marriage will be forever.
Bride Says : “Attramshe sakshino vadet pade.”
“My Lord, as per the law of God and the holy scriptures, I have become your spouse with the taking of the seventh step. Whatever promises we gave, we did so with a pure mind. We will be truthful to each other in all matters. We will love each other forever.”
Native American Wedding Rite
Similarly, the Native American ‘Seven-Step Rite‘ vows are very similar to the Vedic SaptaPadi, where the Bride and the Groom take Seven Steps together, at a slow pace, in the north-easterly direction, making a promise at every step.
Both bride and groom take seven steps sunwise (clockwise) around the sacred fire. For each step taken, a vow is said by each. The groom makes one step forward and says a vow, and then the bride takes a step to join him and says her vow until one round around the fire is completed. Family and friends join hands in a circle around the fire.
GROOM STEP 1: O’ my beloved, our love has become firm by your walking one with me. Together we will share the responsibilities of the lodge, food and children. May the Creator bless noble children to share. May they live long.
BRIDE STEP 1: This is my commitment to you, my husband. Together we will share the responsibility of the home, food and children. I promise that I shall discharge all my share of the responsibilities for the welfare of the family and the children.
GROOM STEP 2: O’ my beloved, now you have walked with me the second step. May the Creator bless you. I will love you and you alone as my wife. I will fill your heart with strength and courage: this is my commitment and my pledge to you. May God protect the lodge and children.
BRIDE STEP 2: My husband, at all times I shall fill your heart with courage and strength. In your happiness I shall rejoice. May God bless you and our honorable lodge.
GROOM STEP 3: O my beloved, now since you have walked three steps with me, our wealth and prosperity will grow. May God bless us. May we educate our children and may they live long.
BRIDE STEP 3: My husband, I love you with single-minded devotion as my husband. I will treat all other men as my brothers. My devotion to you is pure and you are my joy. This is my commitment and pledge to you.
GROOM STEP 4: O’ my beloved, it is a great blessing that you have now walked four steps with me. May the Creator bless you. You have brought favor and sacredness in my life.
BRIDE STEP 4: O my husband, in all acts of righteousness, in material prosperity, in every form of enjoyment, and in those divine acts such as fire sacrifice, worship and charity, I promise you that I shall participate and I will always be with you.
GROOM STEP 5: O’ my beloved, now you have walked five steps with me. May the Creator make us prosperous. May the Creator bless us.
BRIDE STEP 5: O my husband, I will share both in your joys and sorrows. Your love will make me very happy.
GROOM STEP 6: O’ my beloved, by walking six steps with me, you have filled my heart with happiness. May I fill your heart with great joy and peace, time and time again. May the Creator bless you.
BRIDE STEP 6: My husband, the Creator blesses you. May I fill your heart with great joy and peace. I promise that I will always be with you.
GROOM STEP 7: O’ my beloved goddess, as you have walked the seven steps with me, our love and friendship have become inseparable and firm. We have experienced spiritual union in God. Now you have become completely mine. I offer my total self to you. May our marriage last forever.
BRIDE STEP 7: My husband, by the law of the Creator, and the spirits of our honorable ancestors, I have become your wife. Whatever promises I gave you I have spoken them with a pure heart. All the spirits are witnesses to this fact. I shall never deceive you, nor will I let you down. I shall love you forever.
Native Americans also have other ceremonies similar to the Vedic Hindu Wedding. The ‘Sacred Fire Ceremony’ is equally important to the Vedic Indians and Native Americans. The Native Americans build their fire with seven different types of wood. The Hindus too believe that there are seven types of energies and circumambulate the sacred fire seven times.
Another Native American ritual which they call the ‘Blanket Ceremony‘, is similar to the Vedic ‘Aashirwad‘ (आशीर्वाद) ceremony. The Bride and groom are covered with a Blanket or Sheet and are showered with flowers.
Exchanging rings was a new addition and not part of vedic or ancient native american wedding ceremonies.
In india, Gaandharva Vivaha is one out of eight types of marriages where a ring is presented to bride and the couple consider themselves as married.