Saptapadi or ‘seven steps’ is a very important rite in a Vedic marriage ceremony. At the time of marriage, the couple sit in front of the sacred fire and take seven vows in the presence of the Guru or God that they will both live a blissful married life. These vows in the Vedic marriage have a very deep meaning and are designed to help the couple to evolve together in a holistic way. They pertain not only to the worldly pursuits of the couple together, but also their mental, emotional, social, ecological, and spiritual attitudes. If followed with authenticity they lead to enlightenment itself.
The following are the Saptapadi mantras and their interpretation:
1st sacred vow: Concept of sharing
ekamiñe viñëustvä anvetu |
Let us both create, secure and enjoy all the things and comforts related to the physical body like food, clothing, shelter and other wealth needed for the physical body. This very vow hits at the dowry system. The dowry system asks for wealth and other things from the girl’s family. This vow clearly states that the couple will create wealth and sustain it together.’
2nd sacred vow: Mental and spiritual strength, work towards enlightenment
dve ürje viñëustvä anvetu |
Let us join together without ego, to do all that is needed to increase the Shakti (energy) inside our body and thus enhance our intellectual strength by meditation, yoga etc.
3rd sacred vow: Living independently dependent
tréëi vratäya viñëustvä anvetu |
I will not force myself upon the other at the physical or mental level when the other does not prefer it.
4th sacred vow: Transcend maya by teamwork
catväri mäyo bhaväya viñëustvä anvetu |
I (the man) will help the woman overcome the illusions she holds in the form of her fear and insecurity. I (the woman) will help the man overcome the illusions he holds in the form of lust.
5th sacred vow: Social and eco-friendly responsibilities
païca paçubhyaù viñëustvä anvetu |
Let us look after our ancestors and elders who are alive, our Guru, Devatas and all animals that support us, like cattle or pets, and the entire nature like trees, hills, rivers etc.
6th sacred vow: Support each other without suffocating
ñaòåtubhyaù viñëustvä anvetu |
Let us support and strengthen each other in all moods and in all seasons, in all situations, at all times and spaces, not only when one of us is weak or in low mood, but let us share when we feel strong or when we are in high mood as well.
7th sacred vow: Comply with promises and live as friends
saptasaptabhyaù hoträbhyaù viñëustvä anvetu ||
We promise to follow all that is covered here and all that is not covered here as well. There could be many things that may not have been included in the previous promises. So this promise covers all those that have not been covered in any of the previous promises.
After the seven steps are over the husband has to call his wife “sakhe” meaning “Oh my friend”.
sakhäyau saptapadä bhabhüva
By making these seven promises, we both have become friends. I have got your friendship and you have mine. We shall not let this be lost. We shall live forever as compatible companions. By taking these vows the couple agree to be friendly to each other. By chanting these mantras, the union between the husband and wife is solemnized in the presence of the Guru or God. They are united in their thinking and in the way they act. They pray that they may have pure love towards each other. By this mantra they vow to become people who are like-minded in opinion and thus enjoy being together.