The religious significance of saat pheres
“Saat” means seven and “pheres” means rounds. “Saptapadi” also means seven steps or rounds. Saat pheres / Saptapadi in Indian marriages is an indispensable ritual of promises taken by the bride and her groom. Without this custom, the marriage is considered incomplete. It is believed to be the most important ritual of a wedding with the couple promising togetherness to each other till eternity. The shawl across groom’s shoulder is tied to the aanchal of the bride’s sari and then they together take seven rounds around the sacred fire. The fire (Agni) is considered to be the immaculate witness to the divine bond of wedding. It is before the fire (Agni) that the promises are made.
Meaning of each of the phera
All the seven pheres have spiritual meanings. Marriage is the new phase of life of togetherness by committing to a partner and how can commitment be achieved without believing and depending on each other? Thus, the vows taken during saat pheres with the God of fire as witness are actually a step towards a happy and blissful married life.
Each phera has a different meaning and significance. The first round or phera is about nourishment (Abundance of food), the second phera is about strength (physical, mental and spiritual), the third phera is about prosperity ( earning money and wealth by righteous means), the fourth phera is about family ( to look after the well being of family and fulfil the required duties to them), the fifth phera is about children ( to bring about fullness in the marital life by being blessed with children and then fulfilling duties as good parents), the sixth phera is about health (to be blessed with good health) and the seventh or the last phera is about love ( the promise to be with each other through thick and thin, the promise to love each other, to trust each other, to care for each other and be the soul mate to each other).
The first round taken invokes the God to bless the couple with abundance of good food, nourish them and help them lead a happy and respectful life. It is done to prevent any crisis in the couple’s life. Plentiful good food fulfils one of the basic necessities.
The second phera is a prayer to the gods to have physical, mental and spiritual strength as these are conducive to a happy and peaceful life full of contentment. Physical strength is a symbol of good health, mental strength is a symbol of pure mind and spiritual strength is actually the strength of knowledge and wisdom and hence, is considered to be the strongest among all.
The third phera is to invoke the gods for blessing the concerned couple with prosperity in life. It also promises the togetherness of the bride and groom both in pain and in happiness. It promises devotion and care on a sole person who is considered as the life partner.
The fourth round or phera is about the promises made to each other to take care of their families. It emphasizes respect for elders, loving all family members and supporting them when needed. A family life is said to be complete after following these duties. It is a vow to strengthen the family and maintain a harmonious life. A good family life is believed to bring in good health and mental peace.
The fifth phera is again a prayer to the gods about being blessed with beautiful, healthy and good children so that they grow into prosperous, wise and philanthropic beings. The couple promises to be good and responsible parents to their children. They promise to inculcate spiritual and moral values in their children and provide them with the best of the education.
The sixth phera is about good health. The couple prays to the gods for themselves and on behalf of their families to have good health and a disease free life. This phera in a way ensures longevity of the couples’ life and blesses the families with good health and balanced and blissful life. It also ensures well being of the entire universe and its people.
The seventh or the last one of the saat pheres is the promise of loving the partners. It is a promise of companionship, to be loyal to each other, to love each other unconditionally, to trust each other. The groom says to the bride that he promises to be her friend and never break this friendship. Thus, with the last phera, the couple is said to be unified. With this, the groom puts the mangalsutra around the bride’s neck. Then the wedding is said to be accomplished.
Thus, with these promises of love, care, fidelity the couple vows to be with each other.
Saat pheres is a ritual that signifies the purity of the divine bond of marriage. This custom of pheres is carried out since ages and has not lost its significance. Even nowadays, none of the Indian weddings is accomplished without taking the saat pheres and hence, it is an integral part of Indian weddings. The manner of saat pheres may differ from community to community. For instance, in south Indian marriages, the groom holds the little finger of the bride and then takes the rounds. Mostly, the groom leads the bride for the first three rounds followed by the bride leading him for the next four.
The couple should recite the prayers and chant the mantras with full spirit and mean to fulfil each of the vows taken from the bottom of the heart. It is then that the prayers hold its significance. The elaborate rituals and customs make the Indian marriages no less than any festive event. The basic intention behind all these religious rituals is to promise a blissful married life with the partner based on mutual love, respect and trust for each other. With this, a couple marks their entry into marital life.