Thursday, July 25, 2013

sapta-padi, those seven key steps

An Indian marriage is incomplete without this key stage - the sapta-padi: sapta means seven and pada means steps and saptapadi is the process. In this, the groom stands holding the bride's hand, and takes her seven steps, ideally towards the east or the north. The groom takes vows with the bride at each step.

Even though a Hindu wedding is incomplete without the saptapadi, the exact process may differ from one culture to another. In some cultures it is done by making heaps of rice and taking one step on each heap; in others it is by drawing seven lines and the bride making a promise on each line; in some customs, the groom holds the right hand of the bride in his right hand, and holds the right foot toe with his left hand and helps take one step at a time. In some cultures it is said that it is not appropriate for the groom to hold the foot of the bride, therefore he should only hold her right hand and complete the saptapadi. So, it does not matter what process was followed but the intent is the same, the shanti mantras used are similar. The idea is to bind the husband and wife through mutually agreed upon promises. Unfortunately, very few people know what promises they make, so here is an attempt to present the same to those interested in knowing.

अत्र पत्न्याः पाद्ग्रहणस्य आयुक्तत्वात् वरः तत्पाणिं अमुंचन्नॆव पादं उद्धृत्य निक्षिपॆत् – ऎवं वधूं प्रक्रमयति इत्युक्तम् |

Whether one uses rice or wheat or earth or whatever, the key is appreciate what each of these symbolizes.  

The saptapadi process:
The groom takes the bride along with him chanting a mantra at each step. The bride moves by keeping the right foot forward. After taking the seven steps the bride stands facing the east and the groom stands facing the bride and makes a few more promises. Following are the saptapadi mantraas:

एकमिषे विष्णुस्त्वान्वॆतु । द्वे ऊर्जे विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । त्रीणि व्रताय विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । चत्वारि मायॊ भवाय विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । पञ्च पशुभ्यॊ विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । षडृतुभ्यो विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । सप्त सप्तभ्यो विष्णुस्त्वान्वेतु । 

"On your first step, may VishNu follow you for giving unlimited food (material comforts). On your second step, may VishNu follow you for giving eminent health (strength, vigor, power, energy). On your third step, may VishNu follow you for helping you in your vratAs (conduct, meritorious acts, commitments, vows, resolves, wills, promises). On your fourth step, may VishNu follow you for giving you delight (pleasures, happiness). On your fifth step, may VishNu follow you for giving you good cows and other animals (livelihood). On your sixth step, may VishNu follow you for giving you beneficial seasons (and the ability to adjust to those). And on your seventh step, may VishNu follow you for giving you the benefits of the seven types of yajnAs (saptayajnAs), viz, hOtA, prashAstA, brAhmaNacChaMsi, pOtA, nEShTA, acChavaka, aagnidhra. May VishNu be with you in the stages of life"

Immediately after taking the seven steps, the groom stands facing the bride and proclaims the following (still holding the hands): 

सखा सप्तपदा भव । सखायौ सप्तपदा बभूव । सख्यं तॆ गमॆयं सक्यातॆ मयॊषं सख्यान्मॆ मायोष्ठास्समयाव सङ्कल्पावहै संप्रियौ रॊचिष्णू समनस्यमानौ । इषमूर्जमभिसंवसानौ सन्नौमनांसि संव्रता समुचित्तान्याकरम् । सात्वमस्यमूहममूहमस्मि सा त्वं द्यौरहं  पृथिवी त्वगं रेतॊऽहं रॆतोभृत्वं मनोहमस्मि वाक्त्वं सामाहमस्मि  ऋक्त्वं सा मामनुव्रता भव पुंसे पुत्राय वॆत्तवै श्रियै पुत्राय वेत्तव एहि सून्यते ।

Oh my friend, now is our marriage sealed. On the virtue of these seven steps we have become best friends. I vow not move out of your friendship, may you not move out my friendship. Let us resolve to perform our duties together, in cooperation, with love and affection. Let us take delight that our relationship was destined. May we be live together in harmony, may my mind be in you in all my deeds. If you are the lyrics (verse), I will be its meter (music). If you are the music, I will be the lyrics. If I am the space, you are the earth [earth and space go hand in hand]. If I am the seed (or the life source), and you are its beholder (the carrier). If I am the mind and you are the speech. I am the sAmavEda, you be the rigvEda. In this way be duly performing vows for the sake of begetting offspring and prosperity, oh dear friend come along with your sweet words. 

Saying this the groom takes the bride around the sacrificial fire for seeking the blessings from the deities (lAjAnAmAhutEH poorvaM sabrahmAgnau pradakshiNam). 

It is with this 'paaNigrahaNa samskaara', saptapadi, that the bride becomes eligible to be called a "dArA" (wife or "the owner or co-owner of the house").
पाणिग्रहण अंत्रस्तु नियतं दारलक्षनम् । तॆषां निष्ठातु विज्ञॆया विद्वद्भिः सप्तमे पदे (मनुस्मृति ९.२९)

With this the bride is said to have taken on a new gOtra (family name, race, lineage, clan, path, road). 
स्वगोत्रात् भ्रश्यते नारी विवाहात्सप्तमे पदे (वराहस्मृति ६८)

It is the saptapadi that confirms the relationship between husband and wife. It is only after the vows here that the two share the relationship. 
नॊदकेन न वाचा वा कन्यायाः पतिरुच्यते | पाणिग्रहण संस्कारात् पतित्वं सप्तमॆ पदे || (याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति)

This is the process and importance of the extremely auspicious saptapadi process in the Indian marriage.

Reference: samskaara mahodadhi.

1 comment:

  1. sirji, "hOtA, prashAstA, brAhmaNacChaMsi, pOtA, nEShTA, acChavaka, aagnidhra" are 7 of the 16 ritviks who perform sOmayAga.

    The correct mantra is : sapta saptabhyo hotRbhyO vishnustvAnvetu. SOo mantra refers to seven hOtAs, not seven yajnas. Please correct this.