One feature that is constant in Hindu weddings is the tradition of taking pheras (rounds) around the sacred fire. Gujaratis and Sindhis take four pheras around the fire, while most other cultures take seven pheras.
Before the pheras, the bride is seated to the right of the groom, but after the pheras she is seated to his left, to signify that she is now closer to his heart.
In an Arya Samaji wedding, the couple take seven pheras. The groom leads for the first four pheras. After this, he walks behind the bride, who leads the last three pheras, thus signifying that the wife will always lead the husband.
In a Sindhi wedding ceremony, the groom leads the first three rounds while the bride leads the fourth.
However, every Hindu wedding has at least four pheras. These pheras signify the four main aims of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Dharma: This signifies the spirit of righteousness and one's duty to follow the religion devoutly.
Artha: This signifies the path one and right means that one should take for earning one's wealth and livelihood, striving for material gain and success, and endeavouring to help the poor and unprivileged whenever possible.
Kama: According to Hindu mythology, Kama is the God of Love. This 'phera' thus symbolizes the love and dedication that a married couple should have towards each other. They should support and stand for each other, 'for better or worse', for the rest of their lives.
Moksha: The last phera signifies liberation of suffering. Once a person gets married and encounters the bliss of marital fulfillment, he will find liberation from the sufferings and pains of unmarried life.
Essentially, the pheras consist of the Mangalpheras and the Saptapadi
The Sapta Padi are the seven sacred marriage vows taken by the newly weds.
The couple faces north, and along with each vow, they take a step.
In Gujarati weddings, the saptapadi is taken with a slight difference. With each step taken, the groom helps the bride touch seven betel nuts with her right toe.
The Seven Vows are the most important part of a marriage ceremony, and with the completion of these steps and vows, a couple is taken as married. The couple then take the blessings of the elders in the family, by touching their feet.
The Seven Vows:
- Groom: You will offer me food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide for the welfare and happiness of you and our children. Bride: I am responsible for the home, and take charge of all household responsibilities.
- Groom: Together we will protect our house and children. Bride: I will be by your side, and be your courage and strength. I will rejoice in your happiness. In return, you will love me alone.
- Groom: May we grow wealthy and prosperous, strive for the education of our children. May our children live long. Bride: I will love only you for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man in my life will come second to you. I vow to remain chaste.
- Groom: You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble, obedient children. May our children live long. Bride: I will shower you will happiness, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way that I can.
- Groom: You are my best friend, and staunchest well-wisher. You have come into my life, and have enriched it. God bless you. Bride: I promise to love and cherish you for as long as I love. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust and honour you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes.
- Groom: May you be filled with joy and peace. Bride: I will always be by your side.
- Groom: We are now husband and wife, and are one. You are mine and I am yours for all time. Bride: As God is witness, I am now your wife. We will love, honour and cherish each other forever.