Blessings of a Hindu Wedding
The Hindu marriage ceremony, a rite known as samskara, has many components. It is quite beautiful, highly specific, and it is filled with chanting, Sanskrit blessings, and ritual that is thousands of years old. In India, a Hindu wedding can last weeks or days. In the West, a Hindu wedding typically is at least two hours long.
The Role of the Hindu Priest
It is the role of the Hindu priest or pandit to lead a couple and their families through the sacrament of marriage. However, it is not uncommon for interfaith ministers to be called upon by Hindu brides and grooms, as well as for couples who love Hindu rituals, to incorporate some of the rites into non-denominational, interfaith, or multi-faith ceremonies.
The Seven Steps (Saptapadi)
An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire created from ghee (clarified butter) and woolen wicks, designed to evoke the fire god, Agni, to bear witness to the ceremony.
The highlight is Saptapadi, also called the "Seven Steps." Here, traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped over his shoulder to her sari. He leads the bride, her pinky finger linked with his, in seven steps around the fire as the priest chants the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. By walking around the fire the bride and groom are agreeing to the vows. With each step, they throw small bits of puffed rice into the fire, representing prosperity in their new life together. This is considered the most important part of the ceremony, as it seals the bond forever.
Adding Creativity and Blessings to the Ceremony
A nice way to adapt this Hindu custom for a creative, contemporary ceremony is to light a traditional fire or use a candle placed on a small table in front of the wedding altar. Bride and groom can be in tux and white dress as they take seven steps while the seven blessings are recited in English. Here are Seven Blessings adapted from a Hindu ceremony:
1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts and be helpful to one another in all ways.
2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.
3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.
4. May this couple be eternally happy.
5. May this couple be blessed with a happy family life.
6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.
7. May this couple always be the best of friends.
An appealing aspect of the Hindu ceremony is that bride and groom symbolically come to the altar as God and Goddess, in human form. In many parts of India, the bride is considered Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune. The groom is her consort Vishnu, the Great Preserver.
And surely it is appropriate on their wedding day for every bride and groom to walk down the aisle feeling divine.
By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway