Did you ever wonder why there are 7 pheras and not 8 or 9 in an Indian wedding traditions and science behind it? Is it just about the vows or does it have a deeper meaning? Or does the stink or fragrance (depending on your sensory taste) of the Mehendi have more to it than the superstitions of compatibility between the couple?
Weddings are the most pious and joyous events for any family. Since the beginning of time, weddings have held an important place in every culture. And, Indians celebrate their weddings like a festival that stretches for 3 to 4 days, with myriad Indian wedding traditions and ceremonies being a part of this culturally rich nation. However, the present generation dreams of surreal extravagance when it comes to weddings with the most expensive of wedding collections and a feast large enough to fill an entire town; making it more of a ‘Bollywood wedding shoot’ rather than paying any heed to the rituals that are necessary for a blissful and blessed wedding.
It is believed that marriage leads to the transformation of an individual into an adult, and true love, at first sight, is an initiation to this transformation. These days people are firm believers of the rationale and tend to discard things that lack facts and reason. Such is the case with the rituals and traditions of an Indian wedding. But before skipping or discarding any rituals in the name of superstition and formalities we must delve into the science behind them.
Let’s start from where it all begins-
Also known as the ‘Sagai’, ‘Roka’, ‘Mudha Tika’, ‘Nishchayam’ and many more, is one of the most important pre-wedding ceremonies and a part of the Indian wedding tradition held few months before the wedding to announce officially of the consent to the marriage by both the bride and the groom; herein, both are betrothed to one another by their fathers. During the ceremony, the fathers vouch for the virtues of their child and formally announce the wedding dates to the guests, in some traditions a puja is also performed by the priest. The bride-to-be and the groom-to-be also exchange rings, sweets, dry fruits and gifts with each other; followed by a feast, music, and dance. But have you ever wondered why only a ring? Why not a chain or a bracelet?
The engagement ring is a symbol of love and promise; it is always worn on the fourth finger (ring finger) of the
left hand. There is a reason behind it. The vein that passes through the ring finger is called the vein of Love (“Vena Amoris” by the Romans) because it is the only vein that is connected directly to one’s heart; and hence, it signifies romance that the engaged couple behold.
The Mehendi ceremony is about applying Henna to the hands and feet of the Bride-to-be (in some states the groom-to-be also has to). The event is held a day before the wedding with close friends and family members. The bride has to sit for hours to get her Mehendi (henna art) done, traditional songs and instruments like ‘Dholak’ are played, in whose rhythm friends and folks dance to entertain the bride. Female guests also get their Mehendi done on at least one hand as moral support to the bride.
Though there are many beliefs regarding the significance of applying Mehendi on the bride’s hands and feet or the color it gains ranges from being considered a ‘shagun’, a sign of love and affection between the couple and their families to the symbolic representation of fertility. But in reality, our ancestors were intelligent enough to have scientific explanations behind such rituals.
Mehendi or henna is known for its medicinal properties. It has a cooling effect that aids in calming stress, headaches and fevers and is also beneficial for growing nails. Thus, it is applied to relieve the bride and groom of all the wedding stress. It also protects them from any viral disease if misfortune ever struck during the wedding.
The Haldi Ceremony is also known as Gaye Holud an important wedding tradition, among Bengalis, Pithi among Gujaratis and Mangala Snanam among Telugus. Amongst the most entertaining events during an Indian wedding as vividly portrayed in almost all Bollywood weddings- like in Iski Uski (2 states) and Deepika-Ranbir iconic scene ( Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) is the Haldi Ceremony, it’s the most common ritual practiced by all communities in India.
Turmeric is meshed into a paste along with other ingredients (varying from culture to culture) and a mixture called by different names such as Ubtan’, ‘Mandha’, ‘Telbaan’, etc, is prepared which is applied on both the bride and the groom’s body either a day before or during the wedding. Soon, it is washed off with sacred water or milk.
Setting aside all assumptions and beliefs let’s talk about the science behind this ceremony
The yellow color relaxes the mind, the turmeric paste when massaged on the body helps counter depression and anxiety enabling the bride and the groom to remain calm. The Haldi also brings about a natural, golden glow on the skin and minimizes the appearance of scars and hence, in earlier times it worked great as a concealer. Turmeric even contains antiseptic properties, thus keeps the bridegroom safe from any disease or infection.
The Role of Music as a tradition in Indian Wedding (Sangeet Ceremony)
Sangeet is more of a women-centric event, wherein, traditionally women formed groups and sang songs as a way to express what lay suppressed deep within. But, these days it has become a fun event between families who compete with each other through dance performances at the sound of a new beat.
During the vintage years, Sangeet used to serve as a form of respite from all the bother that came about with the wedding preparations. Thus, music and songs were a means to shed one’s sorrow-filled heart, and at the same time welcome the embark of a new journey in boisterous ecstasy.
The wedding bells echo throughout the boundless skies; the priest busy chanting mantras in front of the soaring fire proceeds through the ritual of ‘Saptapadi’.
Here is the science behind the ritual
Seven Vows or the Saptapadi (seven circles or seven steps are taken by the bride and the groom as a symbol of their friendship and their duties to one another) are taken around the holy fire. This Holy fire too has its own scientific significance.
The fire is ignited using sandalwood and ghee, along with rice and other herbal ingredients thus, the smoke emitting from the fire helps in cleansing the environment and emanates positivity to all corners.
The bride and groom take an exact of seven rounds with each round having recited a Vedic mantra around the ignited fire with is sacred to the ceremony. It is said that the vows made around the sacred fire are unbreakable, and the God of fire witnessed and has bestowed his blessings to the couple.
The Saat Pheras go as follows
The first phera or round, the bride and groom prays for good and nourishing food for their well-being.
The second phera or round, the bride and groom prays for good health and prosperity in work and overall life.
The third phera or round, the bride and groom pray for wealth and to keep them financially strong through any situation.
The fourth phera, or round, the bride and groom pray for increase in love and respect for each other on a long run.
The fifth phera or round, the bride and groom pray for healthy, happy children in their life. They walk together through that phase too
The sixth phera or round, the bride and groom pray for a noble and a peaceful life without any problems.
The seventh phera or round, the bride and groom pray for togetherness and a happy bond between them and their families throughout their lives.
These saat pheres make their bond even more loving, understanding, prosperous and leading to a happy life. This attribute of the Hindu wedding makes the bonds unbreakable and sacred which is a very important step in the Hindu religion.
Facts behind it
These are the wedding vows taken during saat phere
There are 7 evils that the bride and groom are believed to leave behind after the saat phere which are: Lust, greed, anger, anxiety, conceit, envy, pride.
The rainbow also consists of 7 colours which makes it so beautiful which are: Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red. With these colours, they will walk together through all the colours making their way to a peaceful life.
There are 7 Sapta rushi
When there was a resurrection of the world, the 7 rishis were saved by Lord Vishnu and therefore they make up the base of wisdom and knowledge. By considering them, respect is bestowed to the Vedas written by them.
There are 7 Sapta Graha
The blessings offered by Sun and Moon have always been around but to achieve other blessings, one should complete the round with the mantras.
There are 7 days in a week
Each day offers blessings to the couple completing the round with the mantras and bestowed the couple, leading them to a happy life.
There are 7 worlds in different forms
Bhuhu (the physical world), Bhuvaha (the world of becoming), Suvaha (world of thinking), Mahava ( the world of emotion), Janaha ( the world of creatives), Tapaha (the world of intuition), Satyam (world of truth) The blessings from all these worlds is bestowed on the couple.
There are 7 notes in music
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, the couple is blessed by every note in every round to keep them musically happy and create a mellifluous feeling in their married life.
There are 7 lives
For this Lord Vishnu had given an option to a couple of Dwarka to take a rebirth 7 times as a devotee or 3 times as a demon. To reach Lord Vishnu, one would require 7 lives in an ashram devoting to Lord Vishnu. The phera is so that the same partner would be together for 7 lives until they reach Lord Vishnu.
Following the vows, the bride and the groom exchange floral garlands (‘Varmala’) expressing the desire to marry each other. This is followed by the groom placing the ‘Mangalsutra’ around the neck of his beloved.
The significance of a ‘Mangalsutra’ is that the Mangalsutra or a necklace of black and gold beads has two round cups at the centre, with no design in front which is associated with the power of knowledge. It is even the spot where major nerves of the body meet and massaging this point helps in relieving one of the headaches.
Some brides wear the toe rings preferably made out of silver in the second toe of any feet as it is believed that it strengthens the uterus. A vain connecting the uterus ends at the second toe where the ring is worn so as to regulate the heat and menstrual cycles and helpful for the reproductive organs.
After placing the Mangalsutra the groom puts Sindoor, red-orange powder on the bride’s hair. Through applying Sindoor is considered a symbol of matrimony, it has various health benefits. Sindoor is a mixture of turmeric, lime, and the metal mercury. The mercury in the sindoor cools down and relaxes the body, it even facilitates the sexual drive. Hence, widows and unmarried women are not allowed to wear Sindoor.
Therefore, it can be said that before discarding any of the ancient traditions or rituals, one should always know the history and reasons behind it because everything which is a part of culture or tradition doesn’t necessarily turn out to be a mere superstition or formality.
The rituals highlight the richness of Indian wedding traditions and the facts that surround making them significant for a marriage to take place. These rituals are what makes Indian weddings so sacred and auspicious. One should make sure for all the rituals to take place as the is an interconnection in most of the rituals for a strong and auspicious bond.