Seven Steps Around the Sacred Fire - Hallmark of the Hindu Ceremony
By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
More on this topic at Hinduism.About.com
I love wedding rituals of all kinds, and have a particular fondness for and experience with the Hindu wedding ceremony. I am often called upon to marry interfaith couples, where one partner is Hindu and the other is another faith, and asked to blend in some of the rituals typically officiated by a Hindu priest or "Pandit" (spiritual facilitator of sacred events who can speak the chants and rituals).
Of course, I offer these blessings in English, and will often involve the families to contribute to certain sacred aspects of the ceremony, to make the ceremonial elements as authentic and true to the faith as possible.
It is a double blessing when my couples also opt for a traditional Hindu ceremony, which was the case with Traci and Partha. This awesome couple asked me to officiate their official interfaith ceremony at Tribeca Rooftop in Manhattan, blending their Christian and Hindu traditions. And they invited me to attend the family gathering the next day, where the groom's family arranged a traditional Hindu ceremony.
I got there just as the groom's mom was preparing the altar on an Indian table cloth placed on the floor. That is also where most of the guests would sit, on the floor, another Hindu tradition.
It was a beautiful blend of Indian and Midwestern cultures. All the women were in Saris, including the brides side of the family. The men on the groom's side wore Kurtas, traditional Indian wear, while the bride's side came in shorts on the hot summer day.
It was really a sweet combination. And maybe a tad of a culture shock for the Iowa contingent. The women in saris on the grooms side chatted away -- because in their culture, the wedding is a social occasion, not something to be solemn about or to jsut sit and observe quietly (although the Priest and I both told them to bring it down a notch a few times). The brides side, especially the guys, were used to weddings as a more solemn occasion at church so they sort of sat quietly and observed.
The event was colorful and festive and it took place in an amazing New York City high rise apartment with all-glass walls, looking out on New York City, as the ancient rites proceeded. Luckily, the pandit who was leading things was wonderful and he explained each step as he went along.
He also allowed me to offer the couple a blessing, touching blessed rice and flower petals to their forehead with a Sanskrit prayer he led us through-- a privilege usually reserved only for relatives (and only relatives older than the couple, by the way).
The Hindu wedding ceremony has many components and it is quite beautiful, specific and filled with chanting, Sanskrit blessings and ritual that is thousands of years old. An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire, created from ghee and woolen wicks, to evoke the God, Agni (Fire), 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 from his shoulder to her sari. The couple also pours puffed rice upon the sacred fire, groom holding on to brides hands, to represent prosperity (which is what Partha and Traci are doing in this photo, as part of the Seven Steps rite).
Read my story on this topic at Hinduism.About.com, which Hinduism Guide, Subhamoy Das, shared with his readers today.
© 2007, Reverend Laurie Sue Brockway
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, editor of Wedlok.com, is a leading interfaith and non-denominational wedding officiant. She creates unique ceremonies for couples of all backgrounds and faiths, and is also widely recognized as a relationship coach, bridal stress expert and columnist. She is author of YOUR PERFECT WEDDING VOWS: How to Write, Find and Select the Words that Express What is in Your Heart and WEDDING GODDESS: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss. To help reduce wedding stress, get your personally autographed copy at www.WeddingGoddess.com.