By Laurie Sue Brockway
The Hindu ceremony, a rite known as 'samskara', has many components and it is quite beautiful, specific and filled with chanting, Sanskrit blessings and ritual that is thousands of years old. In India, it can last weeks or days. In the West, it typically is at least two hours long.
It is the role of the Hindu priest or 'pandit' to lead a couple and their families through the sacrament of marriage. However, as an interfaith minister, I’ve had the good fortune of being called upon by Hindu brides and grooms and couples who love Hindu rituals, to incorporated some of the rites into non-denominational, interfaith or multi-faith ceremonies.
An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire, created from 'ghee' (clarified butter) and woolen wicks, to evoke the God, Agni (Fire God), 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. He leads, her pinky linked with his pinky, in seven steps around the fire, as the priest chants the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. By walking around the fire they are agreeing to these. 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, it seals the bond forever.
A nice way to adapt this into 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 seven blessings are spoken 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.
One thing I especially appreciate about the Hindu ceremony is that bride and groom come to the altar as God and Goddess, in human form. In many parts of India the bride is considered Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune, and groom is her consort Vishnu, the Great Preserver.
I believe every bride and groom should walk down the aisle feeling divine!