My views on the Hindu wedding vows

So, a few days back, I was curious as to going what exactly constitutes the wedding rituals in a Hindu wedding. One of the most important part of the rituals are the seven wedding vows, or the ‘Saath Pheras’ , that are taken by the man and the woman walking round a holy fire while the priest reads out the wedding vows that the groom and the bride are supposed to make to each other.

Here’s what is read out by the priest as the vows:

1st Vow:
Groom:
You will offer me food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide welfare and happiness for you and our children.
Bride:
I am responsible for the home and all household responsibilities.

2nd Vow:
Groom:
Together we will protect our house and children.
Bride:
I will be by your side as your courage and strength. I will rejoice in your happiness. In return, you will love me solely.

3rd Vow:
Groom:
May we grow wealthy and prosperous and strive for the education of our children. May our children live long.
Bride:
I will love you solely for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man in my life will be secondary. I vow to remain chaste.

4th Vow:
Groom:
You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble and obedient children.
Bride:
I will shower you with joy, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way I can.

5th Vow:
Groom: You are my best friend, and staunchest well-wisher. You have come into my life, enriching it. God bless you.
Bride:
I promise to love and cherish you for as long as I live. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust and honor you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes.

6th Vow:
Groom:
May you be filled with joy and peace.
Bride:
I will always be by your side.

7th Vow:
Groom:
We are now husband and wife, and are one. You are mine and I am yours for eternity.
Bride:
As God is witness, I am now your wife. We will love, honor and cherish each other forever.

Alright then.. after understanding what the vows really mean (the priest chants them in Sanskrit, so most people simply nod along without understand the meaning), I have a few observations:

1) The man literally instructs the woman to cook his food for him. Talk about ‘make me a sandwich’ jokes back in the age! The bride is supposed to vow to ‘be responsible for all household duties and responsibilities’.I found this quite amusing that this is the very first vow that is spoken. Shouldn’t the first vow talk about lifelong commitment by both parties, instead of laying down the rule that the woman would always cook for the man?

2) The groom is the one who keeps talking about children. I don’t know what to think about that. There is not one mention from the bride’s side about children (I can’t help but think that this hints at the children belonging to the husband, and his lineage, and not to the wife).

3) Promises of lifelong commitment are included in the vows, yes, but it’s interesting to note that the woman herself vows that she will remain chaste and solely dedicated to him, whereas the groom makes no such vow. Instead, the bride herself says that he should do that, without the groom agreeing to it.

4) The groom talks of how having the bride in his life has ‘completed him’. The bride makes no such claim, but rather vows in a fashion that implies that she losing her entire identity to integrate herself in her husband’s life. She doesn’t say that the groom ‘completed’ her life, rather, she is shown as one part of his life, with him being the whole.

5) The bride repeatedly vows to ‘please him in every way that she can’ and that she would fulfill all his wishes, but the groom non-noncommittally keeps talking about living a good life together and having healthy children.

These vows, unsurprisingly, are quite outdated, but still are chanted mindlessly in every wedding as they are part of the tradition. And unlike Christian Weddings, these vows are almost always considered unchangeable, and not modifiable by the bride and the groom.

While I do understand that these vows were written in a time when quite a lot of these elements were true (man being the sole provider, woman to care for households), but just because these religious rituals are tenacious doesn’t mean that they should be chanted mindlessly even now. I know that most couples don’t care for these vows and just look at them from a symbolic value, but to me, vows mean a lot. If you are standing in front of your loved ones and taking vows, shouldn’t they be the ones that are relevant to you and your soulmate?
What do you feel about archaic wedding vows or rituals?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    When I got married a few years ago I started looking into where a lot of the taditions come from. I must say that I objected to just about all of them. I did not wear a white dress because I was not a virgin and not other peoples’ business anyway. I also did not wear a veil because I got married in summer and it was hot so I did not want to be draped even in tule. I did not get married by a priest or pastor because we are not religious. We asked a close friend and he obliged. We wrote our own vows because there was going to be no place for the word obedience anywhere. Mostly we just promised to take care of each other and support each other. We vowed to be a partnership and to do our best to make it a healthy one. We did not mention chastity, but we did promise to be faithful to each other. Then we had a party. All of our friends and family were there and that was a tradition that we endorsed because family is a reflection and piece of community and we do not live in a bubble. Tradition has its place, but acting in ignorance or saying that it has always been done a certain way are cop-outs. I think people need to hold on to the traditions that resonate with them and discard the meaningless ones. That’s just my opinion though.

    • Posted July 27, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks a lot for sharing your story, Christie. I absolutely agree with you. It was really heartening to see how you wrote your vows, and the affection behind them. Made my day :)

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