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Can a Hindu marriage be legal without taking Saat phere?

We all have heard the term Saat phere but we don't know what it actually means except the married couples. So before we talk about whether Hindu marriages are legal or not without taking saat phere, we have to understand what is saat phere and what is its importance, its history and then we will get to know the answer and can discuss about it.

The saat phere is one of the most important features of the Hindu marriage. Saat phere is a 5000 year old Vedic tradition. Saat phere means the 7 circles taken with seven promises which are made by the couples around the sacred fire which binds them in a conjugal bond. Most Hindu couples take those 7 steps around the fire on the day of their wedding, without knowing the significance of it.

During saat phere, the couple usually holds each other's right hands and goes around the fire 7 times. During the first 4 rounds around the fire, the man leads and the woman follow and during the last 3 rounds around the fire, the woman leads and the man follows. The first phera guarantees happiness and success. The second phere promises about physical and mental power. The third phere promises success.

The fourth phere promises to show appreciation to each other. In the fifth phere, the couple prays for the well being of the entire living creature in the world. In the sixth phere, the wife promises to support the husband forever. The seventh phere binds them and promises to be loyal to each other. But if we look at Grihya Sutras, the rituals need 4 rounds that the couples have to take. Those 4 rounds are known as Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. While most sub-cultures take seven phere, Gujarati and Sindhi take four phere around the fire. During the first 3 rounds around the fire, the man leads and the woman follow and during the last round around the fire, the woman leads and the man follows.[1] So all Hindu marriages does not have seven phere.

According to section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the marriage becomes complete when the seventh step is taken.[2] In S. Nagalingam vs Sivagami, (2001) 7 SCC 487[3] an interesting question was brought as to whether the marriage was incomplete or not without taking Saat phere. In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 7-A was inserted after the amendment which was made by the state of Tamil Nadu. Section 7-A states that any marriages will be valid if it is solemnized in presence of relatives, friends or other persons.

It states that the presence of priest is not compulsory for a valid marriage and the couples should declare that each takes the other to be his wife or be her husband in the language understood by them. The marriage would be completed by a single ceremony requiring the couples to garland each other or the couple has to put a ring on the finger or tie the thali. If any of these ceremonies are held, then it would be enough for a legal marriage.

Sub section (2) (a) of Section 7-A states that all marriages to which this provision applies and solemnized after the commencement of the Hindu Marriage Act (Madras Amendment), 1967 shall be valid. Section (2) (b) also states that all marriages to which this section applies solemnized at any time before the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Madras Amendment) Act, 1967, shall be deemed to have been valid. It was held that Hindu marriages will be legal without Saat phere, provided the marriage was solemnized after taking the permission from either the bridegroom or the bride under section 7-A.

In the case Nitin vs Rekha, 2017 a division bench comprising of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi stated that until and unless the marriage is performed with proper ceremonies, it cannot be said to have been a valid marriage. This is because the marriage must be performed as per the rituals recognized by either of the parties according to Hindu Marriage Act.[4]

Therefore Saat phere is an essential ceremony for a valid Hindu marriage only in cases where the parties admit that saat phere is an essential ceremony according to the form of marriage applicable to them. So it is not an essential ceremony for a valid marriage where the provisions contained in section 7-A are applicable to the parties.

End-Notes:
  1. Indiaparenting, https://www.indiaparenting.com/the-pheras.html
  2. Indiankanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/358783/
  3. scconline, https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2015/11/26/validity-of-s-7-a-of-the-hindu-marriage-act-1955-upheld/
  4. Indiankanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/112701761/


    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Saptarshi Roy
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