The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia. A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed. Native Americans were greatly affected by the European colonization of the Americas, which began in 1492, and their population declined precipitously mainly due to introduced diseases as well as warfare, including biological warfare, territorial confiscation and slavery. After its creation, the United States, as part of its policy of settler colonialism, waged war and perpetrated massacres against many Native American peoples, removed them from their ancestral lands, and subjected them to one-sided treaties and to discriminatory government policies into the 20th century. Since the 1960s, Native American self-determination movements have resulted in changes to the lives of Native Americans, though there are still many contemporary issues faced by Native Americans. Today, there are over five million Native Americans in the United States, 78% of whom live outside reservations.
The Saptapadi (Sanskrit “seven steps”/“seven feet”; sometimes called Saat Phere: “seven rounds” ) is the most important ritual of Vedic Hindu weddings, and represents the legal element of the Hindu marriage ceremony. The couple conduct seven circuits of the Holy Fire (Agni), which is considered a witness to the vows they make to each other. In some regions, a piece of clothing or sashes worn by the bride and groom are tied together for this ritual. Elsewhere, the groom holds the bride’s right hand in his own right hand. Each circuit of the consecrated fire is led by either the bride or the groom, varying by community and region. Usually, the bride leads the groom in the first circuit. In North India, the first six circuits are led by the bride, and the final one by the groom. In Central India and Suriname, the bride leads the first three or four circuits. With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow[clarification needed] to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other.