This article is written by Dr. Srinivasan is the author of book - The Vedic Wedding: Origins, Tradition and Practice and Hinduism for Dummies
Wife as friend is a very ancient Hindu concept and an ancient Hindu prince known as Yudhishtira revealed this "secret" about 4000 years ago. In an episode known as Yaksha Prashna in that great epic, the Mahabharata, a divine being challenged the prince in exile to answer some questions.
One of the questions the Yaksha asked Yudhishtira was
To which the prince answered “bhaaryaa mitram grhesatah" i.e. the friend of a householder is his spouse.
According to Hindus, therefore, the basis for marriage is friendship and such friendship is the understanding, the promise and the commitment that unites a man and a woman. With such authority, there is then no question about the role of a woman, her importance, her position in this equation that binds them together.
Hindu ancestors set aside some guidelines to make sure that the institution is a permanent one capable of not only bringing happiness to two young people but also providing a delicate balance so that the family enjoys the fullness of life within the framework of what they called Dharma, the Hindu code of right conduct.
In most Hindu wedding ceremonies, a climax is reached in the ceremony known as Maangalyaddhaaranam - confirms for ever and seals the bond between the bride and the groom through the tying of a golden necklace around the bride's neck by the groom.
Legally, ethically and morally that moment is the sacred moment in the wedding when they become husband and wife. But what happens afterwards is truly the most significant and meaningful for the rest of their life together. Because, in a following ceremony known as saptapadi the bride and the groom hold hands and take seven steps together as husband and wife as they walk around Agni, the God of fire and pledge to each other their eternal friendship.
What they say after they have taken those seven steps is unquestionably the foundation for a successful marriage. Together they chant:
sakhaa sapta padi bhava sakhyam te gameyam
sakhyam te mayoshah sakhyam te mayoshtah
“With these seven steps you have become my friend.
May I deserve your friendship.
May my friendship make me one with you.
May your friendship make you one with me.”