Na­maste ges­ture

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Na­maste! This is one word that you would of­ten hear in In­dia, and must there­fore un­der­stand and learn by heart if you’re plan­ning a visit to the coun­try.

Well, not just in In­dia, it is spo­ken in nearby coun­tries like Nepal, Bangladesh and some other south and south­east­ern parts of Asia as well. This re­spect­ful ges­ture of greet­ing peo­ple in the Hindu cus­tom has dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual mean­ings and sig­nif­i­cance you should know about.

Also spo­ken as Na­maskar or Na­maskaram, this ges­ture is used to wel­come guests or rel­a­tives, as well as for ac­knowl­edg­ing strangers, and works both as salu­ta­tion and vale­dic­tion. The ges­ture is said to ex­press honor, cour­tesy, po­lite­ness, hospi­tal­ity and grat­i­tude to the other per­son. Apart from be­ing used as a greet­ing, it is also a part of the 16 Upacha­ras that are used dur­ing for­mal wor­ship in a tem­ple or some other reli­gious place. When it comes to wor­ship­ping a de­ity, then Na­maste sig­ni­fies ‘greet­ing the God’.

Na­maste is part of the daily pro­ce­dure in In­dia. Hence you would of­ten get to see this ges­ture in var­i­ous In­dian clas­si­cal dance forms, in ev­ery­day reli­gious rit­u­als and yoga pos­tures. If you prac­tice this ges­ture in In­dia, then it would be help­ful for you in es­tab­lish­ing a con­nect with peo­ple here, and form­ing a great bond.

Mean­ing of the word ‘Na­maste’

De­rived from the San­skrit lan­guage, Na­maste is formed by join­ing two words, na­mas and te. ‘Na­mas’ means ‘bow’, ‘ado­ra­tions’, ‘obei­sance’ and ‘salu­ta­tion’; and ‘te’ means ‘to you’. There­fore, the lit­eral mean­ing of Na­maste is ‘bow­ing to you’.

While say­ing Na­maste in the tra­di­tional style, you must bow slightly and press both the hands to­gether, with fin­gers point­ing up­ward, thumbs on the in­side near the chest and palm touch­ing – it is called Prana­masana (The Prayer Pose) or An­jali Mu­dra. Nowa­days, Na­maste can be said with­out the bow as well, but when you say it with the bow, it makes the greet­ing more for­mal and re­spect­ful, es­pe­cially when you say it to an el­der or an im­por­tant per­son.

Spir­i­tual im­pli­ca­tion of Na­maste

Ac­cord­ing to the Hindu cus­toms, Na­maste has a spir­i­tual mean­ing too. Hin­dus be­lieve that ‘the di­vine and soul is the same in every­body’. So when you say Na­maste to some­one, it im­plies ‘I bow to the di­vine in you’. This ges­ture is also as­so­ci­ated with the Brow Chakra, i.e. the mind cen­ter or the third eye. There­fore, when you meet some­one in per­son, you do not just meet a phys­i­cal be­ing, but you meet their mind too. And then when you say Na­maste by bow­ing your head and join­ing your hands, the ges­ture im­plies ‘may our minds meet’. This is a great way of ex­press­ing your love, re­spect and friend­ship to the per­son whom you meet.

Re­gional ver­sions of Na­maste

In­dia is a hugely di­verse coun­try. Hence, Na­maste is spo­ken dif­fer­ently in var­i­ous cul­tures and lan­guages. In Tel­ugu, it is called Na­maskara­mulu, while in Kan­nada it is spo­ken as Na­maskara or Na­maskara­galu. Vanakkam is how you say it in Tamil and Na­maskaram in Malay­alam. In East In­dia, it is called No­moshkar in Ben­gali and No­moskar in As­samese. Not just Hin­dus, but Sikhs also greet peo­ple by fold­ing their hands, how­ever, their greet­ing is called ‘Sat Sri Akal’.

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