“Namaste” is a form of greeting that involves:
- both gesture (pressing of hands in a praying position) and utterance of the word “Namaste” simultaneously, and
- used both at the time of greeting someone at another person’s arrival or at the time of farewell or goodbye.
Any traveler to India or Nepal, or any practitioner of yoga, will no doubt have seen the Namaste greeting spoken many times. It consists of people speaking the word Namaste to each other.
Literal meaning: The word ‘Namaste’ is actually a combination of two words, ‘Namah’ and ‘te’. ‘Namaste’ comes from the word ‘Namah’, which means ‘bow’ in the Sanskrit language. Thus, Namah also means “deep respect, appreciation, adoration, or acknowledgement of someone’.
The additional suffix ‘te’ means ‘you’. Thus, ‘te’ refers to ‘the person to whom the speaker is addressing’.
Thus, Namaste means ‘I bow to you’, or ‘I acknowledge your presence a sense of deep respect’.
The word, ‘Namaste’, is usually accompanied by a small bow, with the hands pressed in a ‘praying’ position against the chest. This position is an ancient one (it is seen on terracotta figures that are thousands of years old), and it is known as the Namaste position.
Explanation: Usually, when we talk about the meaning of Namaste we are not just referring to the word Namaste. Rather, we are referring to the word and the gesture: they exist together as a single unit.
Namaste can be said as a greeting when people meet, or as a salutation before parting. In some cases, the gesture is not accompanied by the words, but the meaning remains the same.
“Namaste” is one of the most known forms of Indian greetings around the world and is an important aspect the Indian culture. They include:
- The gesture together with the words ‘Namaste” is a well-known form of Indian greeting around the world.
- It is a symbol of respect and admiration for the person to whom it is said.
- The gesture is sometimes used to show appreciation for a good deed or an act of kindness.
- The gesture and words of ‘Namaste’ is also used by Yoga teachers as part of the yogic and pranayama practices.
- Namaste can also be used younger people in the family as a sign of recognize the authority of the elders.
- It also acknowledges the presence of an individual such as a noteworthy person in the society or a visiting relative.
- Anjali Mudra: In yoga, the posture “Namaste” is often referred to as “Anjali Mudra” or “Pranamasana”. “Anjali” means “diving offering with respect”, while “mudra” refers to spritual gesture. Thus, Anjali mudra refers to the spritual gesture that is offered with great respect.
- Hrdayanjali mudra: In sanskrit, the gesture is also sometimes called “Hrdayanjali”. The prefix “Hrday” means “heart”. Hence, “Hrdayanjali mudra” means that “this gesture of namaste is performed with great respect from the bottom of heart.”
Namaste and Namaskar
The prefix of both the words “Namaste” and “Namaskar” is derived from the same word – “Namah”. The suffix “kar” in the word “Namaskar” means “to do”. Thus, the term “Namaskar” means “I am showing my respect by performing the act of bowing”
People often use the two terms – “Namaste” and “Namaskar” interchangeably while greeting or addressing another person or a group of people. However, it is more common to say “Namaste” while greeting a single person, whilst the term “Namaskar” is commonly used while addressing a group of people such as a social gathering.
What is the appropriate response to Namaste?
If somebody says Namaste to you in India, it means that they are greeting you. Namaste can also be used as a way of saying goodbye. But, how do you respond?
The best way to respond to someone saying Namaste to you, is simply to say it back to them. Namaste is not just a word, however: it is a combination of a word and a gesture. So, say the word Namaste, and at the same time press the palms of your hands together in a steeple fashion and hold your joined hands against your chest. Bow your head towards your hands.
It is so important to know how to perform the Namaste salutation appropriately. This is because it is a ubiquitous form of salutation in India, and in order to be polite in all of your social interactions when visiting the country you will need to know how to perform – and how to respond to – this greeting.