‘Namaste,’ ‘Namaskaram’ or ‘Namaskar’ is an Indian way of greeting someone. This is a very simple yet very profound practice all over India and in many parts of the world, which originated from the Hindu culture and has deep meaning and significance behind it.
It is also known as the ‘Anjali Mudra’. The word ‘Mudra’ means seal, and ‘Anjali’ means salutation. Together, we have the ‘Anjali Mudra’ or the ‘Namaskar’ which is a simple, graceful and humble way of greeting anyone we meet, or an expression of adoration and reverence during worship.
This mudra requires a person to join their hands together, palms touching and hands near the chest of the person.
It is common to see foreigners visiting India to do so and say ‘Namaste’ to Indians. Quite a few Hollywood movies too have shown characters folding their hands in front of the other person when the situation demands a polite representation of the point or while making a request.
However, not many of us, including Indians, are familiar with the full import of Namaskar.
It is a code of traditional etiquette in India to do Namaste or Namaskaram while greeting the other person. It is also a mark of adoration and reverence while praying to God. This method of greeting or wishing someone is the traditional Hindu way, but not restricted to Hindus alone in the Indian subcontinent.
The root word is 'Namaha’ which means 'I salute’ or 'I pay obeisance'. Namaskar or Namaste are derivatives of this word.
In Namaste - ‘Namah’ and ‘Te’ are derived from the Sanskrit language.
Namah's equivalent words in English are 'bow', 'adoration', 'reverence'. ‘Te’ means 'to you'. So the combined word Namaste means 'I bow to you in reverence'.
Like the word 'Hello' and its expression, each society and culture has its own equivalent. The Hindus say Namaste, but its actual meaning and the respect conveyed is much deeper than the 'Hi' or 'Hey'.
By the act of doing Namaskar to an elder or a spiritually acclaimed person (such as a Saint or Guru) or to the Deity, one pays obeisance through an act of salutation.
That way the person doing the Namaskar becomes the recipient of sattvic (pure) components through subtle frequencies of bliss and higher level of spirituality emitted by them.
This leads to increase in positivity in us through Sattvic Gunas such as better humility, reduction / mitigation of ego and an attitude of gratitude.
Our physical and subtle bodies absorb the good virtues, and their importance is impressed upon our thinking. Slowly but steadily, we start changing & becoming a better person. This makes our character stronger as we start following the path of good and truth.
In case the person is negative (due to depression, guilt, hate, anxiety, jealousy) the touch through handshake can transfer these undesirable emotions – which are categorized under the following Guna (quality): Rajas (uncontrolled passion) and Tamas (vices that lead to darkness in life).
The reason why we do Namaskar has a deep spiritual significance also. It recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity, the Self or the God in me is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we honor the God in the person we meet.
There is reverence conveyed by one person to the other by doing Namaskar. The literal meaning implied is 'I recognize the God in you, and I bow to you'. Another equivalent of this expression could be 'prostration and solutions'.
Our ancient culture and religion emphasize that God is omnipresent. God is not away from us residing somewhere high in the sky or in the heaven. Thus, the concept of Namaskar teaches us to remember that God is everywhere and in everything. It is believed that there is atman (soul) in all, and atman is a part of the Supreme. Therefore, we all are one. Hence, the divine message is to love everyone because no one is different from the other.
Namaskar is also directly related to the heart chakra or the ‘Anhat chakra’. It helps in reconnecting with our deep selves and to the other person through our hearts. During prayer and meditation, it helps in calming or activating the heart chakra. When placed on the forehead, it helps in activating our third eye or the ‘Ajna chakra’ or calming it and reconnecting to our soul and our intuition.
When worshipping or praying, Hindus not only fold their hands but also bow and close their eyes, to connect with higher powers. This physical and mental gesture combined is sometimes accompanied by changing the name of God or reciting a "Stotra", "Chalisa" or a "Mantra".
Namaste could be just a casual as well as a formal greeting to an elder person or wishing a person of same age or an act of worship. However, there is much more to it than meets the eye. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds.
When we greet one another with Namaste, it means, 'may our minds meet', indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect and humility.
a. Namaskar to a Person of the Same Age Group
Join your hands together and place the thumbs at the center of the chest. This form or mudra makes the fingers the antenna for receiving Sattvic frequencies of the universe. The closeness to the chest is to activate the anhat chakra. This increases the humility in the person, at the same time creating a circle of bliss around the person.
b. Namaskar to an Elder
Same as (a), but the hands are raised together and in front of the forehead (the site of third eye) and the head is slightly lowered to convey deep respect.
c. Namaskar while Praying
Join the fingers and thumbs of both the hands but the fingers should be loose (and not rigid or straight). The thumbs should not join the fingers. The inner portion of the palms should have some space between then. The eyes are closed, head is bowed, and the hands could go completely above the head. This is the highest form of reverence.
Bringing the hands together is a highly symbolic gesture. According to tradition, the right hand represents the higher self or the divine within, while the left hand represents the lower, worldly self. By pressing the palms together, the person doing Namaskar unites these two aspects and at the same time tries to connect with the individual before him or her. Universally bowing expresses love and respect.
Clearly Namaste is not just a social habit or a cultural aspect. There is a deep science behind it. If one is doing sadhana, every time one joins palms together, there is a crackle of energy - a boom is experienced. With regard to interaction with others, there is a symbolic giving or making and offering to the other person. In this process one will cooperate with the other.
With a better understanding of the word and the concept of Namaskar, it is hoped that this beautiful way of greeting and wishing will bring in more love, respect and humility in our society.
Namaste to you dear reader!