Namaste, Namaskar or Namaskaram (Sanskrit: नम ते
[nʌmʌsˈteː] from external sandhi between namaḥ and te)
Namaste, Namaskar or Namaskaram (Sanskrit: नम ते [nʌmʌsˈteː] from
external sandhi between namaḥ and te) is a common spoken greeting or
salutation in the Indian subcontinent. It is derived from Hinduism and
Buddhism, and in India it has multi-religious or else common usage where
it may simply mean "I bow to you." In religious formulation, it can be
"Greetings to you" ("that" here refers to divinity, or that which is
"I respect that divinity within you that is also within me."
"the light within me honors the light within you" (in yoga)
The word is derived from Sanskrit (namas): to bow, obeisance, reverential
salutation, and (te): "to you". Namaskar is considered a slightly more
formal version than namaste but both express deep respect. It is
commonly used in India and Nepal by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, and
many continue to use this outside the Indian subcontinent.
When spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight
bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers
pointed upwards, in front of the chest. The gesture can also be performed
wordlessly and carry the same meaning. In Indian and Nepali culture, the
word is spoken at the beginning of written or verbal communication.
However, upon departure only the wordless hands-folded gesture is made.
Uses in South Asian culture
In the word namaste there is sandha or coalescence between the two
Sanskrit words - namah + te - meaning " I bow to that (divinity) inherent
in you." Also common is a polite form using the imperative astu meaning
"let there be": namo 'stu te literally means "let there be a salutation to
In everyday life, namaste can be necessarily considered a religious
salutation. However, namaste is salutation that is a Sanskrit term which
can be understood to mean, "I respect that divinity within you that is also
Also when greeting a peer, a namaste can be said together with hands in
front of chest and a slight bow. To indicate deep respect, one may place
the hands in front of the forehead, and reverence for a god or the holiest of
persons may be indicated by placing the hands completely above the head.
Namaste is also used as a friendly greeting in written communication, or
generally between people when they meet.
In some parts of India (for example, Punjabi-speaking areas), namaste is
used not only to greet Hindus but everyone. The proper greetings for
Muslims are As-Salamu Alaykum and for Sikhs Sat Sri Akaal respectively.
The gesture is used to greet (as well as a parting remark) people with the
verbal "Aayubowan", hence it is called Aayubowan. Aayubowan roughly
means 'may you live long'. When used at funerals to greet the guests, the
verbal part is usually omitted. The aayubowan gesture is also a cultural
symbol of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan hospitality. This is also the means used
by Sri Lankan air hostesses to greet passengers, and is used in other
hospitality settings. When the gesture is performed with hands in front of
the chest it is usually considered as aayubowan. When hand position is
higher it usually means reverence and/or worship. The higher the hands,
or the expression with hands placed on top of one's head, is usually the
sign of utmost reverence or respect. In Sindh, the gesture of namaste is
still maintained by Sindhi muslims .
Symbolism in Hinduism
A sadhu performing namaste in Madurai, India.
The gesture used when bowing in namaste or gassho is the bringing of
both hands together, palms touching, in front of the person—usually at the
chest, or a higher level such as below the chin, below the nose, or above
This gesture is a mudra, a well-recognized symbolic hand position in
eastern religions. One hand represents the higher, spiritual nature, while
the other represents the worldly self. By combining the two, the person
making the gesture is attempting to rise above his differences with others,
and connect himself with the person to whom he bows. The bow is
symbolic of love and respect.
Particularly in Hinduism, when one worships or bows in reverence, the
symbolism of the two palms touching is of great significance. It is the
joining together of two extremities—the feet of the Divine, with the head of
the devotee. The right palm denotes the feet of the Divine and the left
palm denotes the head of the devotee. The Divine feet constitute the
ultimate solace for all sorrows—this is a time-honored thought that runs
through the entire religious ethos.
Meanings and interpretation
Namaste is one of the few Sanskrit words commonly recognized by Non-
Hindi speakers. In the West, it is often used to indicate South Asian culture
in general Namaste is particularly associated with aspects of South Asian
culture such as vegetarianism, yoga, ayurvedic healing, and Hinduism.
In recent times, and more globally, the term "namaste" has come to be
especially associated with yoga and spiritual meditation all over the world.
In this context, it has been viewed in terms of a multitude of very
complicated and poetic meanings which tie in with the spiritual origins of
the word. Some examples:
"I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me." -- attributed to author
"I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor
the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of
Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in
me, we are One."
"I salute the God within you."
"Your spirit and my spirit are ONE." -- attributed to Lilias Folan's
shared teachings from her journeys to India.
"That which is of the Divine in me greets that which is of the Divine
"The Divinity within me perceives and adores the Divinity within
"All that is best and highest in me greets/salutes all that is best and
highest in you."
"I greet the God within."
That said, these are all arguably simply attempts at translating the same
concept, which does not have a direct parallel in English. In Buddhism, the
concept may be understood as Buddha nature. Also used as Namo
Video clipping on this