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Pressing hands together with a smile to greet Namaste – a common cultural practice in India.

Namaste (/ˈnɑːməst/, Devanagari: नमस्ते, Hindi: [nəməsteː] (About this sound listen)), sometimes spoken as Namaskar and Namaskaram, is a respectful form of greeting in Hindu custom, originating from the Indian subcontinent, and used among those in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Hindu diaspora worldwide, as well as areas categorized as being part of Greater India. It is used both for salutation and valediction.[1][2] Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana.[3]

In Hinduism, it means "I bow to the divine in you".[4][5][6] Namaste may also be spoken without the gesture or the namaste gesture performed wordlessly.

Etymology, meaning and origins[edit]

Statue in a Thai temple.

Namaste (Namah + te, Devanagari: नम:+ ते = नमस्ते) is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word namah and the second person dative pronoun in its enclitic form, te.[7] The word namaḥ takes the Sandhi form namas before the sound t.[8][9]

Namaḥ means 'bow', 'obeisance', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration'[10] and te means 'to you' (singular dative case of 'tvam'). Therefore, Namaste literally means "bowing to you".[11] In Hinduism, it also has a spiritual import reflecting the belief that "the divine and self (atman, soul) is same in you and me", and connotes "I bow to the divine in you".[4][6][12] According to sociologist Holly Oxhandler, it is a Hindu term which means, “the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you”.[13]

A less common variant is used in the case of three or more people being addressed namely Namo vaḥ which is a combination of namaḥ and the enclitic 2nd person plural pronoun vaḥ.[7] The word namaḥ takes the Sandhi form namo before the sound v.[8]

An even less common variant is used in the case of two people being addressed, namely, Namo vām, which is a combination of namaḥ and the enclitic 2nd person dual pronoun vām.[7]


Excavations for Indus civilization have revealed many male and female terracotta figures in Namaste posture.[14][15] These archaeological findings are dated to be between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.[16][17]


A side view of man in Namaste pose.

The gesture is widely used throughout the Indian subcontinent, parts of Asia and beyond where people of South and Southeast Asian origins have migrated.[4] Namaste or namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger.[2] In some contexts, Namaste is used by one person to express gratitude for assistance offered or given, and to thank the other person for his or her generous kindness.[18]

Namaskar is also part of the 16 upacharas used inside temples or any place of formal Puja (worship). Namaste in the context of deity worship, scholars conclude,[19][20] has the same function as in greeting a guest or anyone else. It expresses politeness, courtesy, honor, and hospitality from one person to the other. It is used in goodbyes as well. This is sometimes expressed, in ancient Hindu scriptures such as Taittiriya Upanishad, as Atithi Devo Bhava (literally, treat the guest like a god).[21][22]

Namaste is one of the six forms of pranama, and in parts of India these terms are used synonymously.[23][24]

Regional variations[edit]

In the Hindi and Nepalese speaking populations of the Indian subcontinent, Namaste (Hindi: [nəməsteː] (About this sound listen), Devanagari: नमस्ते) and Namaskār are used synonymously. In Nepal, people generally use Namaskāra for greeting and respecting their elders. In Odia Namaste is also known as ନମସ୍କାର (namaskār) General greeting. In Kannada, Namaskāra (ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ) for singular and Namaskaragalu (ನಮಸ್ಕಾರಗಳು) is used and sharanu (ಶರಣು) is widely used in Karnataka for Namaste. In Telugu, Namaste is also known as Dandamu (దండము) or namaskaram (నమస్కారం) for singular and Dandaalu or namaskaralu for plural form. Pranamamu (ప్రణామము) is also used in formal Telugu. In Bengali, the Namaste gesture is expressed as Nōmōshkar (নমস্কার), and as Prōnäm (Bengali: প্রণাম) informally. In Assamese, Nômôskar (নমস্কাৰ) is used. In Marathi, Namaskār (नमस्कार) is used. In Tamil, Namaste is known as Vanakkam (வணக்கம்) which is derived from the root word vanangu (வணங்கு) meaning to bow or to greet. In Malayalam, Namaskāram (നമസ്കാരം) is used. The Sinhalese word namaskāra (නමස්කාර) which derived from Pali also has the same meaning as namaskār/namaskāra in Hindi, Nepali, Odia and Kannada languages, or a different greeting word is āyubōvan (ආයුබෝවන්) which has the meaning wishing long life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sanskrit English Disctionary University of Koeln, Germany
  2. ^ a b Constance Jones and James D. Ryan, Encyclopedia of Hinduism, ISBN 978-0-8160-5458-9, p. 302
  3. ^ Chatterjee, Gautam (2001), Sacred Hindu Symbols, Abhinav Publications, pp. 47–48.
  4. ^ a b c Ying, Y. W., Coombs, M., & Lee, P. A. (1999), "Family intergenerational relationship of Asian American adolescents", Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 5(4), pp. 350–363
  5. ^ Boopalan, Sunder John (2017). "Introduction: Political and Theological Framework". Memory, Grief, and Agency. Springer International. pp. 1–20. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-58958-9_1. ISBN 978-3-319-58957-2.
  6. ^ a b [a] K V Singh (2015). Hindu Rites and Rituals: Origins and Meanings. Penguin Books. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-0143425106.;
    [b] Barbara Bickel (2012), Decolonizing the Divine Through Co-Artographic Praxis in Matrixial Borderspaces, Visual Arts Research, Vol. 38, No. 2, University of Illinois Press, pp. 112-125;
    [c] Suzanne Bost (2016), Practicing Yoga, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 191-210;
    [d] Oxhandler, Holly (2017). "Namaste Theory: A Quantitative Grounded Theory on Religion and Spirituality in Mental Health Treatment". Religions. 8 (9): 168. doi:10.3390/rel8090168..
  7. ^ a b c Thomas Burrow, The Sanskrit Language, pp. 263–268
  8. ^ a b Thomas Burrow, The Sanskrit Language, pp. 100–102
  9. ^ Namah Sanskrit Dictionary
  10. ^ "Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon", Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries (search results), University of Cologne, retrieved March 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Namaste Douglas Harper, Etymology Dictionary
  12. ^ Lawrence, J. D. (2007), "The Boundaries of Faith: A Journey in India", Homily Service, 41(2), pp. 1–3
  13. ^ Oxhandler, Holly (2017). "Namaste Theory: A Quantitative Grounded Theory on Religion and Spirituality in Mental Health Treatment". Religions. 8 (9): 168. doi:10.3390/rel8090168.
  14. ^ Sharma & Sharma (2004), Panorama of Harappan Civilization, ISBN 978-8174790576, Kaveri Books, page 129
  15. ^ Origins of Hinduism Hinduism Today, Volume 7, Issue 2 (April/May/June), Chapter 1, p. 3
  16. ^ Seated Male in Namaskar pose National Museum, New Delhi, India (2012)
  17. ^ S Kalyanaraman, Indus Script Cipher: Hieroglyphs of Indian Linguistic Area, ISBN 978-0982897102, pp. 234–236
  18. ^ Joseph Shaules (2007), Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living, ISBN 978-1847690166, pp. 68–70
  19. ^ James Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 2, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 720
  20. ^ Fuller, C. J. (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 66–70, ISBN 978-0-691-12048-5
  21. ^ Kelkar (2010), A Vedic approach to measurement of service quality, Services Marketing Quarterly, 31(4), 420-433
  22. ^ Roberto De Nobili, Preaching Wisdom to the Wise: Three Treatises, ISBN 978-1880810378, page 132
  23. ^ R.R. Mehrotra (1995), How to be polite in Indian English, International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 116, Issue 1, Pages 99–110
  24. ^ G. Chatterjee (2003), Sacred Hindu Symbols, ISBN 978-8170173977, pp. 47–49

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