Atithi Devo Bhava
Atithi Devo Bhava [Atithidevo Bhava] (Sanskrit: अतिथिदेवो भव; English: 'The guest is equivalent to God' or 'Be one for whom the guest is God') is a Sanskrit verse, taken from an ancient Hindu scripture which became part of the "code of conduct" for Hindu society. Atithi Devo Bhav regards a procedure of the host-guest relationship. Recently it has also become the tag line of India's Ministry of Tourism's campaign to improve the treatment of tourists in India.
The mantras are from the Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.20 that says: matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava. It literally means "be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God." matrudevah, pitrudevah, acharyadevah, atithidevah are one word each, and each one is a Bahuvrihi samasta-pada.
Tithi in Sanskrit denotes a (calendrical) date. In ancient times, when means of communication were limited and it was not possible for guests to anticipate their date of arrival, atithi (which literally means "without a fixed calendrical time") was coined to depict a visiting person who had no fixed date of arrival or departure. Devah (which, through sandhi or euphonic combination, becomes written/pronounced as devo when followed by certain kinds of consonants) means God and bhava means Be or Is - "be the one for whom the Guest is God".
Ritual or Puja
In Hinduism Personal God is worshipped in a five-step worship; this is known as Panchopchara Puja. The "Shodashopchar Poojan" is more elaborate and formal, and involves 16 steps.
The five steps from the worship become the five formalities to be observed while receiving guests:
- Fragrance (Dhupa) - While receiving guests the rooms must have a pleasant fragrance, because this is the first thing that attracts or detracts guests from their visit. A pleasant fragrance will put a guest in good humour.
- Lamp (Dipa) - Prior to the electrification of India, a lamp was put between host and guest so that expression and body language would remain clearly visible and therefore no gap would be created between host and guest.
- Eatables (Naivedya) - Fruits and sweets made of milk were offered to guests.
- Rice (Akshata) - It is a symbol of being undivided. A tilak, often made of a vermilion paste, is put on the forehead and rice grains are placed on it. This is the highest form of welcome in Hindu Indian families.
- Flower Offering (Pushpa) - A flower is a gesture of good will. When the guest departs, the flower symbolizes the sweet memories of the visit that stay with them for several days.
Campaign by the Government of India
India attracts millions of tourists each year. The country had 3.3 million in 2003, but it still lags far behind other destinations. To attempt to improve the number of tourists traveling to India, the Tourism Department of India started the Atithi Devo Bhavah campaign with the theme Incredible India.
'Atithi Devo Bhavah' is a social awareness campaign that aimed at providing the inbound tourist a greater sense of being welcomed to the country. The campaign targets the general public, while focusing mainly on the stakeholders of the tourism industry. The campaign provides training and orientation to taxi driver, guides, immigration officers, police, and other personnel who interact directly with the tourist.
- http://www.incredibleindia.org/newsite/atithidevobhava.htm I Love India, Athidhi devo bhavan, Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- http://www.iloveindia.com/indian-traditions/tilak.html, I Love India, Tikak, Retrieved February 3, 2011.