Namaste ([nəməsteː] ( listen), NAH-məs-tay), sometimes spoken as Namaskar, Namaskaram or Vanakkam, is a respectful form of greeting in Hindu custom, found on the Indian Subcontinent and among the Indian diaspora. It is used both for salutation and valediction. 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. In Hinduism it means "I bow to the divine in you". The greeting may also be spoken without the gesture or the gesture performed wordlessly, carrying the same meaning.
Etymology, meaning and origins
Namaste (Namas + te, Devanagari: नमस् + ते = नमस्ते) is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word namaḥ and the enclitic 2nd person singular pronoun te. The word namaḥ takes the Sandhi form namas before the sound t.
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. The word namaḥ takes the Sandhi form namo before the sound v.
The gesture is widely used throughout India, Nepal, parts of Asia and beyond where people of South Asian origins have migrated. Namaste or namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger. It is used with good byes as well. 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.
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, conclude scholars, 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. This is sometimes expressed, in ancient Hindu scriptures such as Taittiriya Upanishad, as Atithi Devo Bhav (literally, the guest is god).
In the Hindi and Nepalese speaking populations of South Asia, both Namaste (//, ; Devanagari: नमस्ते) and Namaskar are synonymously used. In Nepal, people generally use Namaskar for greeting and respecting their elders. In Telugu, Namaste is also known as Dhandamu (singular) and Dhandaalu (plural). In Bengali, the Namaste gesture is expressed as Nōmōshkar (নমস্কার), and said as Prōnäm (Bengali: প্রণাম) informally. In Assamese, Nômôskar (নমস্কাৰ) is used.
In Tamil, Namaste is known as Kumpiṭu (கும்பிடு), which is composed of two words kumpu (கும்பு) meaning 'to cup hands' and iṭu இடு meaning 'to do'. However, Vanakkam (வணக்கம்) is also a common greeting in Tamil and it's derived from Vanangu (வணங்கு) meaning 'to bow down'.
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