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.
Namaḥ means 'bow', 'obeisance', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration' and te means 'to you' (dative case). Therefore, Namaste literally means "bowing to you".
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.
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.
Excavations for Indus civilization have revealed many male and female terracotta figures in Namaste posture. These archeological findings are dated to be between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.
Pressing hands together with a smile to greet Namaste – a common cultural practice in India.
The gesture is widely used throughout India, Nepal, parts of Asia and beyond where people of South and Southeast 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).
Namaste is one of the six forms of pranama, and in parts of India these terms are used synonymously.
In the Hindi and Nepalese speaking populations of South Asia, both Namaste (/ˈnɑːməsteɪ/, ; Devanagari: नमस्ते) and Namaskar are synonymously used. In Nepal, people generally use Namaskar for greeting and respecting their elders. In Kannada, Namaskara(ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ) for singular and Namaskaragalu(ನಮಸ್ಕಾರಗಳು) is used. 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 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'.