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

Namaste (/ˈnɑːməst/, Devanagari: नमस्ते, Hindi pronunciation: [nəməsteː] (About this soundlisten)), sometimes spoken as Namaskar and Namaskaram, is a customary Hindu greeting.[1] In the contemporary era, it is found on the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and among the Hindu diaspora worldwide. The gesture (but not the term namaste for it) is widely used in the parts of Southeast Asia where Indian religions are strong. It is used both for greeting and leave-taking.[2][3] 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; the standing posture incorporating it is Pranamasana.[4]

In Hinduism, it means "I bow to the divine in you".[1] Namaste may also be spoken without the gesture, or the gesture may be performed wordlessly.

Etymology, meaning and origins[edit]

Left: Hindu god Kubera on the left with a person in Namaste pose (13th century Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura, Karnataka, India). Namaste or Añjali Mudrā are common in historic Hindu temple reliefs.
Right: Entrance pillar relief (Thrichittatt Maha Vishnu Temple, Kerala, India).

Namaste (Namas + te) is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word namas and the second person dative pronoun in its enclitic form, te.[5] The word namaḥ takes the sandhi form namas before the sound te.[6][7]

The term namas is found in the Vedic literature. Namas-krita and related terms appear in the Hindu scripture Rigveda such as in the Vivaha Sukta, verse 10.85.22[8] in the sense of "worship, adore", while Namaskara appears in the sense of "exclamatory adoration, homage, salutation and worship" in the Atharvaveda, the Taittiriya Samhita, and the Aitareya Brahmana. It is an expression of veneration, worship, reverence, an "offering of homage" and "adoration" in the Vedic literature and post-Vedic texts such as the Mahabharata.[9][10] The phrase Namas-te appears with this meaning in Rigveda 8.75.10,[11] Atharvaveda verse 6.13.2, Taittirya Samhita and in numerous other instances in many early Hindu texts.[12] It is also found in numerous ancient and medieval era sculpture and mandapa relief artwork in Hindu temples.[13]

Resident of Okhaldhunga District making a Namaste gesture

In the contemporary era, Namaḥ means 'bow', 'obeisance', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration'[14] and te means 'to you' (singular dative case of 'tvam'). Therefore, Namaste literally means "bowing to you".[15] 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".[16][1][17] According to sociologist Holly Oxhandler, it is a Hindu term which means, “the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you”.[18]

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.[5] The word namaḥ takes the Sandhi form namo before the sound v.[6] 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.[5]


Excavations for Indus Valley Civilization have revealed many male and female terracotta figures in Namaste posture.[19][20] These archaeological findings are dated to be between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.[21][22]

Añjali Mudrā[edit]

Statue with hands in the most common Anjali Mudra position
A Japanese statue of Bodhisattva Seishi, doing Añjali Mudrā

Añjali Mudrā (Sanskrit: अञ्जलि मुद्रा), the salutation seal,[23][24] is a hand gesture associated with Indian religions, practiced throughout Asia and beyond. It is used as a sign of respect and a greeting in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia, also used among East Asian Buddhists, Taoists and Shintoists and amongst yoga practitioners and adherents of similar traditions. The gesture is incorporated into many yoga asanas, and is used for worship in many Eastern religions.

The modern yoga pose praṇāmāsana (Sanskrit: प्रणामासन) consists of standing with the hands in Añjali Mudrā.


Anjali is Sanskrit for "divine offering", "a gesture of reverence", "benediction", "salutation", and is derived from anj, meaning "to honour or celebrate".[24]

Mudra means "seal" or "sign". The meaning of the phrase is thus "salutation seal".[23]

The gesture is also known as hrdayanjali mudra meaning "reverence to the heart seal" (from hrd, meaning "heart") and atmanjali mudra meaning "reverence to the self seal" (from atman, meaning "self").[24]


A sadhu performing Anjali Mudra at his crown chakra in front of a sculptured figure in the same posture

Anjali mudra is performed by pressing the palms of the hands together. The fingers are together with fingertips pointing up. The hands are pressed together firmly and evenly.[24]

In the most common form of anjali mudra, the hands are held at the heart chakra with thumbs resting lightly against the sternum.[24] The gesture may also be performed at the Ajna or brow chakra with thumb tips resting against the "third eye" or at the crown chakra (above the head). In some yoga postures, the hands are placed in anjali mudra position to one side of the body or behind the back.

Anjali mudra is normally accompanied by a slight bowing of the head.

Symbolic meaning[edit]

Anjali mudra has the same meaning as the Sanskrit greeting Namaste and can be performed while saying Namaste or Pranam, or in place of vocalizing the word.

The gesture is used for both greetings and farewells, but carries a deeper significance than a simple "hello" or "goodbye". The joining together of the palms is said to provide connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and represents unification.[24][23] This yoking is symbolic of the practitioner's connection with the divine in all things. Hence, anjali mudra honours both the self and the other.[23]

Physical benefits[edit]

Anjali mudra is performed as part of a physical yoga practice with an aim to achieving several benefits. It is a "centering pose" which, according to practitioners, helps to alleviate mental stress and anxiety and is therefore used to assist the practitioner in achieving focus and coming into a meditative state.[24]

The physical execution of the pose helps to promote flexibility in the hands, wrists, fingers and arms.[24]

Use in full-body asanas[edit]

While anjali mudra may be performed by itself from any seated or standing posture, the gesture is also incorporated into physical yoga practice as part of many full-body asanas, including:


The gesture is widely used throughout the Indian subcontinent, parts of Asia and beyond where people of South and Southeast Asian origins have migrated.[16] Namaste or namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger.[3] 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.[35]

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,[36][37] 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).[38][39]

Namaste is one of the six forms of pranama, and in parts of India these terms are used synonymously.[40][41]

The term has been adopted by Western cultures, leading to accusations of cultural appropriation. [42]

Regional variations[edit]

In the Hindi- and Nepali-speaking populations of the Indian subcontinent, Namaste (Hindi: [nəməsteː] (About this soundlisten), 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, Sharanu (ಶರಣು) is used in Northern Karnataka and Namaskāra (ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ) for singular and Namaskaragalu (ನಮಸ್ಕಾರಗಳು) is widely used in the rest of 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, Namastē (നമസ്തേ) and Namaskāram (നമസ്കാരം) are used synonymously. The Sinhala 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. ^ a b c [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..
  2. ^ Sanskrit English Disctionary University of Koeln, Germany
  3. ^ a b Constance Jones and James D. Ryan, Encyclopedia of Hinduism, ISBN 978-0-8160-5458-9, p. 302
  4. ^ Chatterjee, Gautam (2001), Sacred Hindu Symbols, Abhinav Publications, pp. 47–48.
  5. ^ a b c Thomas Burrow, The Sanskrit Language, pp. 263–268
  6. ^ a b Thomas Burrow, The Sanskrit Language, pp. 100–102
  7. ^ Namah Sanskrit Dictionary
  8. ^ "उदीर्ष्वातो विश्वावसो नमसेळा महे त्वा । अन्यामिच्छ प्रफर्व्यं सं जायां पत्या सृज ॥२२॥, Griffith translates it as, "Rise up from hence, Visvavasu, with reverence we worship thee. Seek thou another willing maid, and with her husband leave the bride; RV, Griffith, Wikisource; other instances include RV 9.11.6 and many other Vedic texts; for a detailed list, see Maurice Bloomfield, Vedic Concordance, Harvard University Press
  9. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary with Etymology Namas, Oxford University Press, p. 528
  10. ^ namas, Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary 1899 edition], Harvard University update (2008)
  11. ^ RV 8.75.10, Wikisource:
    नमस्ते अग्न ओजसे गृणन्ति देव कृष्टयः ।
    Translation: "Homage to your power, Agni! The separate peoples hymn you, o god."
    Translators: Stephanie Jamison & Joel Brereton (2014), The Rigveda, Volume 2 of 3-set, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-01-99363-780, p. 1172
  12. ^ Maurice Bloomfield, Vedic Concordance, Harvard University Press, pp. 532-533
  13. ^ A. K. Krishna Nambiar (1979). Namaste: Its Philosophy and Significance in Indian Culture. pp. vii–viii with listed pages. OCLC 654838066.
  14. ^ "Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon", Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries (search results), University of Cologne, retrieved March 24, 2012.
  15. ^ Namaste Douglas Harper, Etymology Dictionary
  16. ^ a b 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
  17. ^ Lawrence, J. D. (2007), "The Boundaries of Faith: A Journey in India", Homily Service, 41(2), pp. 1–3
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Sharma & Sharma (2004), Panorama of Harappan Civilization, ISBN 978-8174790576, Kaveri Books, page 129
  20. ^ Origins of Hinduism Hinduism Today, Volume 7, Issue 2 (April/May/June), Chapter 1, p. 3
  21. ^ Seated Male in Namaskar pose National Museum, New Delhi, India (2012)
  22. ^ S Kalyanaraman, Indus Script Cipher: Hieroglyphs of Indian Linguistic Area, ISBN 978-0982897102, pp. 234–236
  23. ^ a b c d Rea, Shiva (12 March 2018) [2007]. "For Beginners: Anjali Mudra". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h "Salutation Seal". Yoga Journal. 15 May 2017 [2007].
  25. ^ "Low Lunge". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  26. ^ "Monkey Pose". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  27. ^ "Garland Pose". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  28. ^ "Fish Pose". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 18 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  29. ^ "Wide-Legged Forward Bend". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  30. ^ "Pigeon Pose". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  31. ^ "Mountain Pose". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  32. ^ "Upward Salute". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  33. ^ "Warrior I". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  34. ^ "Tree Pose". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  35. ^ Joseph Shaules (2007), Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living, ISBN 978-1847690166, pp. 68–70
  36. ^ James Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 2, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 720
  37. ^ 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
  38. ^ Kelkar (2010), A Vedic approach to measurement of service quality, Services Marketing Quarterly, 31(4), 420-433
  39. ^ Roberto De Nobili, Preaching Wisdom to the Wise: Three Treatises, ISBN 978-1880810378, page 132
  40. ^ 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
  41. ^ G. Chatterjee (2003), Sacred Hindu Symbols, ISBN 978-8170173977, pp. 47–49
  42. ^ Kaur, Kiran Kaur (2018-08-18). "Why Saying "Namaste" is Culturally Insensitive and NOT Just a Yoga Term. All you aspiring yogis, this is for you". Medium.

External links[edit]