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A Mohiniattam dancer making a Namaste gesture

Namaste (/ˈnɑːməst/, NAH-məs-tay; Hindi: नमस्ते; Hindi: [nəməsteː]), sometimes expressed as Namaskar or Namaskaram, is a customary greeting when people meet or depart. [1][2] It is commonly found among people of the Indian Subcontinent and Nepal.[3][4] Namaste is 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.[5]

Namaste, sometimes spoken as Namaskar or Namaskaram, is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger. Namaskar is mostly used in India. It is used with goodbyes as well. It is typically spoken and simultaneously performed with the palms touching gesture, but it may also be spoken without acting it out or performed wordlessly; all three carry the same meaning. This cultural practice of salutation and valediction originated in the Indian Subcontinent.[6]

Etymology, meaning and origins[edit]

Namaste (Namas + te, Devanagari: नमः + ते = नमस्ते) is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word namaḥ and the enclitic 2nd person singular pronoun 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' (dative case). Therefore, Namaste literally means "bowing to you".[11]

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.[12][13] These archeological findings are dated to be between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.[14][15]


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

The gesture is widely used throughout Asia and beyond.[3] 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.[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.[16]

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,[17][18] 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).[19][20]

Namaste is one of the six forms of pranama, and in parts of India these terms are used synonymously.[21][22]

Regional variations[edit]

In Hindi and Nepalese speaking population of South Asia, both Namaste (/ˈnɑːməst/, ; Devanagari: नमस्ते) and Namaskar are synonymously used. In Nepal, people generally use Namaste for greeting and respecting their elders. In past, in Nepal, Namaskar was used as Hi & Hello and Namaste was used as Bye. However, at present, Namaste refers as a form of Greeting. 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: প্রনাম) informally. In Tamil, Namaste is known as Kumpiṭu.

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. ^ 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
  4. ^ Bhatia, S., & Ram, A. (2009). Theorizing identity in transnational and diaspora cultures: A critical approach to acculturation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33(2), pp. 140–149
  5. ^ Chatterjee, Gautam (2001), Sacred Hindu Symbols, Google books, pp. 47–48 .
  6. ^ D. Ikeda, D. & V.P. Nanda (2004), The Spirit of India: Buddhism and Hinduism (2), Journal of Oriental Studies, 14, pp. 3–47
  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. ^ Sharma & Sharma (2004), Panorama of Harappan Civilization, ISBN 978-8174790576, Kaveri Books, page 129
  13. ^ Origins of Hinduism Hinduism Today, Volume 7, Issue 2 (April/May/June), Chapter 1, p. 3
  14. ^ Seated Male in Namaskar pose National Museum, New Delhi, India (2012)
  15. ^ S Kalyanaraman, Indus Script Cipher: Hieroglyphs of Indian Linguistic Area, ISBN 978-0982897102, pp. 234–236
  16. ^ Joseph Shaules (2007), Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living, ISBN 978-1847690166, pp. 68–70
  17. ^ James Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 2, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 720
  18. ^ 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 
  19. ^ Kelkar (2010), A Vedic approach to measurement of service quality, Services Marketing Quarterly, 31(4), 420-433
  20. ^ Roberto De Nobili, Preaching Wisdom to the Wise: Three Treatises, ISBN 978-1880810378, page 132
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ G. Chatterjee (2003), Sacred Hindu Symbols, ISBN 978-8170173977, pp. 47–49

External links[edit]