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Namaste - Meaning and Gesture

by Jyotsna Kamat

First Online: May 28, 2004 in Amma's Column
Page Last Updated: January 04, 2018


Namaste is the most common way of greeting in India. You can use Namaste as in good morning, good night, thank you or welcome and can be used generously. 

Meaning and Gesture

Namaste means "I bow to you" (Nama = bowing, te= you). It also means "Nothing is mine" (Na=nothing, mae=mine). Bringing both the hands at the chest and joining them, with a slight bow has been Indian way of greeting for centuries.


The Bhagawad-Gita says "The Lord dwells in the heart of all beings, mounted on the automaton of the body. By His illusive power, he makes them revolve according to their actions "(XVIII. 61) So touching one's own chest is considered acknowledgement of this sublime fact, and bowing implies "I humbly bow to God residing in you!"

The Sashtang Namaskar
The Sashtang Namaskar
Seeking blessing from an elder

Prostrating before God and elders and touching the feet is the humblest way of conveying respect in Indian culture. Known as Sashtang Namaskar it is bowing with eight limbs of the body touching the ground. In some communities like Bengal, they take dust from the feet of the revered ones and put it on their own heads. However, touching another person is not favored in India, although shaking hands became fashionable since the British rule.


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