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Namaste (// NAH-məs-tay; Hindi: [nəməsteː] ( ); Devanagari: नमस्ते; formal: Namaskar/Namaskaram) is a common spoken valediction or salutation originating in the Indian subcontinent. It is a customary greeting when individuals meet, and a valediction upon their parting. It means "I bow to the devine in you" showing you're awareness of the spirit that obtains the body of the person you greet (Buddhist Term). A non-contact form of salutation is traditionally preferred in India and Nepal; Namaste is the most common form of such a salutation.
When spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. This gesture, called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana, can also be performed wordlessly and carries the same meaning.
Namaste is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word, "Namaḥ" with the pronoun suffix "te" and Sandhi connective "s". Namaḥ means 'bow', 'obeisance', 'reverential salutation' or 'adoration' and te means 'to you' (dative case of 'you'). Therefore, Namaste literally means "salutations to you".
The related 'Namaskar' is a combination of the two words, "Namaḥ" and "kaar". "Namaḥ" again means "to bow down" and "Kaar" means 'form' or 'shape' and refers to the phenomenon that the other entity (person) presents. Thus, this older salutation essentially means "I salute [your] form", which implies an understanding that all beings in this existence are part of the surface phenomenology of Maya and that beyond the surface, so to say, all beings are part of Brahman, or the One ultimate essence that underlies, and is, all.
In the same light, 'Namah' originates from a benevolent unselfishness or admission ("salutation") of unity in One essence, and, therefore, 'Namaste' can also be interpreted (roughly) as a way of saying "Not-myself to you" (a benevolent expression of both respect and impersonality).
Another variation "Not for me,.. but for thee" gives the sense of doing 'in service' or 'in honor' of the person spoken to, removing any personal agenda of the speaker.
In India and Nepal, Namaste is a friendly greeting in written communication, or generally between people when they meet. When used at funerals to greet the guests, the verbal part is usually omitted. When the hand position is higher, it usually means reverence for worship. Thus, the expression with hands placed on top of one's head is usually the sign of utmost reverence or respect.
In Nepalese culture, namaste is performed when a younger family member meets older relatives. It also varies depending upon social status and prestige. The person with lower status or prestige performs namaste first to show respect for the higher station the other person has achieved. It is also performed for praying and worshiping god.
In Sikh scripture, Namaste, Namastung or Namastvung is referenced as salutation to the Primal being, the One God. The salutation is followed by an attribute respecting a quality of the creator of all religions, Akal. Sikhs also fold their hand as in Namaste, but their greeting is Sat Sri Akal.
In Telugu culture, the gesture is known as "Namaskaramulu" or simply "Namaskaram", which are derived from Sanskrit.
In Tamil culture, the gesture is known as Kumpiṭu (கும்பிடு), which is composed of two words Kumpu (கும்பு) meaning 'to cup hands' and Iṭu இடு meaning 'to do'; while an equivalent of the salutation would be வணக்கம் (vaṇakkam), which is roughly translated as 'greetings'.
Namaste does not necessarily have to be performed with both hands. For example, if one is carrying an object in one hand, one may perform a half-namaste with one hand. A Namaste, Namaskaar or Namaskaaram greeting is never offered without the gesture. It is considered impolite, especially in South Indian culture, to use the greeting without the gesture.
Yoga classes typically conclude with the namaste salutation in this way: The instructor and students press their hands into Anjali mudra at the heart center and bow their heads. The instructor says Namaste and students reply in unison, Namaste. Yoga classes may also open with this salutation.
As it is most commonly used, namaste is roughly equivalent to "greetings" or "good day", in English, implicitly with the connotation "to be well". As opposed to shaking hands, kissing or embracing each other in other cultures, Namaste is a non-contact form of respectful greeting and can be used universally while meeting a person of different gender, age or social status.
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