Dancer in Sari

A Mohiniattam dancer making a Namaste gesture

Namaste (Sanskrit: नमस्ते, Hindustani pronunciation: [nʌmʌsˈteː], from external Sandhi between namaḥ and te) is a common spoken greeting or salutation in South Asia. It has multi-religious or else common usage where it may simply mean "I bow to you." The word is derived from Sanskrit namas, to bow, obeisance, reverential salutation, and te, "to you".[1]

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, can also be performed wordlessly and carries the same meaning.


In the word namaste there is sandhi, or coalescence, between the two Sanskrit words namah and te, meaning "I bow (reverentially) to you." Also common is a polite form using the imperative astu meaning "let there be": namo: stu te literally meaning "let there be a salutation to you".[2][3]

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.

Namaste is also used as a friendly greeting in written communication, or generally between people when they meet.

In some parts of India (for example, Punjabi-speaking areas), namaste is used not only to greet Hindus, but everyone. The proper greeting for Muslims is As-Salaam-Alaykum, for Sikhs, Sat Sri Akaal, and for Jains, Jai Jinendra. The gesture is used to greet people with the verbal "Aayushman". Aayushmaan means "may you live long".

When used at funerals to greet the guests, the verbal part is usually omitted. The aayushman gesture is also a cultural symbol of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan hospitality. This is also the means used by Sri Lankan air hostesses to greet passengers and used in other hospitality settings. When the gesture is performed with hands in front of the chest, it is usually considered as aayushman. When the hand position is higher, it usually means reverence and/or worship. The expression with hands placed on top of one's head is usually the sign of utmost reverence or respect.

In Sindh, Pakistan, the gesture of namaste is still maintained even by Sindhi Muslims.

Meanings and interpretation

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Namaste is one of the few Sanskrit words commonly recognized by Non-Hindi speakers. In the West, it is often used to indicate Indian Hindu culture in general. Namaste is particularly associated with aspects of Hindu culture such as vegetarianism, yoga, ayurvedic healing, and other cultures that are derivatives of Hinduism such as Buddhism and Jainism.

In recent times, and more globally, the term "namaste" has come to be especially associated with yoga and spiritual meditation all over the world. In this context, it has been viewed in terms of a multitude of very complicated and poetic meanings which tie in with the spiritual origins of the word. Some examples:

  • "I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me." -- attributed to author Kabir Chopra[4]
  • "I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One."[5][6]
  • "I salute the God within you."
  • "Your spirit and my spirit are ONE." -- attributed to Lilias Folan's shared teachings from her journeys to India.
  • "That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you."[7]
  • "The Divinity within me perceives and adores the Divinity within you."[8]
  • "All that is best and highest in me greets/salutes all that is best and highest in you."
  • "I greet the God within."

That said, these are all arguably simply attempts at translating the same concept, which does not have a direct parallel in English, although Aloha would be a good attempt. In Buddhism, the concept may be understood as Buddha nature. Also used as Namo Buddhaye.

  • "I bow to you. The light within me honors the light within you."


  1. Oxford English Dictionary, Draft Revision June 2003.
  4. Chopra, Deepak (2007). Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-087881-8. 
  5. Yoga Heals Us (2007). "Yoga Philosophy - Namaste". Yoga Heals Us. Retrieved November 10 2007. 
  6. Dass, Ram (1976). Grist For The Mill. Unity Press. ISBN 0913300179. 
  7. TEDTalks (2005). "Rev. Tom Honey: How could God have allowed the tsunami?". Video Podcast. TED Conferences. Retrieved November 10 2007. 
  8. Finnegan, Dave (1993). Zen of Juggling. Jugglebug. ISBN 9780961552152. 

External links

See also


no:Namastept:Namastê ru:Намасте simple:Namaste sv:Namaste te:నమస్కారం

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