Namaste or Namaskara is the traditional Indian form of salutation. It is used while greeting friends and acquaintances as also while paying obeisance to God. As a word it finds its place in the invocation to our different Gods, for instance we have Shri Ganeshaya Namaha Aum Namaha Shivaya, Krishnaya Tubhyam Namaha etc.
Namaste could be an amalgam of Namsya (or Namaha) meaning obeisance and 'Te' which means you or to you. Thus Namaste as an amalgam of Namasyate could be translated as obeisance to you.
Namaste involves the joining together of both palms at the level of the breast. If the person being greeted is a senior or if it is addressed to God, the Namaste is accompanied with a slight bow.
This bow can be termed a slight one for it is only a downward inclination of the head unlike the Japanese bow where the body is bent at right angles at the hip.
The origin of this graceful and modest form of greeting can only be guessed. Its literal meaning is an indication of it origin. Namaste could be an amalgam of Namsya (or Namaha) meaning obeisance and 'Te' which means you or to you. Thus Namaste as an amalgam of Namasyate could be translated as obeisance to you.
The meaning implies a submission of one person to another. Thus, Namaste as a salutation could have originated as an acknowledgement of submission or surrender of one person to another. Hence, it would not be erroneous to infer that Namaste was in fact a declaration of submission.
The fact that both hands have to be displayed to the person being greeted could have its origin in the practice that when a person submits to another or when two strangers hail each other they have to prove that they are unarmed and that their intentions are peaceful. This inference may sound incredible, but social anthropologists have established that different types of mutual greetings and salutations have originated in actions of two or more persons (facing each other) which aim at proving that all of them are unarmed and that they come in peace.
The origin of the handshake has also been found to be a similar one. More so, the human smile also is considered to have originated as a sign of submission.Incidentally, this form of greeting has been transmitted from ancient India to the countries of South-east Asia.
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