No particular thing or way can be accepted as universally applicable when we are talking about India. Be it food, outfits, traditions, language, the diversity of India is evident everywhere. When it comes to ways to greet in India, Namaste is easily understood by most of the people in the country.
Are you aware that besides this most popular one there are many other ways that are used to greet in India?
Namaste and its variants
Many Indian people and the foreigners who visit India use Namaste and its variants while greeting others.
Namaste (pronunciation Num-Us-Tay) basically means – ‘I honour the divine in you’ or ‘I bow to the divine in you.’
When someone greets you with Namaste, you respond in the similar manner saying Namaste.
The right way to say Namaste would be to stand up, join the palms of your hands with fingers pointing upwards, bow a little and gently smile while saying Namaste. However, it is common these days greeting others by saying Namaste only. The younger ones are supposed to greet the elders first and then the elder ones respond with a Namaste or a gesture like bowing their head a little or a smile.
Namaste has gained wide popularity since Covid-19 as this way of greeting does not involve any kind of touching. So, you can greet someone while practising the social distancing norms.
Namaskar, Namaskaram and Nomoskar are some of the variants of Namaste. Usage of these variants depends upon region and community. Namaskaram is more common in the southern parts of India and Nomoshte is mainly used in West Bengal and its neighbouring regions.
Another common way of respectful salutation used by Indians in Pranam, meaning ‘bowing forward’. It is widely used in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Sat Sri Akaal
Sat Sri Akaal is used by the Sikh community and mostly by the people living in Punjab. In this greeting, Sat means ‘truth’, Sri is an honorific implying respect, ‘Akaal’ means timeless or eternal= God. Hence, Sat Sri Akal may be translated as ‘God is the Truth’. The complete phrase is ‘Jo bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal’, which can be roughly translated to ‘Blessed is the one who says God is Truth.’ This complete phrase is mainly used in sikh temples (Gurudwaras) and sikh religious processions.
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If you are in Rajasthan, it would be great if you can learn the traditional way to greet people here. ‘Khamma Ghani’ is all you need to say to start a conversation. ‘Khamma’ word is the colloquial version of the word ‘Kshma’ which means forgiveness. ‘Ghani’ means ‘a lot’. So when people meet each other, they begin by seeking forgiveness.
I personally feel that there is a deep meaning in this. Seeking and giving forgiveness for the past and starting afresh every time you meet- How beautiful is this!
Julley (Ju-Lay) is a commonly used greeting in the area of Ladakh and some parts of Himachal Pradesh. It is equivalent to Namaste or Hello.
Vanakkam is used in Tamilnadu or by the Tamil people to offer greetings. In order to respond to Vanakkam, you repeat the word to the person who greeted you.
These are the common forms of greetings used by member of the Muslim community. ‘Assalam Alaikum’ means ‘Peace be upon you’. In response to this greeting, the other person says ‘Wa- Alaikum Salaam’ translation nearly to ‘And upon you peace’.
Suprabhat/ Shubh Sandhya/ Shubh Ratri
Though these have been almost replaced by their English versions now, these can be used to greet in India. Suprabhat means ‘Good Morning’, Shubh Sandhya means ‘Good Evening’ and Shubh Ratri means ‘Good Night’.
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Adaab is another word that is used mostly by the Urdu speaking Muslim community in order to greet someone. It involves a gesture of raising your right hand, with the palm upward and bringing the tips of the fingers close to the forehead, almost touching it. It is usually responded with the same word.
Greetings based on religion/faith
In the northern and central parts of India, there are many forms of greetings which are based upon the religion or faith of the local people. Names of the various gods and deities are used to greet each other. It is probably another way to keep themselves connected with the almighty.
Ram Ram or Jai Ram ji ki
Ram Ram or Jai Ram ji ki is a very commonly used greeting in the northern states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar.
Radhe Radhe is more popular in Mathura, Vrindavan and their surrounding regions.
Jai Sri Krishna
Many people in Gujrat and devotees of Lord Krishna use Jai Sri Krishna to greet each other. It is a way to remember and honor Lord Krishna.
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Jhulelal is a deity worshipped among the Sindhi community. People of this community greet each other with ‘Jai Jhulelal’.
Jai Jindendra means ‘honour to the supreme Jinas (Tirthankars). Jain community use this greeting commonly.
Jai Sai Ram
Devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba often greet each other with Jai Sai Ram. It is a common greeting in Shirdi and nearby areas.
Jai Bhole / Har- har Mahadev
Believers of Lord Mahadev or Shiva can be heard chanting ‘Har-har Mahadev’ or ‘Jai Bhole.’ This is how they greet fellow people and it can be heard commonly in the areas like Varanasi, and Haridwar.
It is often said that if one dies in Varanasi (Kashi) one will not be reborn and will thus be liberated from the cycle of life and death. This is the reason why thousands go to die in Varanasi, or demand that their last rites be performed there.
Read more about this spiritual destination and 11 Awesome things you should not miss to Experience in Varanasi, India
Greeting with touching elders’ feet
Many Indians touch the feet of their elders while greeting them. This is an age-old traditional way of seeking blessings and paying respect to the elders in the family and to those people who are in some honorable position like that of a Guru or a teacher. In response, the elder person blesses the younger ones and/or places a hand on their head.
Charan Sparsh/Dhok Deun/ Page Lagun/ Charan Sparsh/ Pairin pona
These are some phrases which are spoken while touching the feet of elders. Charan Sparsh means ‘to touch someone’s feet’, Dhok deun means ‘bowing down’, Page lagun and Pairin pona means ‘touching your feet’.
Dhok Deun and Page lagun is something that I learnt after getting married into a Hindu family of Rajasthan. It is a common way to greet the elders in the areas of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Pairin Pona is widely used in Punjab and in the Punjabi community.
This phrase is commonly used in the state of Himachal Pradesh to greet elders and show them respect. Charan means ‘feet’ and vandana means ‘prayer’.
Greetings in Spiritual groups or Organisations
People having faith in various religious/spiritual gurus or connected with various organisations use different ways to greet each other in their respective communities.
This form of greeting is used by the followers of Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of the Art of Living.
Om Shanti is the phrase used in the Brahma Kumaris organisation to greet each other. It is an invocation of peace.
People connected with Radha Soami Satsang Beas(Punjab) use Radha Soami when they greet fellow believers.
Saying Goodbye in India
Just like there are a lot of ways to greet people when you meet them in India, there are many ways to say goodbye. Most of the words and phrases that are used to greet someone when you meet, can also be used when saying goodbye like Namaste and its variants.
Alvida, Allah hafiz or Khuda hafiz are commonly used among Muslims and Urdu speaking people. Alvida means Goodbye. Allah hafiz or Khuda hafiz means ‘God protects you’ or ‘God be with you’.
Fir milenge is a hindi phrase that is often used while parting ways. It translates to ‘see you again’.
One thing that you should learn while visiting a foreign place is the way to greet local people. So, here is all you need to know about how to greet in India. And if it seems like a lot, don’t worry about learning all of them. You can always start with Namaste!