For hundreds of years the greeting among the polite in Hindu society has been “Namaste,” (Pronounced namástay)
Always with the gesture: hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head bowed the greeter says, “Namaste.” And the greeting is returned in kind.
This graceful gesture has become part of many cultures and is now common among practicing Buddhists and Hindus worldwide in three different forms.
When used to greet one who is held in religious esteem it is sometimes used with the clasped hands together touching the brow between the eyes (The third eye region) to mean, “I see that you are a holy person.”
When addressing someone of great power or holiness or when honoring a symbol of holiness the thumbs touch the hair above the forehead (The crown chakra) to mean, “I honor your greatness with my very spirit.”
The prayerful hand position is called Anjali, “to honor and celebrate” The hands held together signify the bringing together of spirit and body. It has been said that the right hand represents the spirit, which is divine in us, while the left hand represents the worldly nature of our thoughts and actions.
The word “Namaste” means “I bow to you.” And together the with the Anjali gesture the Namaste literally means, “I honor that which is holy in you”.
Namaste can be used to greet a single person, a couple, or a large group with the same relevance. It is a gesture used by the very wealthy as well as the very poor. It is a sanitary and revered form of greeting that is appropriate for all social situations.
A wave can be thought too casual and can therefore alienate the receiver.
A handshake can spread disease and must be practiced for form and used in the proper order when greeting more than one person.
The double kiss used by Europeans and celebrities must also be practiced for fluidity and propriety and is also an easy way to catch a cold or flu and spread lipstick and mucus to faces, hair and fabric.
The Namaste is a gracious greeting to use without offense, mess or contagion. Its protocol is recognized by many societies and has been witnessed in use by musicians honoring an audience of thousands, strangers of different nationalities meeting for the first time, and by world leaders exiting a plane in a foreign country.
This traditional greeting seems to be taking hold with western youth and has become a common greeting, sometimes used without gesture as a substitute for “Hello.” (Namaste my friend!)
It is used as a salute (such as “cheers” or “to your health”) in clubs and restaurants.
It is sometimes used without the word as a substitute for thank you or good-bye or as a quick bow or exit across a busy room.
As casual or as formal as it can be, Namaste seems to be evolving into an appropriate and elegant greeting for all people in all situations all over the world.