Namaskar & Namaste

Author - Anil Chawla

The traditional form of greeting in India is based on a profound philosophy of non-arrogance or negation of ego.

NAMASKAR is made of three words:


NAMAH literally translated means NOT ME. It is a negation of one's identity and hence of one's ego or arrogance.

OM is the sound of life. It is believed that to begin with there was only the sound of OM and the whole world evolved from it. OM is used often in meditation. The whole cosmos is summed up in word OM.

KAR means shape/form of or manifestation of. OMKAR hence means manifestation of OM. OMKAR means the whole of UNIVERSE / COSMOS. The totality of the Universe is like a System taken as a whole without dividing it into divisions and sub-divisions. OMKAR can be called by various names such as BRAHMA, SHIVA etc. In a way, OMKAR is similar but not identical to GOD. OMKAR is omnipresent and omnipotent. Though OMKAR may take a human form but OMKAR is not necessarily human.

The above interpretation of NAMASKAR as NAMAH + OMKAR has been questioned by some experts on the ground that the disappearance of the sound of O is inexplicable. Grammatically speaking, the objection seems tenable, even though the above interpretation is popularly accepted. In view of this objection, the following interpretation is proposed.

NAMASKAR is made of three words:


NAM is the root form of NAMAH and has the same meaning as NAMAH - NOT ME.

AS means "To Be" or "To Exist". Another word derived from the same root is Astitva which means existence.

KAR means doer or one who makes or creates. For example, KAR can be seen in the words Kalakar, Chitrakar, Karmkar, Charmkar. In the above words, the suffix kar leads to the meaning of one who creates art or painting or work or leather.

ASKAR would hence mean the the creator of all that exists or the one who causes the property of being or existence.

NAMASTE is also used as a greeting.

Namaste is made of two words: NAMAH + TE = NAMASTE

In Sanskrit, Te means they. The literal meaning of NAMASTE hence is "Not me, they". The word they refers to all the Gods. NAMASTE is hence a philosophical statement affirming that the doer of everything is not me but the Gods.

In Oriental culture a greeting is an affirmation of one's belief and is a recitation of the name of the Lord, as one sees Him. The utterance of the name of the Lord is said to be sufficient to make the day / morning / evening good for both the persons - the person conveying greetings and the person receiving greetings. Some examples are as follows:

RAM-RAM or JAI SHRI KRISHNA or HARE KRISHNA or JAI SHRI RAM or JAI SIYA RAM are some of the common greetings in Hindus. All of them have name of a deity and either proclaim the victory of the said deity or declare the said deity to be GOD.

Sikhs say SAT SHRI AKAL, which means that Truth is the God and is timeless. Sikhs also say WAHE GURUJI KA KHALSA, WAHE GURUJI KI FATEH. This is a declaration that the ultimate victory will be of the Guru and his followers.

Muslims say KHUDA HAFIZ, which means Khuda is the Protector.

In all the above Oriental Greetings, persons exchanging greetings, invoke a principle or thought or belief, which forms a bondage between the persons. In no case, does one make a direct wish to the other. Both persons start with a common premise which is generally a negation of their own egos and identities. Their individual egos and identities are submerged in the identity of Larger than Life Reality which both persons accept as sacred. Being a part of the same larger than Life Reality, gives a sense of oneness and is the beginning of a harmonious relationship.

While wishing you NAMASKAR, Samarth Bharat proclaims a complete absence of arrogance. We accept that we are virtually nobodies while the Cosmos is the Ultimate Being. We see ourself in mathematical terms as "Limit tending to Zero" while the Cosmos is all pervading and is infinite. We see ourself as a part of this Infinite. The reality is this infinity and role of each one of us is only a small beep on this time-space continuum.

Samarth Bharat would like to hear from you a Namaskar or Namaste or Khuda Hafiz or Sat Shri Akal or any other greeting (as you like).

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (B.Tech. (Mech. Engg.), IIT Bombay) and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and an advocate, insolvency professional and strategic consultant by profession.
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