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Namaskaram- The Most Beautiful South Indian Tradition

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by twinsmom, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    On Aavaniavittam day, after changing the sacred thread, ‘Poonal’, my son was expected to recite his Pravara and touch the Vadhyar’s feet. For a minute he looked blank and the priest gently prodded his memory with “ Shandilya Gothra…Aapasthamba Suthra… “… and my son immediately recalled what he had learnt on his Brahmopadesa Day. … and recited till Kaushika Sharmanaha aham asmi bho… abhivaadaye!” and prostrated at the feet of the priest in a Saashtang Namaskar and received his blessings. On getting up he looked guiltily at me and grinned sheepishly when I shook my head in resignation… ‘Lack of practice mummy,’ he later said apologetically.

    Though I could understand his excuse, I felt a trifle upset. I place a lot of stress on these traditional gestures. And ‘Abhivadaye’ is a very meaningful one. Anyone who does this actually is referring to his Gothra, Suthra and the Veda Shakha before performing the most humble act of paying respects to an elder. It is expected that every Tam Brahm young man who wears the ‘yagnopaveedam’ or the sacred thread recite this while paying respect to his elders.

    Prostrating at the feet of elders itself is becoming passé. When I was young, we used to ‘do namaskaram’ or prostrate at the feet of our grandparents and parents before going for exams, on special festival days and of course on birthdays and marriage days… In fact, before going for exams, we’d give our writing pads and pencil box to the elders and take it only after the namaskaram. They would, in their turn, bless us with success ( in case of exams). We used to do namaskarams before leaving on a long journey and after returning from a long journey. It was taboo to do namaskarams when the elders embarked on a journey or when elders who visited you got up to leave. That was considered inauspicious.

    There are differences in the way namaskarams are done by Iyers and Iyenagrs. Iyers do it once, Iyengars do it twice or four times… never in odd numbers, it seems. I really don’t know why. Also Iyers say ‘namaskaram pannaren’ whereas, Iyengars say ‘Sevikkaren’. There is a slight gender based difference in the actual process of doing ‘namaskaram’. Males do a sashtang namaskaram, their stomach flat on the floor with eight parts of the body touching the floor, while women perform what is called the ‘Panchaanga Namaskara’, kneeling down with their toes, knees, forehead and hands touching the floor.

    Touching the feet of elders is a common tradition throughout <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>. By doing this, the person who does it shows his respect for the person to whom it is done. The recipient of such a greeting, obviously, is superior in age and position.

    Literally touching the feet of the elders is practised by the North Indians and even the Malayalees Hindus. In fact, I have heard somewhere that according to Malayalee tradition, girls should not fall at the feet of people till at the time of their marriage… Is it true? I don’t know.

    The North Indian custom is to bend forward as though you are touching the elder’s feet. By then the concerned elder lifts you up. The recipient of the blessings then gets touched on his/ her head or enveloped in a hug. Down south, this hugging business is taboo especially for Tam Brahms….though times are changing… When any one does a namaskaram, the older person, keeps his hands, palm down on the younger one’s head and blesses him. Any other body contact is no-no.

    I also feel that the traditional Indian mudra called ‘namasthe’ is a very dignified and meaningful one. The word ‘namaste’ that is uttered with respect depicts the humility of the person… it is said to mean, I bow to the God in you.

    Saying ‘Namaste’ or doing a ‘Namaskaram’ or even bending down to touch the feet of the elders is a beautiful Indian tradition. Kids are usually guided by their parents to do it. This is the most important lesson in etiquette imparted by Indian parents. With time, the kid remembers to do it voluntarily and spontaneously as he/she grows up… provided such traditions are observed in a family.

    Thankfully, we still have this lovely tradition in our family… though the guys rarely enunciate or even mumble Pravara… I, for one, love receiving blessings from elders… How about you?
     
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  2. Bhooma

    Bhooma Bronze IL'ite

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    Yes dear .. I totally agree with you . what is more nicer than receiving blessings from elders ? I am sure no one is going to wish you ill.. everybody wishes you well ... prostrating at an elders' feet should be inculcated in the children and I am glad that your son follows that . :thumbsup to you .

    cheers

    Bhooma

    I shall come back to you on why Iyengars "sevichufy" four times ... a little later .. after I get my facts totally right ... :)
     
  3. iyerviji

    iyerviji IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Twinsmom

    I totally agree with what u have written and its a wonderful write up.
    Good to know that your son says abhivadaye anddoes namaskaran.
    Being in foreign country and still following our tradition is really great
    That shows how your parents have taught u the value of indian culture.
    Hats off to them. Now a days rarely people follow our customs. I also
    like to take the blessings of elders and tell my children also.

    with love and blessings

    viji
     
  4. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Bhooma,
    What a lovely name! Is it your real name or your handle? Does it mean mother Earth? Do get back to me about 'Sevikkafy'ing! :)
     
  5. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Hi Iyerviji,

    My sons ( twins) are in India. One works in Bangalore and the other in Pune! I miss them a lot... I love my customs and traditions... but I am not a fanatic. I see goodness in every religion... It is some interpreters who create mischief...! ( At least in my opinion...)

    Thanks to God my kids also follow some of the traditions... the rest will follow... I am sure!
    Regards.
     
  6. Gowri66

    Gowri66 Gold IL'ite

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    Good one, dear ! Beautifully written ..... Hats off !!

    I liked that tradition and loved to do to the elderly/deserving people (Whether they are young or old).

    Liked the feedbacks of Viji and Bhooma.

    Recently read the Book on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Remembered when I was reading your words : Would like to quote a paragraph here :
    Impressed by her great religious potential, he began to treat her as the Universal Mother Herself and performed a Puja considering Sarada as veritable Tripura Sundari Devi. He said, 'I look upon you as my own mother and the Mother who is in the temple'.

    Best wishes...
     
  7. Lalitha Shivaguru

    Lalitha Shivaguru Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,

    You have come back with a bang!

    I can understand the research behind this post dear.

    In karnataka, a pregnant lady is not allowed to do namaskaram as she is carrying the God within her.

    Another version I read is a lady doing namaskaram like that is because her reproductive organ should not come in contact with Mother earth so is her breast. Hence this way of namskaram for her.
     
  8. gsaikripa

    gsaikripa Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom
    wonderful write up.
    Good to know that your son says abhivadaye and does namaskaran.
    u still following our tradition is really great...Hats off to them.
    I also like to take the blessings of elders ......
     
  9. geetabhaskar

    geetabhaskar Senior IL'ite

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    could you please give the words of Abhivadaye Namaskaram. Thank you. geeta bhaskar
     
  10. Oviya

    Oviya Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,

    We do have that practice in our family. We do namaskarams to elders on the auspicious days like festivals & pooja days and special days like birthdays, anniversary etc. My parents used to remind me on the exam days and the day when we leave for trips etc.
     

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