Namaste! How else should I begin this post!
The greeting is the first thing that you learn about a place. It is the first thing that you get to hear in your flight, at the airport, in the taxi and of course at the travel destinations. Greeting from your homeland is also something you carry with you.
Namaste is the most commonly used greeting in India. Very often, when people realize you are an Indian, they fold hands and greet you with a Namaste.
However, when nothing in India is universal, how can our greetings be. Here is a list of some of the commonly used greetings across India.
Researching for this post was absolute fun.
1. Namaste & its Variants
Namaste means ‘I bow to the divine in you’. Ask any Hippie and they would even say ‘The divine in me bows to the divine in you’.
The term has many variants – Namaskar, which is ideally used when you address more than one person.
In Kerala it becomes Namaskaram, in Karnataka it goes as Namaskara and in Andhra states Namaskaramu.
Nepal also uses the same term or Namaskar to greet.
They all mean the same – acknowledging the divine or good in you before any conversation or transaction begins.
2. Ram Ram & its variants
After the more popular Namaste greeting, Ram Ram and its various variants are used in most of the Hindi speaking belt to greet each other. In Awadh and Mithila you hear Sita Ram, Sita Ram. At areas of Bihar and Jharkhand, it becomes Jai Siya Ram. In Haryana, it is usually Ram Ram.
The idea behind this greeting to remember Sri Ram who is the 7th Avatar of Vishnu. Considered Maryada Purushottam, it is probably a way to remind each other and oneself to follow his conduct.
3. Jai Sri Krishna in Gujarat
If you have traveled in Gujarat, interacted with Gujarati families or even watched Gujarati content on TV, you know they all greet each other with ‘Jai Sri Krishna‘.
Krishna chose to make Dwarka his golden city, he ruled the world from here and continues to rule the hearts of the people of Gujarat.
In Dwarka, the greeting becomes more specific to – Jai Dwarkadhish.
4. Radhe Radhe in Braj Bhumi
In Braj, Radha rules. She is the queen and she is the Gopika. To reach Krishna too, you have to go through her. You don’t need to read or know anything about her. Just land anywhere in Braj and ‘Radhe Radhe‘ is not just a greeting but it means excuse me, leave my way, an exclamation and anything that does not need other words.
Jai Sri Radhe is a variant that you hear in temples of Braj sometimes.
5. Sat Sri Akaal in Punjab
A common greeting among Sikhs and Punjabis is Sat Sri Akaal. Sat means Truth, Sri is a respectful honorific and Akaal means timeless. So, you are essentially remembering the Timeless Truth or that Truth is Timeless and resides within all of us.
Sat Sri Akaal is a part of the clarion call given by Guru Gobind Singh – Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akaal.
Another longer greeting is ‘Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki Fateh‘ – it is a reminder that all of us come from that one supreme being which is pure and at the end that is what remains.
6. Vanakkam – Tamil Nadu
Vanakkam is used by Tamil people living anywhere in the world. Essentially it means the same as Namaste. It is bowing down to or respecting the divine inside you. It comes from the root word – Vanagu meaning to bow down. Some literature mentions that Vanakkam specifically refers to the divine at the third eye located between your brows.
7. Khamma Ghani – Rajasthan
I first heard Khamma Ghani in some Hindi films based in Rajasthan. Next, I heard it during my visit to Udaipur. In my mind, it got associated with Rajasthan, but no one could explain what it meant. Now, I have two theories for this:
First is simple – Khamma comes from Sanskrit Kshama meaning forgiveness. Ghani means ‘a lot’. So, the greeting Khamma Ghani simply means – seeking forgiveness for any inadvertent hurt that may have been done or any lapses in hospitality.
The second source one is more historical – in 8th CE AD, 3 successive Mewari Kings, sharing the common name Khumaan, averted many attacks by Arabs. Due to this, the people in their kingdom lived happily for the next 1000 years or so. So, people started greeting each other ‘Khamma Ghani’ meaning ‘May we be blessed with many Khumaans’.
Take your pick for the meaning but when people say it with folded hands – it is a sweet greeting to exchange.
When used with elders Sa is added at the end – Khamma Ghani Sa.
8. Jule – Ladakh
When you travel through the Lahaul Spiti Valley in Himachal or do road trips in Ladakh, you are bound to be greeted with ‘Jule’, pronounced as Joo-Lay. It is a greeting mostly used by Buddhist dominated areas of the Himalayan valleys. It probably means ‘Respect’. I am not sure what it means and what is the root word. If you know, please share.
Just like Radhe Radhe, Jule too can mean thank you, please, excuse me or just Hello.
Tashi Delek is also used in some places.
9. Jai Jinendra – Jains across India
Jai Jinendra is used by all Jains to greet each other. We do not hear it very much as the Jains are a very small minority even within India and they usually use it among themselves only.
Jai Jinendra means victory to Jinendra or the Tirthankar, the souls who have won over their all their senses and have realized the ultimate knowledge.
This greeting directly bows downs to those who have real knowledge.
10. Swami Sharanam by followers of Ayyappa
Swami Sharanam or Swami Sharnam Ayyappa is actually a chant that is also used as a greeting by followers of Ayyappa when they meet each other. They start and end the conversation with this chant. Ayyappa followers are found in Kerala and all other south Indian states.
11. Aadab – Muslims primarily
Aadab is used to greet by followers of Islam and in places where Urdu is spoken. Could not find the meaning or intent of the word. If you know, please share.
12. Dhaal Karu in Himachal
This is another greeting from Himachal, though I will be honest, I am yet to hear it. However, my Himachali friends confirm this is used in Kullu Manali region of the state. The meaning is most probably similar to Namaste.
13. Narmade Har – On banks of Narmada
When you walk with the Narmada, the most common greeting you would hear is ‘Narmade Har’ – may the Narmada take away all your sorrows and sufferings.
14. Jai Jai – Bikaner
During a trip to Bikaner, I heard the hotel greet us with ‘Jai Jai’. When I inquired, they said, this is how Bikaner greets people. I have not heard it outside the hotel, but it sounds very sweet, royal and full of Veer Rasa or emotion of bravery.
15. Pranam – for the elders
This is an India wide greeting used by the younger people to greet the elders. More often than not, it is complemented by touching the feet.
It takes regional avatars like in Punjab it becomes – Pairi Paina or Matha Tekda, in Hindi belt it becomes – Pai Lagun. All of these mean – I touch your feet, bless me.
16. Region or Community-based Greetings
- Jai Bhole Nath – Varanasi. The city of Shiva has to have a greeting with his name
- Jai Jagannath in Puri and around Odisha
- Chinmaya Mission followers use – Hari Om
- Jai Shri Mahakal in Ujjain
- Jai Sri Radhe Govind in Jaipur
- Art of Living Followers use – Jai Gurudev
- Swaminarayan Followers use – Jai Swaminarayan
Hello is not really an Indian greeting but probably the most used, especially on phone and in urban areas. Before writing this post I had no idea about the origins of the word ‘Hello’, although we used it so many times every day. Apparently, it is not a greeting per se but a way of drawing attention. Another contender for this is Ahoy.
Read this shockingly Short History of Hello.
Hi, it seems is the shortened version of Hello.
18. Good Morning
Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening or Good Night is the neutral or should I say secular ways to greet anyone. I think I picked it up in school and continued using it till my corporate life. The Good Morning though got reduced to just Morning 🙂
19. Jai Jhulelal
Jai Jhulelal is used by the Sindhi community. Jhulelal is supposed to be the incarnation of Varun, the lord of the seas.
20. Jai Mata Di
It is used by the followers of the Devi or the divine feminine. Mata here refers to Jagadamba or the mother who is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of everything that exists in this universe.
21. Ayubowan in Sri Lanka
Ayubowan in Sri Lanka comes from Sanskrit – Ayushman Bhava which means ‘May you have a long life’.
22. Sawasdee in Thailand
Sawasdee, the ubiquitous greeting of Thailand, also said with folded hands from Swasti which means wishing well.
All the greetings that have an origin in India or Sanskrit are said with folded hands formally, although informally sometimes you just say them.
Have I missed any Indian greeting? Tell us in the comments below.