Sacred Symbols – Namaskar or Pranam The Sacred Posture of Hindu Salutation

The symbolic obeisance in Hindu way of life is Pranam or Namaskar. In fact, these are spiritual mudras (postures) meant to salute mainly the God and spiritual men. Generally, there are six kinds of Pranams according to hearsay and practice.

The first kind of pranam is called Ashtangana, in which a devout prostrates himself and his eight parts of the body touch the ground. Those parts are: knees, belly, chest, chin, nose, temple, hands and elbows.

However the most common type of Pranam is Shastanga in which posture six parts of the body touch the ground and those are knees, toes, hands, temple, nose and chin. This is the pranam which is generally offered to the divine power. According to William Westall, there is another salutation called Panchanga in which posture five upper portions of the body are lowered; those parts are forehead, temple, chest, chin and knees. The fourth mudra is known as Dandavata in which a devout merely bows his forehead to the ground with the hands touching the ground.

The fifth is Namaskar or touching of the forehead with folded hands as the thumbs touch the forehead several times as if one is respecting the other by touching the point of third eye or between the eyebrows. The sixth kind of salutation is known as Abhinandan in which the person gently bends forward with folded-hand gesture touching the chest. According to a nineteenth century Indologist.

When women of equal rank or caste meet in Bengal, they salute each other by raising their enjoined hands to the head; if they are of different class the inferior bows and rubs the dust of her feet upon the forehead. Symbolically signifying that by rubbing dust they could follow the footsteps of the higher classes whose loves are adorned by all subordinate classes.

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