The Past, Present and the Future

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Athithi Devo Bhava

"Suggi kunita" dancers followed by women holding "kalasas"

The Upanishads exhort,
Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava, Atithi Devo Bhava
Revere your mother, father, preceptor and guest as God.

Torch Bearers followed by women welcoming the guest with flowers

The warmth of Indian hospitality and the custom of welcoming guests is as old as time itself. In the past, when the victorious Maharajas returned from war, a stunning tableau of decorated elephants greeted them with raised trunks. The ladies performed the traditional garlanding, "aarati" and "tilaka" ceremonies that was accompanied with music.

Suggi Kunita dancers followed by the women holding the "Kalasas"


Tilaka is a ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing, greeting or auspiciousness. Usually made out of a red vermilion paste (kumkum) which is a mixture of turmeric, alum, iodine, camphor, etc. or of a sandalwood paste (chandan) blended with musk, it is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration, and is very important for worship. This is the spot on which yogis meditate to become one with Lord Brahma. It also indicates the point at which the spiritual eye opens. All thoughts and actions are said to be governed by this spot. Putting of the coloured mark symbolizes the quest for the 'opening' of the third eye. All rites and ceremonies of the Hindus begin with a tilaka topped with a few grains of rice placed on this spot with the index finger or the thumb. The same custom is followed while welcoming or bidding farewell to guests or relations.

Women strewing the path with flowers to welcome the guest


Is performed as an act of veneration and love. It is often performed as a mark of worship and to seek blessings from God, to welcome the guests, for children on their birthdays, family members on auspicious occasions or to welcome a newly wedded couple. For performing Arati, five small lamps called niranjanas are filled with ghee or oil and arranged in a small tray made of metal. A wick is made out of cotton wool and placed in the lamps. A conch- shell filled with water, auspicious leaves or flowers, incense or lighted camphor are also placed in the tray. The lamps are lit and the tray is rotated in a circular motion in front of the deity or the person to be welcomed. The purpose of performing arati is to ward off evil effects and the malefic influence of the 'evil eye'.

Equivalent of the red-carpet welcome


Flower garlands are generally offered as a mark of respect and honour. They are offered to welcome the visitors or in honour to the Gods and Goddesses. The garlands are generally made with white jasmine and orange marigold flowers. They are weaved in thread tied in the end with a help of a knot.

Umbrella is held as a mark of respect to the guest.

Mysore state (Prior to 1956 Karnataka was known as Mysore state) is also famous for the "Mysore peta". It is the invariable headgear that adorns achievers in the State, or for that matter any dignitary who comes visiting to Karnataka.

The people of Mysore and Kodagu wear turbans called Mysore peta. In Kodagu district people wear it with traditional dress on special occasions such as marriages. Worn by the courtiers in the Maharaja’s aasthan of yore and the elite of the society in the past, the ‘Mysore peta’ was made by artisans in the king’s durbar. But not anymore.

The manufacturing of the peta died with the sun setting on Wadiyars’ rule” says Arjun, a staff at Aishwarya Silks on Sayyaji Rao Road, the lone store where it is now available in different varieties.

This headgear is now made only in Mumbai.

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