I do not fear those Iron bars,
In which you want to cage me.
Instead I am proud of myself,
As you fear my courage to measure the world.
I am that bird,
If you will cage, will never get.
And if I be free,
To fly high with my wings,
Only then you will get me.
अतिथि देवो भव
“Atithi devo bhav (अतिथि देवो भव) is a common phrase used and believed in India. It is not just a statement but has its roots imbibed in the history. This hails from the Taittriya Upanishad where it is written “matrudevo bhav, pitrudevo bhav, acharyadevo bhav, atithi devo bhav.” The literal meaning of this is “be the one for whom Mother is God, be the one for whom Father is God, be the one for whom Teacher is God and be the one for whom Guest is God.”
Indian culture imbibes this great aspect of love and bondage amongst the citizens. We at India welcome our guests as the most revered people and extend our warm hospitality to them. This has always been practised.
Historically, India was visited by many foreign travellers and explorers such as Megasthanese, Ptolemy, Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang, Marco Polo, Nicoloi Conti, Ibn-e-batuta, Athnasius Niketin etc. They were welcomed and absorbed by the Indian fraternity. Cultural and literary exchanges took place among natives and travellers. Thus, the mix of cultures took place. It travelled great distances and knowledge got transferred, thus enhanced.
There are also few mythological beliefs behind this concept. The folk tales often describe a situation when a guest visits the host- “The host due to some reason, is rude and unwelcoming. Later, the hosts get to know that it was the Almighty or a deity who came at the doorstep of follower to test his dedication. So, the host repents for the behaviour shown.” The moral of the story is one must respect the visitor and pay due hospitality to the person.
India is a collection of different people belonging to different cultures, traditions and predecessors. Many have migrated from different places, just to live in this country. Yet all live in this beautiful country happily and in unity. They extend their customs and traditions.
The reason behind this peace and harmony is atithi devo bhav.
We, at India, welcome all with due respect. If a guest is coming at home, a whole lot of preparations are done to cater the needs of guests. There stay is made to be the most comfortable one. They are given a feeling of being at home.
This ancient tradition of welcoming the guests is in circulation since years and is passed on from one generation to another explicitly or implicitly. When one visit someone’s house, the person is greeted by all the members present in the house at that time. Even a 3-year-old kid greets enthusiastically as an 80-year-old person. There is no veil of plasticity or hypocrisy.
Everyone from a higher class to lower class are always equally excited to greet. Men make the arrangements for the guests to relax comfortably. Women make or get arranged delicious food for the guests. Children often run through the house helping the elders and thereafter greeting the guests, showing their toys, telling about their fun activities, also sometimes playing with the guests.
This whole concept of atithidevo bhav when viewed with sociological point of view, it was a great significance in binding the social circle together. A society is a collection of individuals, their behaviour, customs, traditions and the harmony between them. If in a society there is a thread of brotherhood and togetherness, the existence of the society is more certain and long in comparison to others. This type of society gets a firm base and solid foundation to stand upon. India, due to its old and rich heritage of unity and togetherness has been one of the most ancient living societies. Its social norms are tied in a way to strengthen its bearing capacity.
With the change from traditional societies to modern societies, much of the mannerisms are changing, yet the practice of atithi devo bhav is still living its life. One of the reasons is that it still passes the test of usage and is not rudimentary or orthodox in nature.
Another very important reason for its existence is imbibing it via governance. The government of India has a special focus and promotion on this concept. India is a country which attracts millions of tourists visiting her. It may be natural serene beauty or heritage or cultural or business or personal or relaxation or educational or clinical trips etc. Due to this huge number of visitors as well as the related economical increase, it’s a huge benefit for India to tap. Atithi devo bhav is linked to the tourism industry and is being extensively used. It is also done to pay and motivate the natural love and respect for those visitors who are hailing from unknown cultures. This also acts as a social security feature of the unknowns in the nation.
In this era of 21st century, this concept is no longer restricted to the boundaries of India. But atithi devo bhav has become a global term and culture. The foreign visitors who like this very concept are practicing it in their respective countries.
The Indians who are living in other nations have carried this culture there. They enjoy atithi devo bhav with their fellow mates and extend this unique culture across different nations. So, India being known for its peace, harmony and togetherness spreads its cultural wings to other nations, bringing in the feeling of togetherness and harmony among people.
We Indians welcome the anyone and everyone wholeheartedly with our love and warmth and saying “Atithi Devo Bhav!”