Pushkar Fair 2015

Spectrum of Faith and Culture

Smt. Vasundhara Raje
Hon'ble Chief Minister Rajasthan

Cues & Clues

Knowing Indian culture better

Cues & Clues

There are countless ways the Hindu attitudes of compassion, respect and self-effacement are expressed. Below are briefly describe some of the most important for foreign tourists to better understand indigenous culture of Pushkar and then act accordingly, to avoid embarrassment.

A. Respect and Reverences

Respect for elders is a keystone of Hindu culture. This genuine acknowledgment of seniority is demonstrated through endearing customs, such as sitting to the left of elders, not sitting while they are standing, , not contradicting or arguing, seeking their advice and blessings, giving them first choice in all matters, even serving their food first.

Youngers never use the proper name of their elders The elder, however, may use the name of the younger. A Hindu wife never speaks the name of her husband. When referring to him she uses terms such as "my husband," "him" or, for example, "Jothi's father."

One touches the feet of holy men and women in recognition of their great humility and inner attainment. A dancer or a musician touches the feet of his or her teacher before and after each lesson. Children prostrate and touch the feet of their mother and father at special times, such as New Year's day, birthdays and before departing on a journey.

The concept of darshana, meaning, "seeing," and referring to beholding with inner or outer vision, a temple image, Deity, holy person or place, with the desire to inwardly contact and receive the grace and blessings of the venerated being or beings. Gods and gurus are thus said to "give" darshana, and devotees "take" darshana, with the eyes being the mystic locus through which energy is exchanged. It is a direct and personal two-sided apprehension -- highly sought-after experience of Hindu faith.

It is tradition to provide dakshina, a monetary fee or gift to a priest given at the completion of any rite. Dakshina is also given to gurus as a token of appreciation for their spiritual blessings.

B. Modesty :

Interaction in public between men and women is much more restrained in Indian culture than in Western culture. In Indian culture, for the most part, men socialize with men, and women with women. Men never touch women in public, such as helping a woman out of a car, unless the lady is very elderly or infirm.

Married couples in Asia do not hug, hold hands or kiss in public. Even embracing at airports and train stations is considered out of the question.

Generally it is improper for women to speak with strangers on the street and especially to strike up a casual conversation. Similarly, drinking alcohol or smoking in public, no matter how innocent, are interpreted as a sign of moral laxity and are not acceptable.

However, Hindu men never shake hands with women in the above manner or in any other way. Women are greeted by placing hands in anjali mudra, the prayerful gesture.

C. Purity

Purity and its opposite, pollution, are vitally important in Hindu culture. While they imply a strong sense of physical cleanliness, their significance extends to social, ceremonial, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual contamination. Freedom from all forms of contamination is a key to Hindu spirituality. Purity is of three forms -- purity in mind, speech and body, or thought, word and deed. Purity is the pristine and natural state of the soul. Impurity, or pollution, is the obscuring of this state by adulterating experience and beclouding conceptions. Here are several ways purity is preserved in Hindu culture.

Purity is central to food and nutrition, as the nature of one's nourishment deeply affects the entire physical, mental and emotional nature. One cooking food for others would never taste of the dish from a spoon and then put the spoon back in the pot. If food is to be tasted while cooking, a small portion is placed in the right hand. Similarly, one would not touch the lips to a water vessel that is also used by others. Nor would one offer something to another from which one has taken a bite or a sip.

Food that tasted by Holy man (Sadhus) is revered as sacred prasada or ucchhishta. This and the water from the washing of his feet are sought after and imbibed by devotees for the great spiritual blessings that they contain toward moksha.

Offerings, such as an archana basket, flowers or garlands, are carried with both hands on the right side of the body, so as to not be breathed on. All items are washed in preparation and, if carried more than a short distance, wrapped or covered. One does not sniff flowers picked for offering to the Deities; even the smell is for the Gods, not for us. Flowers that fall to the ground should not be offered.

In Asian culture the left hand is considered impure because it is used (with water) in the place of toilet paper for personal hygiene after answering the call of nature. Handing another person anything with the left hand may be considered a subtle insult.

5. SHOES :
Shoes are considered impure. The cultured Hindu never wears shoes or sandals inside a temple, holy pond or shrine, nor in his home or the homes of other Hindus.

It is improper to sit with one's legs outstretched toward a temple, shrine or altar, or even toward another person. Worshiping, meditating or sitting in the kneeling pose is not acceptable among Hindus.