Be a Guest in India!


Written by London swaminathan
Post No.1182; Dated 19th July 2014.

If you are a guest in India you will receive special treatment. Hospitality is the hallmark of a good householder. It is one of the Panchayajnas. Of the Pancha/five Yajnas/Duties, Manushya Yanja is one. This means feeding the fellow humans. Whether they are poor or rich, if they knock at your door you must not turn them down. In the olden days people used to go out to the street and look for guests at the lunch time. Then they will go for the dinner or lunch.

Ilango, author of Tamil epic Silappadikaram, says that the heroine Kannagi worried that she was not able to welcome the guests. Sita in Kamba Ramayana, also echoed the same feelings.

Great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar says,

“The only purpose, of a family life of virtue and wealth,
Is to command the means of extending hospitality to the guests – (Kural 81)

“Even the nectar of immortality is not to be consumed
Without sharing with the guests waiting outside — (Kural 82)

“He who daily entertains the guests who go to him will never be ruined by poverty– (Kural 83)

Story from Mahabharata

A good story that illustrates the greatness of hospitality is in the Mahabharata. When Yudhistra performed the Rajasuya Yajna, thousands of people were fed. When everyone was satisfied there appeared a mongoose and challenged Yudhistra. Half of its body was in golden colour. It rolled on the leftovers of the guests. When Yudhistra asked the reason for it, the mongoose told him a story.

“A hungry man approached a poor man’s house for food. Though the poor man had prepared full meal after a very long time, he readily offered his food to the guest. When the guest was not satisfied, his wife and son offered their shares. When he left the hose I just rolled on the left over food and half of my body turned gold. From then onwards I had been visiting lot of places where food was donated. But my body never turned gold. I am greatly disappointed that even here my body did not turn into gold. This reduced the ego of Yudhistra.

Guests are welcome in any country. But in ancient India, they were considered Gods. This was true from the land’s southern most end Kanyakumari to northern most Kashmir. If anyone wants to be a guest one should be a guest in India — in ancient India! Tamil and Sanskrit literature have got a lot of proverbs or sayings about Atithih/Guest.

Following are the sayings in Sanskrit on the Guests from ‘’Suktisudha’’ (Chinmaya International Foundation Publication):

“A guest, though he be boorish, deserves to be welcomed by the discerning – Valmiki Ramayana 5-1-119

“Hail the guest as God (Atithi Devo Bhava, Taittiriya Upansishad 1-20)

“Even though it be a foe who has come home, appropriate hospitality to him is a must – Hitopadesha 1-50

“Hospitality bears no fruit in the hereafter, but verily in this life itself – Kathasaritsagara

“It is the duty of a householder to honour the guest according to his capacity — Kathasaritsagara

“It is befitting to receive the visitor with due honour — Pratinja Yaugandharayana of Bhasa

“For all, the guest is of paramount importance “– Canakyaniti 6- 45


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