Fish and Guests smell in Three Days!(Post No.2608)

nam sappadu

Research article written by london swaminathan

Date: 7 March, 2016


Post No. 2608


Time uploaded in London :–  16-16


( Thanks for the Pictures  ) 




(for old articles go to OR; 


Hindus consider guests as Gods. ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (Treat guest as god)  – is a Vedic dictum. It is in Taittirio Upanishad. Hospitality is a great virtue and Sanskrit and Tamil ethical literature have got lot of couplets and proverbs praising Hospitality. To illustrate their points they have lots of stories as well. But at the same no one is encouraged to abuse it. There are interesting proverbs in Tamil:

1.First day food is served in a big banana leaf (Talai Vaazai Ila)

Second day food is served in your hand (Kaiyila)

Third day food is served on the floor (Taraiyila)

You can note the Tamil rhyme ila, ila, ila at the end of each sentence.

banana leaf big

Long banana leaf called Talai Vaazai Ilai (in laws are given a feast on such leaves)

I am not surprised to see the same thought in an English proverb: Fish and guests smell in three days.

There are more proverbs to emphasize this point:

2.The first day a guest

The second day a guest

The third day a calamity (Indian Proverb)


3.Do not wear out your welcome

4.A constant guest is never welcome


5.Long visits bring short compliments (Chinese proverb)

6.The guest who outstays his fellow guests loses his overcoat (Chinese proverb)

There are some sayings on uninvited guests:-

7.An unbidden guest knows not where to sit.

8.An unbidden guest must bring his stool with him

9.Who comes uncalled, sits unserved.


Indian weddings are held in big halls (Kalyana Manadaps). I myself have seen some people pretend to be from the bride’s side or bridegroom’s side. But when the time for group photos come they simply slip out!

2 thinnai veedu

But in general, guests are most welcome in Hindu culture. In the olden days all the houses in Tamil Nadu, had sitting space (pial) in the front part of the house. The land lord will come out and call for the guests before he sits for dinner. But later it became a fake ritual. There are lot of humorous stories about the pretending land lords/house holders.

Following are the sayings in support of hospitality:

10.If a man receives no guests at home, when abroad he will have no hosts (Chinese proverb).

(This is based on Karma theory. If you do good someone will do you good).

11.Good will and welcome are your best cheer.

12.He that is welcome fares well.

13.Welcome is the best dish.

(It is very true. After cooking the best dishes, if you don’t show respect to the guests, all your work is a waste of time).

14.Such welcome, such fare well

15.It is a sin against hospitality, to open your doors and shut up your countenance.

bananaa leaf meals

Following article was posted in 2014.

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