The term ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ reminds us of the fundamental Hindu belief that God resides within all of us. It is believed that if we treat our guests well, it is like honouring God. What is the significance of the word Atithi Devo Bhava..? What are the rituals related to Atithi Devo Bhava..?
‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ is a Sanskrit word that means guests are equal to God. It comes from the Taittiriya Upanishad. This word refers to Indian culture and Hinduism. In fact, the Indian Tourism Department uses it as a slogan to show that India is a safe and welcoming place for people from all over the world. In ancient times, people had no way of communicating the news of their arrival to their friends or relatives. So a guest was an unexpected visitor to one’s home. The word ‘tithi’ means Panchang. So ‘Atithi’ means one without Panchang. ‘Devo Bhava’ means ‘like God’. Thus, this word is used to remind people that a guest should be treated as a god and not as an unwelcome visitor. This approach helped create a better relationship between the host and the guest. What is the significance of the word Atithi Dev Bhava..?
Let’s know about the rituals related to the Atithi Devo Bhava through this article.
This ritual is to give the guest a room with a pleasant aroma. It boosts their mood and sense of comfort. Apart from these, no one wants to stay in a room with a bad smell.
Deepa means oil lamp. Even now in India, a new bride is welcomed to her bride’s house by lighting a lamp. This is a Hindu tradition. In the context of a guest, Diya signifies a warm welcome to guests. Also, in the earlier days when there was no electricity, if the guests arrived at dusk or at night, the light of the lamp would help the host to identify the guest.
The offering consists of fruits and milk-based sweets. In earlier times people had to travel long distances on foot to reach their destinations as there were no buses and trains. So they were tired and hungry by the time they reached their host’s place. Giving them fruits and sweets helped to energize them.
In this ritual, the host applies tilak on the guest’s forehead and also applies some grains of rice or akshatas on it. This indicates that the host is welcoming them and inviting them to be a part of their home.
Flowers or ‘Pushpa’ are also offered to guests, especially female guests, to signify goodwill. The host gives flowers back to guests as they leave their home, symbolizing the fact that they are leaving with pleasant memories. Since ancient times, Hindus have observed all the above rituals as part of their culture and tradition while receiving guests in their homes. But in the modern world, very few people continue such practices.
It may come as a surprise that there are also some legends and myths that explain the concept of Atithi Devo Bhava. They can be found in the scriptures.
Meeting of Sudama and Lord Krishna
Sudama and Lord Krishna were childhood friends who studied together. But Sudama was not as rich as his friend. One day, Sudama’s wife asked him to visit Krishna and seek his help. So Sudama went to see his friend. Knowing that Krishna loves flowers, he took some flowers with him and came to Lord Krishna. It was a humble gift.
Krishna was overjoyed to see Sudama and greeted him with great love and support. He was treated like royalty. Sudama was so engrossed in Krishna’s cares that he forgot to ask for His help. But when he returned home, he was astonished to find a rich mansion in which his humble hut stood and his wife and children dressed in costly clothes and jewels. This was Krishna’s Leela because he knew about Sudama’s plight without Sudama saying a single word.
Shabari and Sri Rama
An old woman named Shabari was a great devotee of Rama. Once Rama visited her, she gave him some fruits to eat. Such is her love for Rama. Without looking down on it, Sri Rama eats those fruits. Because he knew she gave it out of devotion.