What Is Hinduism?


C H A P T E R  3 6§




Arriving guests are warmly greeted at the entryway by the entire family. In a well-adjusted, cohesive family, receiving visitors is a joyous event.§

How Guests Are Treated As God in the Hindu Home


imageE ONE TO WHOM THE mother is a God. Be one to whom the father is a God. Be one to whom the teacher is a God. Be one to whom the guest is a God.” So advises the Taittiriya Upanishad of the Yajur Veda, affirming the remarkable Hindu reverence for a guest. The Sanskrit word for guest is athithi, “without time,” i.e., “one who has no fixed day for coming.” It remains today the accepted custom of Hindus to visit friends, relatives and even strangers without notice. Hosting guests is one of the five central religious duties or “sacrifices” of the Hindu householder: paying homage to seers, to Gods and elementals, to ancestors, to living beings and, manushya yajna, “homage to men,” which includes gracious hosting of guests. The ancient Tamil scripture, Tirukural, says, “The whole purpose of earning wealth and maintaining a home is to provide hospitality to guests.” In this article we explore the many facets of Hindu hospitality, from how to receive a guest to how to behave in the home, to the impact of modernization, urbanization and the advent of the nuclear family upon this most ancient and revered obligation of our faith. §