In India guests are treated as Gods. The Sanskrit verse “अतिथि देवो भवः” (Atithi Devo Bhava) which is the tagline of the Ministry of Tourism of India, is taken from the Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.20.
The verse in full reads as: “Matrudevo bhava; Pitrudevo bhava; Acharyadevo bhava; Atithidevo bhava”. The verse gives guidelines from the ancient “code of conduct” for a person to strive and become an ideal person who treats “Mother as God, Father as God, Teacher as God and the Guest as a God“.
For a country that attracts millions of visitors each year and believes the guests to be Gods, India still lacks in it’s hospitality towards the tourists.
Ironically India has always been a land of extremes. Where on one hand we have misbehaviour and unfriendly attitude towards foreign tourists and on the other we Indians are known for their warmth, affection, helping attitude and their Hospitality!
The practice of receiving the guests has still remained the same over the years and we welcome our guests to our home with Dhupa (Fragrance), Dipa (Lamp), Naivedya (Food), Akshata (Rice) and Pushpa (Flowers)! And this practice goes beyond these five steps (often called as “Panchoparchy Puja”: Five-steps of Worship), it is deeply imbibed in our ways of treating a guest with respect and care.
The essence of this world famous Indian Hospitality was never more prominently felt when back in 2001 a group of rescuers were offered tea and biscuits amidst the ruins of the “home” that was destroyed by the devastating earthquake in Bhuj, Gujarat!
The incident was narrated to me by my uncle who had gone to Gujarat after the quake to help with the rescue operations. After a long day of search they had finally reached a remote village affected by the earthquake. Sitting on a few rumbles that were once their home, an elderly couple welcomed them and offered them a little of what they had managed to save.
Now this may not have made it to the headlines, but this incident shows the deeply imbibed sense of Hospitality in India! Amidst all the adversities, the couple had the heart to offer a few scraps of food to the tired rescuers.
Maybe this caring and respectful attitude is the reason why tourists keep returning of our country year after year! True there are a few areas in our Tourism Industry where we can improve. But till then this land of mysteries and spiritualism will always welcome it’s guests with arms wide open!
“अतिथि देवो भवः”