Get Latest Daily Updates in Email, Signup now!
Atithi Devo Bhava, an ancient line taken from the Hindu scriptures and was originally coined to depict a visiting person whose date of arrival and departure is not fixed.
‘Atithi’ originally meaning “without a fixed calendrical time”,’Devo’ meaning “God” and “Bhav” meaning Be or Is, hence signifies The Guest Is God.
Atithi Devo Bhava, it is not just a catchy line to promote tourism but is a beautiful example of a text asking us to respect our guests as God.The host-guest relationship in India is truly one of the most revered relationships. The unique practice of giving utmost importance and preferential treatment to the guests clearly explains the fact that why our country’s history has several notable examples of ‘Atithi Satkar’ meaning to welcome the guest with warmth and respect.
An integral part of the Indian culture, it says that every guest should be treated like God. No distinction should be made based on the guests’s caste, colour or creed and he/she should be showered with all love, care and affection. This unique ‘code of conduct’ laid down in the ancient Hindi scriptures named ‘Taittiriya Upanishad’ upholds our culture’s values and heritage, and ensures no guest of ours feels shortchanged. Despite high degree of cultural and geographical diversity in the country, the sentiments towards the guests stays the same throughout.
Atithi Devo Bhava, has lost its true essence and spirit over the sands of time. Today trade globalization that has helped modernize India, but in the process has also begun to erode its culture. Today where everything travels the fast lane, how much time do we devote towards our rich, age old culture? Today the simplest question that arises is, how many of us are truly aware of the term’Atithi Devo Bhava’ and its origin ? Do we truly lead our lives in this spirit? Atithi Devo Bhava, is an important part of the Indian culture which may soon be lost with time and a country with a lost culture is simply without an identity.
Are we really prepared to leave our successors with a destroyed culture, even after knowing it could be preserved.
~ The Lost Essence
One more foreign dignitary visited us this month. There were many during the year from all parts of the globe and there will, undoubtedly, be more such visits before the sun sets on 2010. It has become an old ritual that our VIPs visit other countries and their dignitaries visit us in return and so on. But I do not understand what is the purpose of such visits. Have we ever given thought to what is the substantial outcome of such visits? Do we have any mechanism to assess the outcome of such visits on which our government spends millions of rupees every year?
Sometimes I think that these visits have no significance in the absence of a clear foreign policy of our country. Sometimes we want to be very friendly with Pakistan and sometimes we want to raise our objections in front of the dignitaries who visit us. But till date we are not able to frame a strong and effective policy to handle neighbours such as Pakistan and China. Even smaller neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka etc. are not favourably inclined towards India.
What stops our government from framing a strong and effective policy rather than looking at the other countries like US or erstwhile USSR and now Russia to solve our border disputes and other affairs? Now the time has come when we must be very clear in our thoughts about what measures are to be taken to handle the foreign affairs in the best interests of the nation. After all it is long term and permanent interests and not transient visitors that give a nation the weightage to achieve such ambitions as membership of the UN Security Council and commensurate status in the comity of nations.
The last visit of a US president was in the year 2006 almost four years back and what joint charter was announced by the then president and our prime minister? Did we really peruse and assess that document before inviting Mr. Obama in year 2010 about what will be the outcome of his visit for India’s wider interest. No one in the government has ever tried to assess the previous joint charters released by dignitaries from both sides at the end of such visits. I am sure no one has ever done that.
Our foreign policy is reactive rather than being proactive. We speak only when there is some intrusion or any mischief being created by one or the other neighbour, otherwise we are not at all active on this front. We blame our intelligence and security agencies for whatever happens and play the endless blame game. I think first of all we should frame a strong and effective foreign policy and make sure that our intelligence and security forces are working as per that policy to secure the nation.
India believes in Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is God) and thus we welcome all our guests and try to fulfill all their desires but at the same time now we must assess that if we are welcoming any guest then are these guests genuinely supporting the interests of the host or not.
We welcomed Mr. Obama and will welcome all the dignitaries always but we have to see that whatever understandings they reach and agreements they sign are not only mutually beneficial but also in the long term national interest of the countries as well as promoting world peace and prosperity.
I am sure that this special edition on the US will sharpen the thought process of our policy makers and strategists to develope a strong and effective foreign policy and this will also enlighten our readers about the US India relations - past, present and future.