Divali greetings readers. On this auspicious occasion of Divali, the festival that celebrates Dharma over Adharma (righteousness over ignorance), the festival of lights, and the festival that celebrates the epic triumph of Lord Ram/ Shri Ram over the adharmic King Ravan at the battle in Lanka I would like to take some time to reflect on the meaning and usage of Sita Ram and its current replacement by the more fashionable Bollywood glitzy and glamour-ish Namaste as a greeting. The following article should explain the main implications and concerns I have, and the problems I foresee with Caribbean Hindus’ constant usage of Namaste. I do believe this article should pertain to the Bharatiyas (India Indian Hindus as well) but for my Caribbean Hindus I stress its particular connotations with us. Basically, here’s why I think Indo Caribbean Hindus must use Sita Ram NOT Namaste Namaste, the Sanskritists say means, “the God in me sees the God in you.” Great. Sounds like flowers, sugar and spice. Sounds good and apparently both are Hindu. However, Sita Ram is inclusive of the name of two Hindu deities. It encompasses the personalities who fought for dharma from our sacred epic scriptures like the Ramayana. These sacred texts and personalities incorporate more great dharmic deeds than anyone can fit or reflect in Namaste. The dharmic code found in Namaste that teaches tolerance and other values were found in the conduct of Ram and Sita. We are invoking all dharmic consciousness by using the divine names of Sita and Ram. It was these personalities in the Hindu religion that gave way to the founding of “cute” one-liner philosophies like Namaste. Therefore, it seems to me the potency of dharmic belief is greater emphasized by the use of Sita Ram and NOT Namaste.
The name of Ram and Sita, and even Radha and Krishna have more significance in their meaning than Namaste. If Namaste is beautiful what is more beautiful than the name of Sita and Ram? Reading the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita is said to bring one moksha. Uttering the name of Ram does the same, Ram Nam or Ram Nam Satya Hai (the truth is Ram). Shri Ram fought to maintain dharma on this planet. He sacrificed everything: his family, his kingdom, his wealth and all of his comforts. He was the epitome of Raj Dharma (leadership) and Kshatriya Dharma (warrior’s path). If Namaste recognizes the godliness in me and you, then that godliness, that purity of heart, that warrior spirit and the warrior who fought to maintain righteousness was Ram himself. Namaste is a portion of what Hinduism/ Dharmic Philosophy is but our Hindu Gods encompass ALL of our dharmic philosophy. Namaste is like saying ladoo while Sita Ram is all of the meethai (sweets) including the amrit (ambrosia, food of the Gods). Again, Namaste is like picking any old symbol in Hinduism while Sita Ram is like AUM. There is a reason AUM is one of the main symbols of Hindu Dharma (roughly translated as religion). AUM encompasses every word and sound in the universe by using the starting sound, middle and end sound your mouth can make in AH-UH-MUH. By doing this you have symbolized repeating every word/ sound philosophy/ place, plant rock and person out in the universe. You have referenced and called them all. Hence, why should Hindus greet each other with a portion of our Hindu dharma in Namaste when we can remind each other of the entire dharmic cosmos in Sita Ram?
Most West Indians of the Indo-Caribbean origin typically hail from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the land of the historical Ram and Krishna. UP is the modern state where you can find the ancient city of Ayodhya, the capital of Ram’s kingdom, which was called Kosala. This evidently means, we as descendants of Bharat (India) have a close connection to the historical origins of Ram and Krishna. We came from the kingdom of Ram and Krishna. That is something to be very proud of. We should be proud to say Sita Ram because it emphasizes our close historical connections to our Hindu Gods.
Sita Ram is closer to what our Hindu ancestors used in Trinidad and Guyana. We have been using it since 1845 in Trinidad and 1838 in Guyana. It is our particular link as Caribbean Hindus to our Kala Pani (crossing the dark waters of the Atlantic to the Caribbean from India) indentured history and the history of the Caribbean. We must not become complacent and capricious over our two hundred years of history simply because something sounds better or we saw it in a movie. That is fickle behavior. While you might notice many of my articles and conferences stress how much we must know our history and our history from India we must also recognize our uniqueness as Indo-Caribbean Hindu people and do not desert it on a whim. We must recognize our unique contribution to the struggle of Hindu existence and preserve it for posterity.
Sita Ram for our modern crowd emphasizes the name of our female deity before the male deity. It shows women’s empowerment. It shows the Hindu emphasis on the worship and reverence for women, female Gods and the feminine divine. Hindus stand unique even among the pagan civilizations not for worshipping female Gods (as many pagans also worshipped female deities) but that even the male heroes and Gods were named after their mothers or named in second place to their wives. Hanuman ji was Anjani Putra Hanuman, Krishna was Devaki Nandan Krishna and Arjuna was Kunti Putra Arjuna, all named after their mothers. Ram and Krishna were placed second to their consorts in the Sita Ram and Radha Krishna greetings. I never came across Achilles (Arjuna’s Greek counterpart if you will) being named after his mother and I have read and translated the Illiad by Homer (the story of the Trojan War) in the original ancient Greek. There is no Megara-Hercules or Phaedra-Theseus. Hinduism is also unique in standing out in modern day as the only pagan religion left alive that can take its place as a major world religion with its myriad pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. That’s what Sita Ram means. We are emphasizing who we are and what we’ve been through and what we represent. Sita Ram is our message of existence and survival. This is why Hinduphobic academics in India and western nations want “Jai Shri Ram” made illegal, banned and called a terrorist chant. (If you did not know this, time to talk to our Hindu leaders and organizations as to why Hindus are lacking basic historical and political knowledge about themselves. Ask them what they’d like to do about it before we elect them president of this and chairman of that).
For the longest while, perhaps over a decade now, I have been observing the quiet replacement of the greeting Sita Ram by Namaste, especially by Indo-Caribbean Hindus. It seems to be a growing phenomenon, although I do remember the first time I heard it being mentioned at our mandir in Trinidad to me as a teenager and I thought, “wait don’t we use Sita Ram? This is something I’ve heard on a Bollywood show.”
Namaste is a Bollywood-ization of Hinduism and of our Sanskrit/Hindi language. For those who use Namaste in their particular states in India that speak Sanskrit/ Hindi or where Namaste originates, that’s great. But West Indian Indo-Caribbean Hindus need to maintain their religious, spiritual and historical connections to India, Hinduism and Shri Ram. Bollywood will do whatever is fashionable, glamourous and glitzy, and whatever makes money. Many of them do not know our history and connections. They are not responsible for us but we have a responsibility to our own history, and to preserve it.
Language has a way of preserving connections. Just through the particular type of Hindi we speak you can trace exactly where in India you have hailed from and the type of dress your ancestors wore and even what brand of Hinduism or Gods they may have worshipped.
Whenever I attend conferences I see that people of other religions are more comfortable saying Namaste because they do not like to utter the words Sita and Ram. But we must not be less Hindu to accommodate anyone. If people want to greet others they must do so in that religion’s preferred choice of greeting. This is why Hindus must stick to Sita Ram. We must not dilute our practices because others are intolerant of us and dislike saying the names of our Gods. Hindus who speak at these conferences welcome people in the language of those cultures and/or religions, whether its Good Evening/Assalam Wa’Alaikum/ Shalom etc. We should not give others a choice to sidestep us. Namaste gives them that choice. It’s fluffy and cute and sounds secular. It’s an opportunity to sidestep Hindus and Hinduism whether we are aware of it or not, or whether the non-Hindus are aware of it or not.
Non-Hindus love when we whitewash and dilute our religious beliefs, rituals and language to accommodate them. We have to realize we are seen as pagan to them. They do not appreciate or like Gods plural and especially Goddesses. Period. In fact, I think this problem mostly comes from Hindus not non-Hindus. If Hindus assert how they’d like to be treated I think society will come around but society spots the weaknesses of Hindus and pounces on that opportunity we give them to circumvent our positive representation. Hindus believe any fluff that sounds good. If they see a rhyme on social media about religion they’ll repeat it like parrots even if it’s circular logic. As long as the Hindu doesn’t have to stand up for their beliefs or debate it they are fine repeating any old jig that comes their way and call it Hinduism.
Western academics love to disenfranchise Hindus concepts from Hinduism. Anything good in Hinduism is not Hindu, only caste, cows and curry can be Hindu because its degrading. They cannot have young people around the world wondering into the Hindu religion (and perhaps becoming Hindu) after all, missionaries are working so hard to destroy it. Hence the global academic movement to cut off yoga’s origins from the Hindu religion. Where the missionaries can’t go the academics are there on the other side of the coin helping to defame the Hindu religion.
Academics claim yoga isn’t Hindu, nobody founded yoga, it’s just Indian but definitely not Hindu. I didn’t realize Indians thousands of years ago founded a system of enlightenment and science based on no belief in anything at all and built on a foundation of thin air: no Gods, no system of belief, nothing spiritually macroscopic behind the yoga, it was just exercise. They woke up one day and decided to contort their bodies on a whim for absolutely no transcendent reason. This is what the academics claim after having to go to India, learn yoga from Hindu yogis and Hindu texts and then bold facedly claim it’s not Hindu. The academics then allow for the wholesale and retail selling of yoga. How can companies make a profit from yoga if it belongs to a religion? They certainly can’t be held to any moral principles or standards of conduct. Now they can make yoga clothes from cow leather too! This is exactly why Namaste is popular in your yoga class but not Sita Ram because Namaste doesn’t refer to any Hindu God, its neutral in meaning. Your yoga teacher can culturally appropriate your religion/tradition and profit from it right under your nose but you and your Hindu religion are sure not to be given any credit in the eyes of the world. See how easy that was? Just a little anti-Hindu global coordination. When we use Namaste we are playing into this agenda by secularizing even our greetings. We are aiding the proxy war against the Hindu religion being fought in the media, academia and political circles.
We as Hindus are fighting dehumanization, genocide, discrimination, academic hostility and political hostility especially Hinduphobia (irrational fear of Hindus and Hindu religion) and Hindumisia (hatred of Hindus and Hindu religion). We do not need to help anti-Hindu forces to demolish us. Whatever we can preserve we must push back with a force of steel to preserve it against all odds no matter what the cost will be.
Pointing out such things is not divisiveness among Hindus either. The colonial historians did a smash job of dividing Hindus. They continue to do so. They separated South India from the North by geography, language, region and everything else under the sun they could use. For those who do use Sita Ram it is their ancestral tradition, I am saying, it carries a heavier weight of history and our very existence behind it as Hindus and so we must understand the deep repercussions of discarding traditions so easily. For me the choice is easy. Namaste is cute, fashionable and highly philosophical but nothing beats the majesty and the unparalleled, unrivaled significance of Sita and Ram.
The events leading up to Divali took place over seven thousand years ago. People have been saying Sita Ram for thousands of years longer than the existence of any other civilization or country. Let us not throw away almost ten thousand years of history because it’s fashionable.
I have mentioned the above points on ICDN and their online shows many times in the past including on our talk show in 2020. I also bring up this point at my conferences, including in 2019 and 2017 or at least emphasized the use of it over Namaste if you’ve ever seen me speak on history and archaeology concerning Indo-Caribbean people, India and Hinduism. I thought it would make a unique Divali message.
Sita Ram and Shubh Divali
Classical Archaeologist and Historian.
Pictured Above: Nisha Ramracha Classical Archaeologist, Historian and Adventurer at Udaipur Palace, Rajasthan, India.