Why do we prostrate before parents & elders?


Hindus prostrate to their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elders in turn bless by placing his/her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by "abhivaadana" which serves to introduce oneself, announce one's family and social stature.

Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices that they have made for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties which has been of India's enduring strengths.

The good wishes (sankalpa) and the blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke good wishes and blessings of elders which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy.
The different forms of showing respect are :
  • Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person.
  • Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of namaste.
  • Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers.
  • Shaashtaanga - prostrating fully with the full body touching the ground in front of the elder.
  • Pratyabivaadana - returning a greeting.
Rules are prescribed in our scripture as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though a ruler of the land would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

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