If someone dared to ask you a simple question - "Do you follow Indian customs and traditions?" Most of the time the response would be negative. Because of being impressed by (and obsessed with) the Western styles and traditions seen during the British rule and afterwards, we follow them blindly and ultimately start ignoring our rich traditions. Many of us even feel shy to observe them. We have not bothered to understand our Indian culture at all. Our traditions have a scientific, logical, historical, social, and spiritual significance.
To establish the dignity of Indian culture and philosophy, we have to understand the logic behind each custom. Let me highlight a few here.
When we meet someone, we greet Namaste by holding two palms placed together in front of the chest, the head bowed down, and speaking the word Namaste (ˈnɑːməsteɪ' - नमस्ते). Namaste means Namah = 'I bow down' and Te = 'you'. 'I bow you'. First two words Na and Ma means 'not' and 'mine' respectively, expressing 'nothing is mine' without any ego and with full humility. It is a symbol used to greet, salute and a gesture for praise and prayer of the Lord. Namaste also expresses the wish that 'may our minds meet' and bowing down the head describes reducing one's ego to zero! Namaste is a gracious form of extending friendship, love, and respect.
Similarly, fasting is not to eat at all, eat only once, or eat only fruits and special foods during the day. Upvasa means Up = 'near' and Vas = 'God' for attaining proximity with God. Fasting saves time and energy of procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating, and digesting food. It is a self-imposed form of discipline (Tapas) adhered to with joy. Fasting also gives a much-needed break to the digestive system and the body. Putting it all together, fasting is dieting for a higher goal of pleasing God, fulfilling desires, and developing willpower to control the senses and a form of austerity.
Om ('Oṃ', ॐ , ओ३म्) is a universal name of God - the Lord Ganesha. Chanting Om is to be done at the beginning of any work and for praying to God. The upper small curve shows head, large lower curve depicts the stomach, the side describes trunk and semicircle mark with a dot above represents the sweet ball (Modak) in the hands of Lord Ganesha.
Shanti is a permanent natural existing state of being and any noise breaks it! There are three types of problems: natural calamities like earthquakes, floods etc., human errors like war, accidents, and finally diseases of the body and mind. To address each one separately Shanti is pronounced thrice. First loudly to address God, second time softly for immediate surroundings, and lastly slowly to tell oneself. Anything spoken thrice comes true (Trivaram Satyam) and so Shanti is spoken thrice.
Well, if you are convinced about respecting the Indian culture by now, and follow these fundamental points sincerely, my purpose of writing all this is a success.
N.B. I am thankful to my friend Dr Maheshbhai Desai (Valsad) for gifting me a book by Br. Swamini Vimlananda and Radhika K - “In Indian culture...Why do we…”. The book covers more details and further knowledge of this topic.