Hindi Language Blog

Anatomy and Non-Verbal Communication Posted by on Apr 22, 2021 in Culture

As with any country, India has her own cultural expectations सांस्कृतिक अपेक्षाएं. Although it is a little more complicated जटिल with so many cultures residing रहने वाले under one country. Indians master the art of maneuvering पैंतरेबाज़ी easily between cultures संस्कृतियों from an early age.

Besides the various dialects that Indians speak, there are some common gestures that they use. Looking through the lens of culture we see gestures that Indians use in communication. Each culture has its own microcosmic gestures within the greater culture. But, there are universal gestures इशारों all over India that are accepted. How do Indians communicate non-verbally?

The Head

The first and obvious gesture is the one with the head. In India parts of the body are either sacred पवित्र  or uncleanअशुद्ध.  Hindus consider the head the cleanest, purest शुद्ध part of the body. In the Vedas, according to the Rig Veda, the head gave birthजन्म दिया to the higher castesजातियों and the feet gave birth to the lower castes.

Indians shake their head from side to side to mean yes. They will also provide directions with a swift upward tilt of the chin.

Elders touch the head of the younger generation in order to bless them. And the younger will first touch the elder’s feet before touching their own forehead or chest to receive the blessing.

If one is sorry for their misdeeds they will pull their ears while squatting to express remorse. Also, a pinching of the throat denotes swearing an oath of promise.

The Hand

There are prevailing attitudes व्यवहार, expectationsउम्मीदों, and gestures in relation to different विभिन्न  parts of the body. When people greet स्वागत  each other in India they politely नम्रता  fold their palms towardकी ओर each other just under the chinठोड़ी and bow slightly as a sign of respect सम्मान while saying the word ‘Namaste’. It is better बेहतर and safer सुरक्षित  to adopt this form रूप of a greeting than the traditional पारंपरिक handshake. The namaste gesture is polite, respectful and honorsसम्मान the god within a person.

Using का उपयोग करके your left hand to eat or greet is a definiteप्रत्‍यक्ष no-no in India. The left hand is considered uncleanअशुद्ध.

The Feet

Indians take off निकालो their shoes when entering a home in India. In some cases, they take off their shoes in a shop or office. Besides tracking in germsरोगाणु it also is a sign of respect for the family’s space or business.

When a younger person meets the elders in their family उनका परिवार or elders in society समाज who have influenceप्रभाव over their lives, they bow down and touch छूने the feet of the elder in greeting. This gesture is a signal संकेत for the elder to then place their hands on the head of the younger छोटा to bless आशीर्वाद them.

Exposingउजागर the soles of the feet is rude and disrespectfulअनुचित. When sittingबैठे down on the floor people make sure their feet are tucked under. Exposing the soles of the feet toward a person is rude and indicates they are lower than in status.

Stepping over a person is inauspicious and is forecasts doom. If you inadvertently have done so, touch their feet as a sign of apology. Touching someone and then touching your heart is also an apology माफ़ीनामा.

Indians do not touch food, books or utensilsया बर्तन with their feet either. They politely move the food, books or utensils out of the way.

There are so many customs on the subcontinent that lend it its uniqueness. As generations pass these customs are forgotten but hopefully, the ones that are good will remain.

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About the Author: Nicole Herbert Dean

Language, Region and Culture Consultant to the Department of Defense and United States Military.