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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Atithi Devo Bhav" (Guests are Gods)---Visiting NISHTHA villages in West Bengal #3

"Atithi Devo Bhav" is a long lived India's tradition which remains strong in the rural villages in West Bengal. It means "Treating guests as Gods" in Sanskrit.

YGB "Sister Aid" fund recipient mothers welcome us at each village with a traditional puja

As we visit many poor agrarian villages here, we experience this living tradition all the time. Upon arrival to villages where YGB global community is supporting, women welcome us by gently taking our arms into their village. Once we arrive at the village, a lady blows a conch, and NISHTHA staff Shaumana makes her special sound pursing her lips, echoed by all the other women.

Then they shower us with beautiful fresh flower petals and embrace us with oil candle light and incense. Sometimes, we stand on wood platforms which has hand drawn designs, while all this ceremonial process takes place. We are also often offered seasonal sweets and fresh coconut after the ceremony. There is deep sense of respect for guests, and I often feel "Do I really deserve this?". Our local translator Malay explained that this is a beautiful Indian tradition that welcomes even your adversary and expect nothing from it. But it is also fading fast in city lives and growing nuclear family style.

On the surface, these women have very little, but it makes me wonder "who is really richer?"  In the  West or "developed societies",  we are often too busy to take time for such genuine hospitality, not to mention welcoming people you do not like. What a tradition, what a way of life!!! I continue to feel humbled. 

At lunch time, women in the villages always gather and prepare scrumptious lunch course for us, which consists of at least 5 different thali (small dishes), with chapati and rice. It is all about giving and welcoming, nothing else.

During my visit here in India, St Francis' words continues to repeat in my mind, "By giving, you receive". We are offering financial support to these women, but I receive so much spiritual wealth in return that I can not help but share this kind of precious experience with you all and YGB global community who support YGB's mission. 

As we leave each village, women gather around our auto rickshaw and keep saying "Abar dekha hobe", meaning "Please come back" and then stand there till we disappear from their sight. 

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