home to one of the world’s great civilizations. Its
special structure can be traced back to thousands of years to
empires that existed far earlier than anything comparable in
Europe. Its heritage of Hindu, Muslim and other cultures has
given it exotic traditions, crafts, people and food.
It is important, therefore, that your dress and behaviour
respects rather than antagonizes the Ashram neighbours –
the people of the village. India has not only given us Sai
Baba, it has also provided us an opportunity to build an
oasis of proper beauty and social consciousness.
Some western-style clothing and casual behaviour can be
highly provocative for the very conservative local people.
This provocation can only create anger and misunderstanding,
which will be directed at the Ashram, and Swami’s work.
Public displays of affection make the local people feel
embarrassed and uncomfortable, so save those long hugs for
private places. The public display of women’s upper arms
and back, chest and legs is considered in bad taste – even
uncultured, so be careful not to wear low-cut, see-through,
tight fitting or high hemline dresses. No matter how
fashionable they may be in your own country, in India they
will usually offend the public sense of propriety.
All Westerners in Prasanthi Nilayam are associated with the
Ashram, and as such are representatives of Bhagawan Baba. So
it would be very thoughtful if you could reflect His clean,
simple elegance as much as possible, and to make an extra
effort to be courteous and respectful towards the local
population. Kind hearted visitors who give money and other
things to local people can do more harm than they can
possibly realize: the people lose their sense of dignity –
the basis for both social and spiritual life.
India has a composite culture as people of various religions
reside here. However, Hindus believe in the innate Divinity
of all persons, animals, creatures and things. This is shown
as respect for each other. Elders, teachers and parents are
also highly venerated for and association with Divinity that
they should ideally manifest.
A son greets his parents by bowing down and touching their
feet and raising the hand to his head. Pupils greet their
teachers raising the hand to his head. Pupils greet their teachers in
this way and laymen likewise greet venerable religious
leaders. In North India people greet each other by a ‘Jai
Ram’ or ‘Namaste’. But in Prasanthi Nilayam the
universal greetings is ‘Sai Ram’. This means they see
Baba (God) within you. Most greetings are accompanied by the
palms and outstretched fingers of both hands held close
A Hindu in South India is generally known by his personal
name, his father’s name, his caste and the name of the
village he lives in. these names are attached before his
personal name by the initial letter of their spelling.
Usually one or two initials are retained. North Indians give
relatively more value to the surname – which derives from
their family’s profession, place of residence or
achievement. It is put after the name. A married woman
retains just here own name and in documents her personal
name appears as the wife of such and such person.
Generally Indians wear various kinds of clothes. Though many
men in cities dress in casual western way, more traditional
ones wear dhotis (men’s skirts), lungis or pyjamas.
Most of the Indian ladies wear sarees or Punjabi suits. The
majority of Indian married women typically wear a saree, a
red-colour bottu (red dot) on the forehead, a mangala
sutra (wedding necklace), rings in the fingers and more.
Earrings, and anklets.
In India people eat many kinds of food. Every region
includes pulses and dhals (legumes) in their cuisine.
Vegetarians use pulses and cereals (especially rice and
wheat) as their staple food. So common is the cooking of
pulses everyday in an Indian home, what people often say
that they work to earn dhal (pulses) and roti (Indian bread)
for their families.
Westerns do not have to eat with their hands as Indians do.
If you do decide to use your hands, remember that the right
hand is used for eating exclusively, as the left hand is
used in the toilet.
Use your right hand again when accepting prasadam
(consecrated food) or Vibhuthi (sacred Ash). When taking
vibhuthi from a container, use your dry fingers to take just
a pinch. Do not put licked fingers into the container.
The genders move about separately in many places, especially
temples and shrines. Observe this custom. A quick look
around as you enter will save you and your hosts possible
embarrassment. This practice is not intended to
discriminate, but to provide both men and women with an
undistracted environment for their individual spiritual
It is considered offensive to sit with your feet directed
towards anyone, especially a holy person or an elder.
Books are knowledge and are highly respected and should not
be placed on the floor or next to the feet.
Some Westerns, especially young men, go out of their way to
dress like sadhus or holy men. True spirituality is not
putting on a attire considered holy – trying to become a
holy man by wearing the revered ochre robe and carrying a
staff. This may even be insulting to devout Hindus and
Muslims, because it suggests taking lightly the glorious
Indian tradition of genuine renunciation – symbolic of
probably the highest human achievement.