City Life Style

India is 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 together.

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 progress.

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.