Atithi Devo bhavah

This one line, ‘Atithi Devo bhava’ अतिथि देवो भव: is repeated so very often in India /Bharat that that we Indians /Bharatiya feel obligated to consider every guest as the Divine Light and treat them as if they were the divine deities themselves. Misunderstanding this one line has caused caused us untold damage as we welcomed invaders and colonisers into our Bharat by erroneously thinking that they were ‘Atithi’.

We have forgotten what an Atithi अतिथि really means. An Atithi is not a ‘guest’ as is commonly understood. There are these three words in our mother tongue, Devbhasha Samskrutam

  • Abhyaagata अभ्यागत
  • Nimantrita निमन्त्रित
  • Atithi अतिथि. 

All these words are translated into ‘guest’ in English and this is the root of our confusion. English is a limited language and that is why we must learn Sanskrit, be able to read and understand our texts in Sanskrit itself. Only then can we really understand our mindset, behaviour society and the Self. 

These three types of ‘guests’ are very different from each other.

Most people who come to your house are the Abhyaagat अभ्यागत, literally ‘those who have come or arrived’. They are not invited nor are divine, they are general people who pop in without invitation. As per Dharma you need to offer only a seat for such visitors. You are not required to bring refreshments etc for the abhyaagaat, the basic civility of offering a seat is enough. 

Nimantrita निमन्त्रित are those who have been invited by you into your house. These may be your relatives and friends whom you have invited to your house for some auspicious function etc. Or people from other towns with whom you have some mutually agreed upon business. You are required to offer additional hospitality to these invited guests depending on the terms of the initial invitation that you had sent to them. Eg if you have invited your family members for a puja then you are required to offer a seat, water to wash hands/feet, prasadam, food etc and if required a one night stay at your home. 

Atithi अतिथि, on the other hand, is literally is the ‘one who deserves hospitality’. In the past this was limited to genuine Brahmins who were travelling etc and who needed food or a place to stay overnight. Rarely a Guru, Rishi, Sanyasi, Muni, Sadhu or a Yogi could arrive as an Atithi. These elevated souls coming to your house as Atithis is a fortunate event, the karmic fruit of some auspicious activity that you had performed. These Atithi are the Divinities themselves and accordingly offered hospitality. Very rarely, and if you have performed some rigorous anushthan then an actual divinity/a deity may also appear as an Atithi. If you do your spiritual practice with sincerity, you will be blessed with the deity arriving in your home in some form or the other. This is the real Atithi. You are now required to offer water to wash the hands/feet (arghya/padya), a seat for sitting (Asan) etc. But even in this this case, the due hospitality is limited to one meal and maximum one overnight stay.

This is a strict rule that an Abhyaagat cannot be offered the respect that is due to a Atithi.  If you do so, it will be a moral wrong with the eventual negative repercussions. And this is exactly what has happened to our nation, we forgot the difference between Abhyaagat and Athiti and have been paying the price ever since.

(This minipost is in a response to a question)

7 thoughts on “Atithi Devo bhavah

  1. Shala February 16, 2023 / 2:49 pm

    Thank you maam for this post( and thanks to the person who asked this question).
    You spoke my mind on this.
    Another much abused line dropped everywhere is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
    Either people should read the entire shloka and understand it or atleast read the Bhagavad Gita and know where to draw the line and what to do if even bloodline family crosses the line.
    Nowadays we use it to justify helping overt enemies too.
    Can only imagine the collateral backlash karma awaiting us as a population…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anurodh February 16, 2023 / 6:52 pm

    Information for me. Thanks


  3. Ratziel Bander February 16, 2023 / 8:13 pm

    Right on!!




  4. Squirrel February 16, 2023 / 11:43 pm

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for writing these posts. I have some questions, unrelated to each other.
    1. This particular post got me wondering about other whitewashed concepts (I think). Isn’t Yoga supposed to be used to still your mind just like Dhyan in preparation of the moment when we leave the body? I vaguely remember I read this, probably somewhere in one of your posts. So is it right to charge for yoga classes? eg. hot yoga :/ 😦

    (I honestly don’t feel right when foreigners charge whatever dollars/class to teach yoga to lose weight. Losing weight/toning is just a side effect to practising yoga). Just like Sanskrit, isn’t yoga a birthright for all who want to follow Sanatan Dharma? And if it is, is it supposed to be taught for free or for some karmik form of dakshina, like teaching others after you’ve learnt it?

    2. I have read all of your posts, some many times and have tried almost everything (except for navarna) including cartomancy, lemon cleansing, daily puja, gayatri, soham, sri-sukta, sundarkand etc.. 🙂
    Thank you so much for writing these posts.

    While reading I realised I have all of the typical planet positions you’ve written about. (positions meant only for your eyes –>Mars-Sat conj + Jup -Ven conj , Moon in 8th, Sun in 10th, Ra/Ke – 9/3 axis, etc.) And, I am going through Jup-Ven phase rn. Cumulatively having such typical positions in D1, is it a fast track or a pull to a spiritual path than a material path? I’m new to Jyothish, but reading all the posts I thought that was the undertone.

    3. I also tried some fun remedies like eating food for planets. I was wondering if we can also do remedies for the sign the planet is in. Eg:Venus in Aries – doing activities related to that sign, like martial arts/competitive sports for Aries? can we also filter it down to nakshatra levels? I know there are activities related to nakshatra but would that make for a remedy for the planet?


    • astrologerbydefault February 17, 2023 / 9:18 am

      Hi there
      1. ‘Yoga classes’ are just physical exercises. They will develop the body. It becomes a tamasic activity without the mantras.

      It becomes Yog only when you mentally recite the associated mantras with the Asans. Then it is a satvic activity and gives spiritual, emotional physical etc benefits.
      A Guru teaches this, so naturally the Shishya is required to give the Guru-dakshina after he learns it.

      Everyone is required to start their day with the Suryanamaskar. How many of us do this? And Asans required for Dhyan? Rare people hold on to their birthright these days.
      Sanskrit is the basic birthright of every human on this earth. Learn it.

      2. Self analysis is a life time process. Keep analysing yourself.

      3. You can do remedies for the signs and also for the nakshatra in which the planet is placed.
      At least try to remember the Nakshatra devata of the Moon and do namaskar to him daily, even this much will change things.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. vedicstudent108 February 17, 2023 / 4:16 am

    It never occurred to me that there could be a negative consequence to treating guests as divine .
    But now I can see that if you treat everyone as divine, then you are lumping the actual divine, in with the whole population!


  6. Viju February 21, 2023 / 11:37 pm

    Namaste Tejaswiniji,

    Thanks for this eye-opening post! अतिथि देवो भव: is the most misunderstood concept in Bharat. We have paid a very high price for our mistakes. But you can still see examples in other countries as well, where they have no idea about “athithi”. And they are suffering as well. Compassion, sympathy is fine but should not replace good old common sense.

    This is the best I have read about अतिथि देवो भव:👍🏻 Thanks once again🙏🏻

    Lots of love and gratitude


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