Honouring one’s superiors is a basic dogma in Hindu religion and culture. As long as it was scrupulously followed, it contributed to the solidarity of the society. In the presence of a person worthy of honour, one is expected to rise from one’s seat and salute him. The former is called pratyut-thāna and the latter abhivādana. After facing (= abhi) him, introducing himself and bowing down to him, the superior is expected to pronounce benediction (vādana). Hence the term. While offering abhivādana, it is necessary to repeat one’s gotra (parental lineage) along with the name of the particular branch of the Veda traditionally studied in the family, and one’s own name. During this repetition he should touch his ears and bend his head down. After this he can bow down touching or not touching the feet of the superior. In upasaṅgrahaṇa, another variety of abhivādana, clasping the feet of the superior at the time of saluting is obligatory.
Elaborate details have been given in the dharmaśāstras with regard to abhi-vādana. For instance, it can be nitya (obligatory every day), naimittika (occasio-nal) or kāmya (done with certain rewards in view). Bowing down to one’s teacher and parents everyday comes under the first category. Saluting the elders on special occasions like after returning from a journey, belongs to the second. If done at one’s own will, seeking knowledge or long life or bliss in heaven it is classed under the third. Detailed rules have also been given as to whom abhivādana can be offered or should not be offered, the rules being based on caste, learning, status in society and age. It is noteworthy that salutation to women, except to one’s mother, should be offered without touching their feet.
The persons to whom abhivādana is offered should return it in a manner proper to their position and status.
For details, see PRATYABHIVĀDA.