“Athidhi Devobhava”- Guest is God

We have been talking a lot over the last week about tourist experience in India and especially about the experience of foreign women. Indian culture is based on “mathru devo bhava, pitru devo bhava, acharya devo bhava and athidhi devo bhava”- mother, father, teacher and guest are all God. The order here is really important because mother comes before father and that is what we follow. Our country, even though is a patriarchal society, we have goddesses. We love our mothers, (females,) so much that we even associate the word mother with earth “Bhu-matha,” (Mother earth); India “Bharat matha,” (Mother India); cow “Go matha” (mother cow); and so many more. When I was studying in India, even the local government buses had signs like “respect women,” or “give your seat to women”. If India has something in abundance that should be love, acceptance, tolerance, and respect; not hate, harassment, intolerance, and disrespect.

We blame the government for anything bad, but this is one issue that we cannot blame our government for. The reason being, government of India, (Ministry of Tourism,) started a campaign called Incredible India- “athidhi devo bhava” a long time ago. I remember watching public service announcements on TV even when I was in India (in 2008) on this very issue. They made quite a number of ads with Amir Khan as brand ambassador. In 2008, I thought harassing tourist was not rampant. Obviously, I was wrong. I am really thankful to our government which realized long ago the need for such a campaign and to spread awareness to the issue. Now, it is our responsibility to live up to our end of the bargain. The first step would be to stop denying there is a problem because the problem clearly exist, (even our government agrees). Secondly, stop making excuses for people’s bad behavior. Thirdly, if we come across a tourist who does not have kind words about India. Don’t go berserk on them, take criticism with grace. Provide guidance or help if you can. It is not anti-India to speak about their grievances, but it is definitely anti- India to treat our guests badly. India is the biggest democracy in the world. The first fundamental right according to Indian constitution is Freedom of Speech. Then how can we tell other people they have no right to talk about their bad experiences in India?

I am posting some of the videos from the “Incredible India” campaign. They are interesting to watch. I could not find the ones with subtitles. If you want me to translate, comment below, and I will be more than happy to do that for you.



Our country and culture survived many foreign invasions, but the question is will it survive our generation? Have we forgotten who we are as a people? I think we have selective memory. We do not forget about some of the societal evils like caste or dowry. On the other hand, we conveniently forget about one of the basic principles of Indian culture like “athidi devo bhava,” “respect women”. Losing our morals in the name of modernization is not good. It doesn’t matter how successful we are, we always need to remember our beginnings. We love watching “satyamev jayte” and cheering for Amir Khan, but what are we doing when it is our turn to stand up against evil.

You might not be one of those people who is harassing a tourist at Taj Mahal. That is good. The question is when you see something like that what are you doing? I ask you please stop them. If the situation is too dangerous, please call the police. Please start acting now because inaction is equivalent to enabling a crime, (or approving of it). The recent rape incident in Delhi has caused a lot of doubts regarding safety issues in India and particularly women safety. It is time we show the world that we, as a nation, will stand up to perpetrators who harass women. Let us create an atmosphere where our “athidhi,” (guest,) feels welcomed, safe and relaxed. They are choosing India over a relaxing cruise because they are interested in learning about our culture. Let us show them the real Indian hospitality and give them their money’s worth so they will choose India over cruise any day.


Leave a comment


  1. Wonderful post….loved every word. I think the main reason that foreign women get worked up about it is because many Indians do not want to admit there is a problem (shame?). To admit there is a problem is the first step. I love India, and I will never stop going, even if there are a few bad experiences. India as a whole is a spiritually transforming place (No, I have never been to an ashram…just talking about on the road..lol). Being a part of an Indian family and staying in an Indian home is a wonderful adventure.

    • Raina

       /  August 11, 2013

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope “D” thinks so too in the future. I am hoping it will be easier for him than you because he is going to be Indian SIL. lol. There should be some advantage for patriarchal society. 😉

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