Namaste is a traditional Indian gesture of greeting. "Namaste" is the customary courtesy greeting. It is often used as a salutation to end an encounter as well. The etymology of the word Namaste is derived from Sanskrit. Námas, meaning “bow, obeisance, reverential salutation” and Te, meaning “to you”. In, other words, "greetings, salutations, or prostration to you." The word namaha can also be literally interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one's ego in the presence of another. Hence, it implies bowing to the others and not self and this implies being open to the person being greeted. In a broader sense, the word namaste means “the divine within me bows to the divine within you.” Although this is normally understood to mean prostration, it actually is the means of paying homage or showing respect to one another. This is the practice today when we greet each other.
In Kannada, the same greeting is ‘Namaskara and Namaskaragalu ’in Tamil, ‘Vanakkam’ and ‘Kumpiṭtu’ in Telugu, ‘Dandamu’, ‘Dandaalu’, ‘Namaskaralu’, ‘namaskaramulu’ and ‘Pranamamu’ in Bengali, ‘Nōmōshkar’ and ‘Prōnäm’; and in Assamese, ‘Nômôskar’.
The greeting reflects the respect that Hindus have for the divinity all around them. The gesture of ‘Namaste’ is called ‘Anjali Mudra’-by bringing palms together in the middle of the chest with a bowed down head and saying namaste. This represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. In common man’s language, it is a salutation; a greeting used for most purposes including ‘Hello, good morning/afternoon, and goodbye’. It is a customary practice of all Hindu irrespective of caste, creed, position, place of stay, a normal course of greetings when meeting people known or strangers with whom one wants to initiate a conversation. It is often used as a salutation to end an encounter as well. The reason Indians use Namaste has a deeper spiritual significance as well. It recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity, the Self, or the God within is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness and equality with the meeting of the palms, is honour to the god in the person we meet. It is quite common to see Hindus during prayers and worships, they not only do Namaste, they also bow and close their eyes, in effect to look into the inner spirit. This physical gesture is sometimes accompanied by names of gods such as Hari Om, Ram Ram Jai Shri Krishna , Namo Narayana, Jai Sriman Narayana, or Jai Siya Ram. It may also be used with Om
Shanti. Yet, another quite equivalent to Namaste very fondly used in rural India is “Ram-Ram” with Anjali Mudra. “Ram-Ram Sa” or “Ram –Ram Dada” and so on. Nevertheless, Namaste is different from Pranam.
Pranama, again a Sanskrit word. It is made up of two words 'Pra' and 'Anama'. Pra means "forward, in front, before, very, or very much", while Anama means "bending or stretching". Combined Pranama means "bending, bowing in front" or "bending much" or "prostration. It is a respectful salutation among Hindus. It literally means "bowing forward" in reverence for a deity or an elder.
Namaskar is one of the six types of Pranamas:
Ashtanga (Ashta-eight; Anga-body parts): Touching the ground with knees, belly, chest, hands, elbows, chin, nose, and temple.
Shastanga (Shashta-six; Anga-body parts): Touching the ground with toes, knees, hands, chin, nose, and temple.
Panchanga (Pancha-five; Anga-body parts): Touching the ground with knees, chest, chin, temple, and forehead.
Dandavat (Dand-stick): Bowing the forehead down and touching the ground.
Abhinandana (Congratulations to you): Bending forward with folded hands touching the chest.
Namaskar (Bowing to you). The same as doing a Namaste with folded hands and touching the forehead.