Tuesday, July 20, 2010
THE BREAD AND SALT
All over the world, people have traditional mode of welcoming and greeting the guests. Belarus, my current place of stay and work, has a fascinating and dignified ' Bread and Salt ' ceremony which is generally performed to welcome an important guest. I have had the honour of getting treated several times at various places and occasions during the process of my diplomatic and social interaction in Belarus. I found the ' Bread and Salt ' welcome a most appealing to the eye and also most satisfying to the mind and soul. The young Belarusian girls, attired in traditional dress, greet and welcome the guest at the door steps and offer nicely baked and decorated bread along with a holder or a cellar of salt placed on the bread on a traditionally embroidered towel. It is a dignified gesture which gives the guest a sense of belonging and oneness apart from elation.
The ' Bread and Salt ' is a Slavonic tradition of welcome in Eurasia and Central Europe. In fact, sharing of bread and salt, going by my own experience in various places and societies, is a widely practised tradition to depict and register unity, friendship and oneness. It is a lofty ideal. In India, partaking or sharing of bread and salt is done at important ceremonies like weddings or religious discourses. At the marriage ceremony, the bride and the bride groom and also the parents and families share food which symbolises that their destinies are also shared now as हम नवाला ( shared morsel of food) and at religious places as लंगर ( community kitchen ) to strengthen bonds of brotherhood and fraternity. The social norm of रोटी बेटी का रिश्ता ( bonds of bread and daughter) and also the concept of नमक हलाल ( loyalty ) are still the accepted and recognised social values in Indian traditional society. I have also seen and enjoyed hospitality in the Arab world. The Arab tribal society attaches great importance to sharing of food. The host, sitting on the दस्तरखान ( carpet to eat food) , would pick up the best portion of the food (generally meat) and taste it and then offer to the honoured guest. It is considered one of the most friendly gestures to welcome the guest and make him at ease.
According to the Belarusian tradition, the young girls offer bread and salt to guest and he takes these offerings home. With a view to give an Indian touch to the ceremony, I accept the bread and salt and feed the girls as a gesture of sharing and appreciation. My local hosts tend to understand and appreciate and I feel happy. We have much to share as the citizens of 'one world'.