(Last Updated on : 11/09/2009)
Of the many unique customs prevalent among the Hindus, the one enjoining the visit to an individual with a present is perhaps the most common. There is an Indian proverb, which says that `One should not go to visit a king, a child, a pregnant woman, the preceptor and an image of god in a temple, empty-handed.` This custom is strictly adhered to at least by the majority of the Hindus even at the present day. When visiting children, sweets are generally taken and at times sugar candy can also be taken as presents. Women in general and pregnant women in particular are visited with new cloth, saffron, flowers, fruits and betel-leaves with areca-nuts. When going to temples people take cocoanuts, fruits, flowers and pan supari with them. Lime fruits and gems are considered most suitable for presentation when visiting kings.
There is one simple reason why children should be visited with presents of sweets. The reason can be explained, as children are undeveloped and consequently could not understand the object of the visitor`s visit to them. They not even understand their visitor`s love towards them in the abstract. Something material, tangible and visible is necessary to attract them to the intending visitor. Hence, from an ordinary worldly point of view, presents are to be taken when visiting children to attract them and this makes it possible to fondle them. The whole action resulting in the drawing out of affection between the visitor and the visited. Further, in this custom there is the case of self-denial and attention to the benefit of others.
Pregnant women should be visited with presents for the reason that they have peculiar cravings for special eatables, fruits and things, when they are quick with child and this fact is recognized by one and all. Consequently when one goes to visit them, he carries things which he considers may be acceptable and welcome. A woman immediate with child should be considered an object to show one`s feelings of joy and expectation. Hence articles considered by the people to be suitable for use on happy occasions such as new cloths, fruits, flowers, betel-leaves with areca-nuts, vermilion, saffron, and so forth are taken to them as presents. Further it is believed by the Hindus that women when they are pregnant are under the special attention of a devata or deity who is always with her attending to the growth of the child in the womb. Hence what is considered a present to the woman is in reality a present to the devata and it is considered to be an act of great merit.
The Hindu scriptures say that a portion at least of God in His preservative aspect abides in kings. Hence the custom of carrying presents to the king and offerings to temples may be dealt with together. As has already been hinted at, this custom draws out the latent love in man, his patriotism to the country, his loyalty to the king and his devotion to God. Moreover, God is said to be the embodiment of love. The whole world is teeming with His love as evinced from the affection shown not only by men towards his kith and kindred, but also by the birds of the air, and the beasts of the woods towards their species and young ones. The leader elephant is ready to brave danger for the safety of the other weaker ones whom he loves by advancing in front of the herd. The strong wild goats lie in a circle around the herd to protect it from danger. As all these actions arise from love, it is but natural that man seeks for ways and means to draw out the love latent in him.
Precious stones were considered suitable presents to the kings, for the reason that the king possesses everything and consequently nothing that others could take with them as presents might be considered duly acceptable to him. Hence people take the best of gifts available and that can be mentioned as gems.
As for taking lime fruits it can be said that among very ordinary presents such as fruits, the most pleasing to the sight and handy is the lime fruit.