Customs form over a long period. In the beginning, there is a purpose for whatever started as a custom. Over a period of time, however, the purpose is sometimes downplayed, even as the practice is continued. This makes it an empty ritual.
Om is the Hindu icon for the Divine:
Om became the Hindu symbol of the transcendental Divine. It is very commonly used as a beginning of all ceremonial mantras and slokas. Shaanti Shaanti Shaanti:
Shaanti, or peace, is regarded as a most auspicious word. Hindus repeat it thrice to make it more emphatic and assertive.
Hindus wear a forehead mark:
Historically, both men and women wore a mark on the forehead, but nowadays most men prefer not to apply a mark, except during religious or auspicious ceremonies. Hindu women continue to wear the mark, which has become famous as the bindi. It is applied between the two eyes and is usually red in color. This mark, or tilak, as it is mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit scriptures, symbolically represents the third eye, the spiritual eye. With this mythological eye the person may acquire the inner sight that is not perceived with the physical eyes.
Namaste or Namaskar:
A traditional Hindu way of greeting with folded hands is now becoming popular even among non-Hindus. It is spiritual; it conveys, “I bow before the Divine in you!” It is, indeed, a more hygienic, non-aggressive, and graceful way of greeting than the Western custom of shaking hands or hugging.
Touching feet of the guru, parents, and elders:
Hindus have raised the status of mother and father to the level of God. In traditional Hindu families, it is a common practice to bow down and touch the feet of parents and elders and seek their blessings, or asheervaad. Although many do not observe this practice in modern society, others continue to do so with great warmth and enthusiasm, even when they settle in Western countries.