Indian concept of asking for or giving Bhiksha to ascetics in India is very ancient. Explore the meaning of giving alms in India.


Bhiksha is an ancient Indian tradition as per which ascetics and sadhus go door to door, asking for food and alms from people. The meaning of bhiksha is different from begging, since the ascetics who ask for it do it not because of the reason that they dislike working. Infact, as per Indian spirituality, it is believed that one can attain salvation only when his soul is totally absolved of ego. The concept of bhiksha plays a crucial role here and was, thus, coined for those sadhus or ascetics who had just initiated their spiritual journey.

Asking for Bhiksha meant one had to approach strangers for and ask them for alms. Even though giving alms is part of customs in India, many people disrespectfully turn away the sadhus/ascetics. This is just a training period for the ascetics, who are taught not to take offence to such behavior, but instead endure it smilingly thinking it to be the will of God. The social and political milieu has changed drastically in India now, yet the concept of asking and giving bhiksha is still alive and strong.

Many religious people, especially in small town and cities, still make it a point to take out a portion of the daily food grain and give it out in charity. Such philanthropic activity, like bhiksha, is deeply rooted in our customs and traditions. Infact, our ancient holy scriptures, like Rig Veda, makes references to charity as a duty and responsibility of the citizen and the benefits that one earns through an act of charity.