thumb|400px|Different degrees of bowing
and prostration, here drawn from [[Eastern Orthodox religious liturgical use]]
Prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially
or submissively prone
position as a gesture
. Typically prostration is distinguished from the lesser acts of bowing
by involving a part of the body above the knee touching the ground, especially the hands.
Major world religion
s employ prostration as an act of submissiveness or worship
to a supreme being
or other worshiped entity (i.e. God), as in the ''metanoia'' in Christian prayer
used in the Oriental Orthodox Church
es and the ''sajdah
'' of the Islamic prayer
In various cultures and traditions, prostrations are similarly used to show respect to rulers, civil authorities and social elders or superiors, as in the Chinese kowtow
or Ancient Persia
''. The act has often traditionally been an important part of religious, civil and traditional rituals and ceremonies, and remains in use in many cultures.
Traditional religious practices
Many religious institutions (listed alphabetically below) use prostrations to embody the lowering, submitting or relinquishing of the individual ego before a greater spiritual power or presence.
In the Baháʼí Faith
, prostrations are performed as a part of one of the alternatives of obligatory prayer (the "Long" one) and in the case of traveling, a prostration is performed in place of each missed obligatory prayer
in addition to saying "Glorified be God, the Lord of Might and Majesty, of Grace and Bounty". However, if unable to do so, saying "Glorified be God" is sufficient. There are specifics about where the prostration can take place including, "God hath granted you leave to prostrate yourselves on any surface that is clean ..." (note #10) and "He also condemns such practices as prostrating oneself before another person and other forms of behaviour that abase one individual in relation to another". (note #57)
, prostrations are commonly used and the various stages of the physical movement are traditionally counted in threes and related to the Triple Gem
, consisting of:
* the Awakened One (Sanskrit
'') (in this meaning, to own potential)
* his teaching (Sanskrit: ''Dharma
''; Pali: ''Dhamma'')
* his community (''Sangha
'') of noble disciples (''ariya-savaka
In addition, different schools within Buddhism use prostrations in various ways, such as the Tibetan tantric
preliminary practice of a 100,000 prostrations as a means of overcoming pride (see Ngöndro
). Tibetan pilgrims often progress by prostrating themselves fully at each step, then moving forward as they get up, in such a way that they have lain on their face on each part of their route. Each three paces involves a full prostration; the number three is taken to refer to the Triple Gem. This is often done round a stupa
, and in an extremely arduous pilgrimage, Mount Kailash
is circumnavigated entirely by this method, which takes about four weeks to complete the 52 kilometre route. It is also not unusual to see pilgrims prostrating all the way from their home to Lhasa, sometimes a distance of over 2000 km, the process taking up to two years to complete.
In Oriental Orthodox Christianity
and Western Orthodox Christianity
, believers prostrate during the seven fixed prayer times
; prayer rugs
are used by some adherents to provide a clean space for believers to offer their Christian prayer
s to God, e.g. the canonical hours
Oriental Orthodox Christians, such as Copts, incorporate prostrations in their prayers that are performed facing eastward
in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus
, "prostrating three times in the name of the Trinity
; at the end of each Psalm … while saying the ‘Alleluia’; and multiple times during the more than forty Kyrie eleisons
" (cf. ''Agpeya
and Indian Orthodox
Christians, as well as Christians belonging to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church
(an Oriental Protestant
denomination), make multiple prostrations at the seven fixed prayer times during which the canonical hours are prayed, thrice during the Qauma prayer, at the words "Crucified for us, Have mercy on us!", thrice during the recitation of the Nicene Creed at the words "And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit...", "And was crucified for us...", & "And on the third day rose again...", as well as thrice during the Prayer of the Cherubim while praying the words "Blessed is the glory of the Lord, from His place forever!" (cf. ''Shehimo
Oriental Catholic rites also use prostrations in a similar way as the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Among Old Ritualists
, a prayer rug known as the Podruchnik
is used to keep one's face and hands clean during prostrations, as these parts of the body are used to make the sign of the cross
The Roman Catholic
, and Anglican
Churches use full prostrations, lying flat on the floor face down, during the imposition of Holy Orders
, Religious Profession
and the Consecration of Virgins
. Additionally, in the Roman Catholic Church and United Methodist Church, at the beginning of the Good Friday Liturgy, the celebrating priest and the deacon prostrate themselves in front of the altar
. Dominican practice on Good Friday services in priory churches includes prostration by all friars in the aisle of the church. In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches, partial prostrations ("profound bows") can be used in place of genuflection
s for those who are unable to genuflect. The prostration is always performed before God, and in the case of holy orders, profession or consecration the candidates prostrate themselves in front of the altar which is a symbol of Christ.
In Eastern Orthodox
) worship, prostrations are preceded by making the sign of the cross
and consist of kneeling and touching the head to the floor. They are commonly performed both at specific moments during the services and when venerating relics
s. However, prostrations are forbidden on the Lord's Day
(Sunday) and during Paschaltide
(Easter season) in honour of the Resurrection and are traditionally discouraged on Great Feasts
of the Lord. During Great Lent
, and Holy Week
, frequent prostrations are prescribed (see Prayer of St. Ephraim
). Orthodox Christian may also make prostrations in front of people (though in this case without the Sign of the Cross, as it is not an act of veneration or divine worship
), such as the bishop
, one's spiritual father
or one another when asking forgiveness
(in particular at the Vespers
service which begins Great Lent
on the afternoon of the Sunday of Forgiveness
.) Those who are physically unable to make full prostrations may instead substitute ''metanias'' (bows at the waist).
, eight-limbed (''ashtanga pranama,'' also called ''dandavat,'' meaning "like a stick") and five-limbed (''panchanga pranama'') prostrations are included in the religious ritual of puja
Worship in Hinduism involves invoking higher forces to assist in spiritual and material progress and is simultaneously both a science and an art. A sense of bhakti or devotional love is generally invoked. This term is probably a central one in Hinduism. A direct translation from the Sanskrit to English is problematic. Worship takes a multitude of forms depending on community groups, geography and language. There is a flavour of loving and being in love with whatever object or focus of devotion. Worship is not confined to any place of worship, it also incorporates personal reflection, art forms and group. People usually perform worship to achieve some specific end or to integrate the body, the mind and the spirit in order to help the performer evolve into a higher being.
, prostrations (''sajadat
'', plural of ''sujud'' or ''sajda'') are used to praise, glorify and humble oneself in front of Allah
(The God), and are a vital part of the five obligatory prayers
performed daily; this is deemed obligatory for every Muslim
whether the prayers are being performed individually or in congregation.
[The Medical Advantages of Sajdah](_blank)
by Dr. Muhammad Karim Beebani
Additionally, the thirty-second chapter (''sura
'') of the Qur'an
is titled As-Sajda
h ("The Prostration": see ), while the Arabic
word ''sujud'' (also meaning prostration) appears about 90 times in the Qur'an, a fact which many Muslim scholars claim to be another example of its significance in Islam.
According to a traditional account of the words and deeds
as contained in the collection of hadith
of Ibn Majah
, Muhammad is reported to have said that "The prayer alah
is a cure for many diseases" and have advised people to perform prostration gracefully.
It is also important to note that in Islam, prostration to any one but Allah is absolutely forbidden. Muhammad strictly prohibited Muslims from prostrating before him. Regardless of the circumstances, no Muslim should request, or even accept, it from others.
, there is a great importance placed on prostration, especially when a devotee is in the temples or in front of high souls. It represents the surrendering of ego
, the Tanakh
ic texts as well as writings of Gaonim
indicate that prostration was very common among Jewish communities until some point during the Middle Ages. In Mishneh Torah
states full prostration (with one's body pressed flat to the earth) should be practiced at the end of the Amidah, recited thrice daily. Members of the Karaite
denomination practice full prostrations during prayers. Traditionally, Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews
prostrated during Rosh Hashana
and Yom Kippur
, as did Yemenite Jews
during the Tachanun
part of daily Jewish prayer. Ethiopian Jews
traditionally prostrated during a holiday specific to their community known as ''Sigd
''. ''Sigd'' comes from a root word
meaning prostration in Ge'ez
, and Arabic
. There is a movement among ''Talmide haRambam
'' to revive prostration as a regular part of daily Jewish worship.
Rabbinical Judaism teaches that when the High Priest spoke the Tetragrammaton
in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur, the people in the courtyard were to prostrate themselves completely as they heard the name spoken aloud.
Judaism forbids prostration directly on a stone surface in order to prevent conflation with similar practices of Canaanite polytheist
prostrate in front of Guru Granth Sahib
, the holy scripture of the Sikhs. Sikhs consider Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru
and the unchanging word of God
: thus, by prostrating, Sikhs present their head to their Guru, awaiting command, which is taken in the form of a ''hukamnama'', or a random opening of Guru Granth Sahib to reveal an edict for the individual or congregation (similar to the ancient Roman practice of ''sortes sanctorum
'', a form of bibliomancy
). Sikhs call the prostration ''mutha tekna'' ("lowering the forehead"). Whenever and however many times a Sikh is in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib he will prostrate, usually upon the initial sight of Guru Granth Sahib and again upon leaving the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs, in their personal worship (morning Nitnem
and evening Rehras
), will prostrate upon the completion of prayers and the ardās
. The direction of prostration is not important as Sikhs place emphasis on the omnipresence
of God: however, if it is possible, Sikhs tend to prostrate in the direction in which ''bani'' (books containing the word of God, such as the Gutka Sahib or Pothi Sahib) are kept. Other prostrations practiced by Sikhs from an Indian culture are touching of the feet to show respect and great humility (generally done to grandparents and other family elders). Full prostration is reserved for Guru Granth Sahib, as prostration is considered to be the ultimate act of physical humility and veneration.
Outside of traditional religious institutions, prostrations are used to show deference to worldly power, in the pursuit general spiritual advancement and as part of a physical-health regimen.
In ancient Hawaii
, a form of prostration known as ''kapu moe
'' required all to prostrate in the presence of a ''nīʻaupiʻo'' or a ''piʻo'' chief on the pain of death. The only people exempt from this were chiefs of the next grade the ''naha'' and ''wohi'' chiefs who were required to sit in their presence. Other Polynesian groups are known to practice this.
In Imperial China
, a form of prostration known as a kowtow
or kētou was used as a sign of respect and reverence.
, a common form of prostration is called dogeza
, which was used as a sign of deep respect and submission for the elders of a family, guests, samurai
s'' and the Emperor. In modern times, it is generally used only in extreme circumstances, such as when apologizing for very serious transgressions or begging for an incredible favor.
To perform dogeza, a person first enters the sitting/kneeling position known as seiza
, and then proceeds to touch the head to the ground. This practice may be related to rites of the Shinto
religion and culture of Japan
dating back centuries.
Shugyo in martial arts
, particularly in the Shōtōkai
styles of Karate
, it is a form of extreme spiritual discipline
In modern yoga
practice, "sun salutations" (''sūrya namaskāra'') are a regular part of practitioners' routines. Such a practice may be used for both maintaining physical well-being and spiritual attainment
In traditional and contemporary Yoruba culture
, younger male family and community members greet elders by assuming a position called "doba'le". The traditional, full Yoruba prostration involves the prostrator lying down almost prone with his feet extended behind his torso while the rest of his weight is propped up on both hands. This traditional form is being replaced by a more informal bow and touching the fingertips to the floor in front of an elder with one hand, while bending slightly at the knee. The female form of the greeting is the "ikun'le", a form of kneeling where the younger party bows to one or both knees in front of an elder relative or community member. Both gestures are widely practiced; to not perform them would be considered ill-mannered.
Modified versions of both greetings are also common in traditional Yoruba religious and cultural contexts in the African diaspora
, particularly in Brazil and Cuba.
* ''Zemnoy poklon
Notes and references
External links Stand, Bow, Prostrate: The Prayerful Body of Coptic Christianity by Bishoy Dawood - Clarion ReviewProstrations in Oriental Orthodox Christianity demonstrated by a Coptic MonkProstrations in Orthodox Christianity by Fr. Seraphim Holland - St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Category:Gestures of respect