‘Wai’ given national identity status
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‘Wai’ given national identity status

Gesture adapted from India has taken on unique identity in Thailand

A teacher, a student and the student’s guardian exchange wai greetings at Banbangkapi School in January. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
A teacher, a student and the student’s guardian exchange wai greetings at Banbangkapi School in January. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The cabinet has agreed to make the “wai” gesture a national identity for greetings and expressions of respect, according to a deputy government spokesman.

Karom Phonphonklang said that although people in Southeast Asia adopted the “wai” from India through Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, Thais made their “wai” unique by developing a variety of the gesture to express diverse and profound meanings.

To “wai”, practitioners straighten their palms with all digits close to each other and put their palms together. Then they pull both hands close to either chin, nose, the middle of the eyebrows or chest and bow their head slightly to express greetings and respect to people of different levels, be they juniors, seniors, peers and monks.

“The Thai wai is the social and traditional expression that has been adhered to in Thais’ lifestyles for a long time,” said Mr Karom. “It shows the goodness and feelings of the people who make the gesture.”

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