The hospitality industry is a major money making venture involving millions of people directly and indirectly in its promotion and profit. Nations of note have made investment in this industry in order to reap a huge slice of wealth. Tourism is part of this industry. Tourist resorts, tourist guides, flight and shopping partners are all part of the hospitality venture.
The Kural devotes a complete chapter to “Hospitality’ but its focus is not in wealth making. Its emphasis is on greeting the stranger in the home, feeding him, making his stay comfortable and send him on his way with a smile. There is no monetary transaction involved, it is done as a moral duty.
Kural 86 of Chapter 9 which deals with hospitality says that the ideal householder should welcome the guest who had come to his abode unannounced. He should also be on the look out for further number of guests who may come to him as unannounced as the former guest. Offering hospitality is an endless process that involves every householder.
Offering food to the kith and kin does not come under the heading of hospitality. The Kural deals with hospitality offered to strangers. About making the guest comfortable and at ease the Kural says ‘the face of the guest should not show any unhappiness due to the paucity of greeting, food and bed rest offered to him.‘ Maximum priority should be given to his well-being and comfort.
The question arises as to why such importance is given to this hospitality which does not involve pecuniary matters that is sometimes painful in taxing one’s slender resources. The Kural says ‘first feed the guest and appease your hunger with what in left over‘. This is rather too much but that is the message of this work of ethics, morality and familial duty.
Ancient India as it is today was a land of villages. Today highways, roads, streets and well established pathways straddle the country. But in ancient times only the main arteries remained and isolated villages and hamlets were the norm. Travelers had no place to stay when darkness sets in, on their journey. What was available was the householder’s abode which was given the task of welcoming and feeding him during his short stay. Thus hospitality of yore was a reflection of the time.
Turning the guest away without a welcome was an act of callousness tantamount to a violation of ‘Aram‘, the righteous conduct. Ancient societies gave priority to the stranger-guest with the words “you’re welcome, this is your home“. This is reflected in the Kural.