Touching Feet

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Touching Feet – a Most Common Gesture of Showing Love and Respect to Elders

By Vishal Sharma

‘Touching feet’ is one of the most common gestures of showing love and respect for elders among various traditions and customs prevalent in India. It is a very important aspect of Indian culture. Another important aspect of this tradition is that the person who touches the feet should always be younger in age and status to the person whose feet have to be touched.

This gesture is a part of India’s rich culture and heritage, and we are proud of such traditions in our society as it is the only gesture that makes us different from the whole world. A person who touches the feet of the elders shows that he or she is aware of one’s own culture. Knowing about the Mahabharata or the Ramayana does not matter so much as that of following this gesture.

Touching feet is a very nice tradition as it shows the respect of the younger generation for the older ones. In India, it is one of the first and foremost etiquettes that one learns from a very young age. This is one of the lessons given to the children among the various classes (be high, be low) in which one shows respect for age.

Children are taught to touch the feet of all the elders of the family as well as respected elder relatives and friends of the family. If the other person is a spiritual person of society, then also the custom has to be followed. Some children are also taught to touch their teacher’s feet. In joint families, this custom is easy to adapt by the youngsters as they see their parents following the tradition of touching feet towards their grandparents, or elders.

While the children are asked and reminded again and again to touch the feet of their elders, for the elder children this reaction is expected to be a spontaneous one. Today in our homes, it has become an involuntary action for all. Some foreign-returned individuals also show that they have not forgotten their culture by following this tradition after returning from abroad.

It has been seen that their elders are overwhelmed by just seeing this one action of theirs. They feel that their teachings and upbringing has not been wasted. Just imagine that such a small gesture of touching feet can give so much immense pleasure to the elders.

Some families have made this tradition a part of their daily routine, whereas some others follow this tradition of touching feet only on special occasions or festivals. Some of the special occasions include birthdays, anniversaries, or just before leaving for an examination or interview. Other special occasions are the first day of a job or business venture, going for a journey or on return from a journey, and engagements and weddings.

After the wedding ceremony is over, the newly wedded couple has to touch the feet of all the elders and respected members of the families of both the bride and the groom. This is compulsory custom without which the Indian wedding rituals are said to be incomplete. The priest asks the bride and the groom to do so just after the traditional ‘pheras’ are finished. In some families, children are expected to daily touch the feet of their parents while going to bed as well as when waking up in the morning.

Today our present generation is quite uncomfortable in following this tradition heartily and with emotions. From very early childhood, one should inculcate this habit in the child in such a way that it becomes a necessity for the child to receive his parent’s blessings while touching their feet. Some people take it negatively as they think that it is just an act of being submissive in front of the other person.

But this is not so. There is a give and take relationship involved in this tradition too. In giving respect by touching the feet of others, it is repaid with a gesture of the other person returning it with blessings and love. Whatever may be the reason, the only thing that matters is that all these traditions and customs should be solely from the heart and not just out of formality. Bending down to touch the feet with an unwanted feeling of doing so is of no use at all because traditions and customs should have a personal indulgence and joy, and should not just be a formal ritual.

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