Why Do Indians Eat with Hands

Eating food with your hands. When one hear of this, the first thing which strikes one’s mind is , “Oh God! Why?” Some people take it as an unhygienic practice. Other’s think, “Oh! I can’t eat with my fingers!” I have heard such remarks many times. In India, particularly in Eastern and Southern India, people prefer to set aside the cutlery. They desire to use their hands to eat their meals. In several places, at important social and religious events, it is mandatory to eat with hands. In the customary communal meals in weddings and after cremations, called bhoj, the food is to be taken sitting on ground and to be eaten with hands. Indeed, it would be considered disrespectful, if cutlery is used. Similarly, in religious meals or Prasad at major temples, it is to be consumed sitting on the floor with hands. In several parts of the world, including India, eating with hands is an integral part of the culture. . Perhaps some food items taste delicious when eaten with hands. Some may take it as a sign of backwardness but it has got certain benefits too. It improves digestion and is effective for diabetes patients. Actually, every tradition followed in India has sound scientific reasoning.

Origin of Eating with Hands.

In Ayurvedic teachings, one can find the origins of eating with hands. People in the Vedic times believed that our body co-exists with the elements of nature. Our hand holds divine power. The Ayurvedic texts enumerate that fingers are and extension of one of the five elements. It is described under the topic of “mudras”.

Image Courtesy: http://www.meditatonfornonmeditator.com/secret-life-body-mudras-day7/

The thumb represents the space.

Index finger represents Air.

Middle finger represents the Fire.

Ring Finger represents water.

Little Finger represents the earth.

While eating with our hands we join all our fingers together. It is the amalgamation of the five elements forming connection with the cosmos. Therefore, energizing the food with cosmic energy! So, let us improve our consciousness of the taste of food. IT tastes more delicious as it not only serves our body but also our mind and spirit. It creates a physical and spiritual connection. While eating with hands we are conscious we eat, slowly. We care about the temperature of the food, digestion becomes better.

One doesn’t remember where all one has put their hands. So before eating food, a thorough handwash is necessary. Clean your hands before and after eating meals. Our body has a certain kind of bacteria. Some good bacteria are found in places like our hands, mouth, throat, intestine, gut and the rest of our digestive system. When we eat with our hands, the good bacteria enters our system and protects us against the harmful bacteria. So long as you get rid of these bad bacteria, you will be giving your body a dose of good bacteria. That it needs to stay healthy.

Some advantages of eating with your hands:-

1) When our fingers hold the food, millions of nerve endings relay the message that we are about to start eating. This prepares the stomach for digestion by releasing digestive juices and enzymes.

2) Eating fast leads to indigestion. Whereas when we eat slow, we chew our food properly and it gets digestive more efficiently. So, relax and eat with your hands and you will automatically slow down. Sometimes, stressful eating can lead to over eating and bad indigestion.

In India, usually right hand is used to eat food as left hand is considered to be unclean and is considered offensive. Now more and more people even in western societies, like in the United States, are embracing eating with hand. Malaysians are encouraging this habit too. A few restaurants and food joints have taken this up.

So, the next time someone says, “Don’t eat with your hands”, we can enlighten them!!!

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