I am not ashamed to admit that I have bent to touch the feet of men and women in India. A little bit of feet touching can go a long way towards the heart of another person if you understand the ritual behind the practise. Feet touching is an elevated form of a high Namaste and more intimate than a hug, it’s a sign of deep respect.
The sharp eyed observer of Indian cultural etiquette will see that there are two types of ritual greeting practised when meeting one’s fellow man in public. Initially people will greet each other with hands held in the Namaste position, sometimes that’s all that happens. Other times if there is a disparity in age or even caste, one person will bend to touch the feet of the other.
The response to this can go two ways.
The ‘touchee’ will leap three steps backward with their hands in the “No, no, no” mudra and often bring the potential ‘foot toucher’ to an upright position by grabbing their shoulders.
This kind of feet touching is an exaggerated and playful meeting of equals.
The other kind of feet touching happens when someone very quickly bends at the knees and scoops down with one graceful movement, places a hand on each foot of the touchee and straightens up to the hand raised in blessing of the elder, saint or politician.
So what really is going on with that little ritual, you may ask?
It’s about the transfer of punya (or sin) from one’s body to another, elders are said to be the people who can sustain more sin in their body (that would work with politicians) so when we touch the feet of elders and saints (still not sure about politicians), we are said to receive their blessings and wisdom in return for our pathetic sins.
Touching the feet of elders, saints and politicians is known as the unification of “Shraddha” and “Karuna” Shradda works from the solar plexis chakra and is concerned with ego and controlling emotions, while Karuna is concerned with activating the heart chakra of saints and elders. The ritual is also seen as practised in divine puja, the practise demonstrating the science of receptivity and humility.
Image Source: Sam Oppenheim