Why do Indians eat with hands?

Eating with bare hand is a traditional Indian culture, which people still follow. Eating is a mindful process since the sensory organs like touch and taste are involved. Fingertips are used to feel the temperature and texture of our food. Nerves at our fingertips send a signal to our brain, and the brain activates the human body’s digestive system and further improves the digestion process. In practice, Indians sit down on the floor in comfortable clothes and eat in a big banana leaf or Saili leaf. This process activates your senses and makes you enjoy your meal.

Eating with hand is a mindful eating…

But, is it good or bad to use hands?

Stay till the end…

Imagine eating roti with a spoon and dosa with a fork. Sounds weird right? Oh well, it is!

Traditional Indian foods are made to eat with hand. We use hands to eat foods like rice, chappati, vada, dosa, chicken, fish, papad, Pongal, and many more. While eating, curry is mixed with rice or stuffed in a roti that gives a flavor of multiple spices added while preparing the dish.

Here raises a question…

Is eating with your hand “unhygienic”?

Washing hands before eating is a habit of everybody. Indian tradition follows hygiene and cleanliness during dining. The hand once used by a person to consume their food is not used to serve or to share because that is treated as ‘jootha’ meaning contamination and treated as an unhygienic way of eating. People are supposed to wash their own dishes after eating which reduces the intermixing of saliva of two individuals as a concern of one’s health.

Significance of eating with hands:

According to the ancient theory, all five fingers of our hand has its own spiritual significance and it symbolizes the 5 elements of nature. 

  1. Thumb finger- Fire
  2. Index finger- Air
  3. Middle finger- Space
  4. Ring finger- Earth
  5. Little finger- Water

Apart from those theories, it was proved that using hand while eating improves the healthy digestion of food. Our palms and fingers are protected by a bacteria called Normal Flora. Normal Flora protects our skin from harmful microbes. Hence your hand is safe to use.

Is India the only country where people eat with their hands? 

Obviously Not!! 

India is not the only country where people follow the tradition of eating with hands. People from large swaths like the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, South America follow the norm of using their hands to eat. Tribes in Nigeria, Amazighs (Berbers) in North Africa, Black Africa, the Arabs of the Middle East also follow this tradition.

‘Kamayan‘ meaning “with hands.” Kamayan is an ancient tradition traditional Filipino practice of eating with the hands. They believe that eating with hands has its own significance than eating with fork and knife. It is also referred to specific type of Filipino feast known as the “boodle fight”.

Ethopian eating culture

Conclusion

Remember, it’s your culture and there is nothing to be ashamed of using your hand. Every culture in this world deserves respect. This article is all about bringing out the importance of Indian culture and not to dishonor western dining etiquette. Nowadays, restaurants and cafes are all westernized. As the customs and lifestyle changes it is our responsibility to hold and accept our own culture first. 

Creating an awareness among the people about the science behind our culture is the main motive of this article!!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customs_and_etiquette_in_Indian_dining

https://www.indiatoday.in/fyi/story/eat-hands-indians-357398-2016-12-14

http://www.timotis.com/news-1/eat-with-your-hands

credits to the right owner of the images used.