Indians eat with their hands—a tradition that could be important for your wellbeing

Why do people in India eat with their hands? Many Indians have been eating with their hands since childhood, but how many have considered if there may be deeper meanings for this cultural practise. For centuries, people in India, irrespective of their background, have been eating with hands. This is deeply rooted in their culture and ancient traditions.

According to Ayurvedic tradition our hands and feet are said to be the conduit of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each of our fingers is an extension of one of the five elements.

Ayurveda says each finger is an extension of one of the five elements.

The thumb is agni fire.

The forefinger is vayu air.

The middle finger is Akash, ether.

The ring finger is prithvi, earth.

The little finger is jal, water.

Tradition of eating food is linked with mudra practice.

In ancient India the tradition of eating food with the hands came from the mudra practice, which is seen in many spiritual disciplines in eastern traditions. Mudras are used during certain mediation practices and are also used in various classical forms of dance in India like Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Kathak.

Ayurveda believes hands are the most precious organ of action.

It’s believed that before food goes for internal digestion through the digestive canal, each finger helps in its transformation when we eat with hands. When fingertips touch the food, five elements get stimulated and this invites Agni to help in the release of digestive juices. “As well as improving digestion the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating,” said an article in Ayurhealth.

Finger tips help in the external transformation of food before it goes inside.

“Eating with your fingers  helps you to judge the temperature of the morsel and rules out the possibility of an ulcer or a scalded tongue. Sitting on the floor and eating rather than a dining table is recommended because the repeated bending of the spine improves blood circulation and digestion,” explained the article.

Growing up in Indian homes you would have observed your mother and grandmother using hands and fingers to measure the quantity of masala to be added to food. As each handful is tailored to provide a suitable amount for the own body.

“The five fingers also represents taste like sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. Therefore even if you are a newbie to the practice of eating with your hands, do make an attempt,” said the article.