Why do we touch elders’ feet?
Touching the feet of elders is a very common gesture in the Indian tradition and it is an age old custom of showing one’s respect to elders and those who are spiritually accomplished. This is something that is taught to young children in Indian families. The main reason behind this gesture is to bow down and show respect to the elder.
The person, whose feet are being touched, blesses the young person touching feet with long life, good luck and wisdom, as an acknowledgement or appreciation in return. The act of bowing in front of elders, teachers and spiritual gurus makes the person seek blessing by feeling humble, softer and human. It kills the ego and pride when you bend or bow before somebody.
Just try touching the feet of the person you hate the most………… Do it and see the change within you. Why do we touch the feet, why not some hands or head? Feet are the foundation of the body. The entire weight of a person is borne by the feet when he/she stands and moves about. We humans are gifted with the ability of being able to walk with our two feet. When we bend down and touch the feet of our elders, our ego automatically pacifies for those few seconds; we show our respect for the person’s age, for his wisdom or insights, accomplishment and experience. It is one of the most enlightening gestures.
Usually, those that command the padasparsh (touching the feet) include spiritual masters, teachers, grandparents, parents, elder brothers, in-laws, and senior citizens. Usually, these people have accumulated a lot of virtues, understanding and experience. Their maturity enables them with a good insight into the truths and realities of life. The thoughts, vibrations and the words which come from them are very powerful hence greatly benefiting those who seek their blessings.
There is an exact way of touching the feet of elders. The person touching their feet must bend down in front of them with the back hunched and hands stretching forward, usually, when the hands are stretched to touch their feet. When the hands touch the feet, there is a closed circuit establish between those seeking the blessings and those blessing them. The result is a highly positive energy flowing from their feet to the person seeking blessings which transfers a lot of goodwill and healing energy. Also, the person whose feet are touched usually stretches his or her hands to touch the upper head of the person with a gesture of blessing. This connection forms yet another circuit again transferring energy and blessings.
It is believed that every time you bow, you receive a blessing; when the person whose feet are being touched raises the right hand in a gesture of blessing, often blesses with words such as “Ayushman Bhava” which means, may you live a long life, “Yashasvi Bhava” which means may you be successful, “Sukhee Bhava” which mean may you be happy etc.
A person’s feet are unclean, despite this fact it’s done because the person has walked this earth longer than you and gained wisdom through experience that you can benefit even from the dust stuck to their feet. Some families practice the gesture of ‘padasparsh’ each day as a part of greeting elders. However it assumes importance at the time of festivals and religious occasions, weddings etc. Do you know that it activates the seven chakras in body? Shraddha (faith) reduces ego, it increases Karuna (compassion) in heart.
This practice is sadly vanishing with time. Cultural, generational, and experiential changes in society are damaging some of our good practices. People don’t have time even to sit by side of the elders and talk to them for few minutes. People are becoming so self obsessed that this good ritual seems waste of time for some. But the fact is that elder are valued as repositories of wisdom, strength and unconditional love.