The West considers eating food with one’s hands to be unhygienic. And ill-mannered and primitive. However, since ancient times, Indians have believed in eating food with hands. There are several benefits of eating with hands like it feeds not only the body but also the mind and soul. Having said that, let’s look at some of them.
Origin of the Tradition of Eating With Hands
The origin behind this old adage dates back to Vedic days when people ate with their hands. This practice originated with Ayurvedic teachings which made people aware of the energy present in their hands. Our hands and feet are the conduits of the panchabhootas—the five elements of nature that constitute our body—and each finger of our hands is an extension of the five elements. The thumb is Agni or fire that helps with digestion. This is one of the major benefits of eating with hands. One often sees infants sucking their thumbs; this is nature’s way of aiding the digestion of infants at an age when they are unable to do any physical activity. The forefinger is for Vayu or air; the middle finger is for Akash or ether—the tiny intercellular spaces in the human body; the ring finger is Prithvi or earth, and the little finger is for Jal or water.
Why is food eaten with hands more palatable?
Another of the numerous benefits of eating with hands is that each finger aids in the process of transformation of food. Before it passes on for internal digestion. Gathering the fingertips, particularly while eating rice—the native and staple food of ancient India—as they touch the food, it stimulates the five elements and invites the Jatharagni or the fire in our stomach to bring forth the digestive juices. The person becomes more conscious of the taste, texture, and aroma of the food, and this adds to the pleasure of eating. It is an established fact that food, when consumed with hands, is different in taste and more palatable than food eaten with a fork and knife.