Pranāma – Touching Feet


If there is one thing I am really nervous about in my upcoming visit to India (apart from the Internal flights!) It’s touching peoples feet.

I Understand the showing of respect to elders, and the importance of doing this to Babu’s Parents upon meeting out of respect and also making the best first impression, but what is worrying me is the mechanics of it all.

I can’t seem to find any sort of video on youtube to guide me either! I undertsand you touch their feet and they put they hand on/over your head to bless you, but I have a few questions…..

– Do you bend at the waist? crouch/squat? or full on go down on your knees?

– If you are doing it to two people next to each other – do you get up in-between or do both whilst your there?

– Do you just touch with a finger? or whole hand?

– Which bit of the foot do you actually touch?

– When do you get back up? straight away?

I’ve tried to get answers from Babu but he’s not being particularly helpful, and then when I asked for a demonstration it turned into a bicker as as much as he wants me to get it right out of pride/tradition/whatever he would not show me!!!

I know I’m probably majorly over thinking this but since it is the first impression I will make I want to get it right,

Any help will be much appreciated.


22 responses to “Pranāma – Touching Feet

  • Chardi Kala Wife

    I recommend asking your bf about this. Regardless I am sure his family will be pleased by you respecting their culture.
    In punjab we bend at the waist and gesture reaching to their feet but don’t actually touch feet.
    In my family women don’t touch feet regardless.
    In south indian families I have seen people physically crouch and touch their hands and head to the feet…
    Your bf can best guide you. Personally it is hard to reconcile the western ‘kiss my feet’ servant ideal and the Indian ‘dust/feet is wisdom’, I also don’t believe wisdom is age based so I am glad I don’t have to do this.
    Good luck!

    • ria

      Oh I asked him, but to be honest I still didn’t feel like I quite understood enough, and am keen to hear of other’s experience.

      I’d rather not do it, bur of course want to make the best fist impression!

  • Mileska Rodriguez

    Difficult I learned from any SRK/Kajol movie on how to do it. It was done a lot in K3G. Sorry I can’t be more helpful but I know when I showed my ex how I would do it if I met his father and he was shocked and pleased.

  • Billiejoy

    Unfortunately from my experience there are a lot of ways to do this. Many people don’t even touch the feet but more the front of the calf. And they don’t bend down all the way just at the waist enough to reach down to the calf and immediately come back up. It is really going to depend on what your future in-laws expect. Watch some south Indian movies…they seem to do it all the time. (Tamil, Telegu or Kanada I am sure there are languages too.)

  • Andrea

    For most people a simple namaskar will be perfectly fine. The feet touching thing varies family to family. Follow your husband’s lead and it should be okay. For us it was really only for the elders of the family and for teachers; you just sort of bend/crouch (not squat) and touch their feet kind of in the middle with your right hand and then bring your right hand to your heart as you stand back up. Sometimes they will stop you from doing it, sometimes they’ll put their hands on your head, sometimes they’ll do nothing at all. The mechanics are actually really simple; it’s the “do I touch feet or do namaskar?” question that’s the big pain 😉 Few people will probably expect you to so if you stick to namaskar it should be okay too.

    • ria

      Thanks Andrea, well… I’ve been told I should touch their feet, only on first meeting, but the scary thing is it’s pretty much the first thing I’ll be doing when I arrive. I guess the discomfort comes from the fact it’s so unfamiliar to my own culture. I felt embarrased doing namaskar when I was there last year which is so silly cos you can hardly go wrong. I guess I’m overy sensitive because I don’t want to offend!

  • loveonthebeach

    Hey hun, don’t be too nervous. They will be so touched that you are willing to do it even if you think you’ve done it wrong. I slightly bend my knees and lean down to touch with my fingertips the top of each foot close to the ankle. I absolutely hate feet and freaked out when I first heard about this, but now it doesn’t bother me. If the people are standing next to each other you could touch all the feet in one go, but I usually stand back up in between each person since the ladies always hug me. In P’s family we touch our heart and top of our head after touching the feet. You will be fine and I can’t wait to hear all about it!!xx

    • ria

      I KNOW!! I absolutely hate feet too… in particular toenails, so will be heading the furthest to the top of the foot as possible!!

      That’s really reassuring to hear, I’ll have to ask Babu about that heart/head thing since I’ve seen people do that too!

      I tell you, It’ll be such a relief once I’m there, greeted everyone and can go to bed and sleep it all off!

  • Manpreet Singh Dhillon

    Hello there Ria,
    1. Yes you bend at waist. That means you need to lower your upper body to touch their feet. But some people do sit down to touch someone’s feet but they are very few.
    2. This depends up on you and how far they are standing. You can either remain bend and move to the next person or you can stand straight and then go to the next person. But actuallly you should stand to give them a shy smile or asnwer any question they’ve asked of you.
    3. Again this depends, well I touch the tips of all my fingers to their feet and then touch my fingers to my forhead. Some people like my sister in law, they cup the feet and then touch their forhead.
    4. Touching the feet should take 2 – 3 seconds, they will bless you in that time. Either they blessed you or not, you should get up but this shouldn’t look too fast so take a 2 – 4 second window.

  • American Punjaban PI

    When I did it (most time I faked it lol) I bent at the waist, touched the top portion of their foot (about 1-2 inches away from their toes but toward their ankle) with my middle finger (all my fingers were together but the middle one touched it) very gently and briefly. I didn’t get up between touches if there were 2 people next to each other and I came back up straight away (slowly of course since their hand is on your head). You will feel their hand as a sort of guide as you come up.

  • Nilay

    Hi Ria,

    You just need to bend at the waist,

    yes if you are doing to many people just get up n then follow again

    not necessarily touching any part of feet just or utmost big toe will be enough. only with your fingers

    get up straight away once they keep their hand for bless.

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