Why Indians Eat With Their Hands?


Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru once said, “Eating biryani with fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.”

Not only in India, in other parts of this world eating with our hands, is a part of the culture and tradition. This may seem to be un-civilized for some, but what could be the most natural way of enjoying one’s meal than this? First of all, one needs to understand the simple fact that being culturally different doesn’t mean that the other person is wrong. Acceptance and mutual respect is what makes a man worthy. Moreover, there is no right or wrong in some conditions.

Looking back to history, Indians in all ways have been influenced by the Vedic teachings. Here also it’s the same. Eating with hands originated with the Ayurvedic teachings which argued that the body is in sync with the elements of nature and that the five fingers are the extensions of the five elements- air, water, earth, fire, and space.

  • Thumb for space
  • Forefinger for air
  • Mid-finger for fire
  • Ring finger for water
  • Pinky finger for earth.

And when you eat with your hands, you are supposed to join all the fingers together which makes you feed not only the body but also your soul.

When our skin is in direct contact with the food we would be more conscious while eating on how much food is to be taken, the temperature variations, the texture, and the other elements. This helps us not only to enjoy the taste but also the physical characteristics. This also aids in better digestion, according to recent researches.


India’s cultural diversity is admired and accepted worldwide. And this diversity could be well seen in the eating behaviors of people from different parts of the nation. Let it be the northeastern regions of Sikkim or the southern part of Kanyakumari, the cuisine change is out of one’s imagination. In some regions, non-veg is given more importance while other states like Tamil Nadu give a green label for more vegetarian cuisines. No matter what the dish in the plate, having it with one’s hands, enjoying the delicious spices and aroma is in itself a heavenly thing.

Another important aspect is the type of food Indians have. The majority of the Indians consume food such as rotis, parattas, idlis, etc, which would be quite difficult for anyone to have with spoon or forks. And the fish curry cuisine is very famous, which includes fishes with quite a number of bones, if not separated carefully with hands could even lead them to get stuck inside the food canal.

The most important question is regarding the hygiene factor related to using your hands while having food. In fact, it’s quite healthier than using an unwashed spoon in a restaurant to have it with your own hands. Indians have a habit of washing hands with a cleanser preferably before the intake of food, which would obviously deal with the question of hygiene. More importantly, it’s not only before but also after the meals, that the cleansing is done.

Unfortunately, the new generation is giving more importance to western culture, considered the old Indian habit a big ‘NO NO’. As mentioned earlier, the Indian tradition is highly influenced by the Vedic culture and teachings. Recent researches and findings have validated this habit of Indian culture to be scientifically apt and healthy. There is no good reason to reject this tradition in the name of modernity.