Indian weddings are accompanied by cultural, traditional and religious ceremonies that have been handed over from one generation to another. Over a period of time, many of these have transformed into an enthusiastic display of fun and frolic with little sign of any value other than entertainment. However, the foundational significance of the practice of some age-old rituals still remains and they are carried out with reverence even today.
Touching of feet of elders after marriage is one such tradition which is still practiced by Hindus of all class, rich or poor, rural or urban or even those settled abroad. The reverential form of salutation or “Pranaam” is derived from Sanskrit. ‘Pra’ means in front of and ‘Anama ‘refers to bending/stretching. Thus we get pranama, the ancient form of obeisance, bending forward, in salutation of a revered elder, teacher or a deity. The practice adopted sometime during the Vedic period, is not akin to India only but is prevalent in Asia where Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism is practiced.
Indians touch the feet of elders on many occasions to seek their blessings like when starting something new when going on a journey, before an exam, on meeting an elderly person and after puja or festivity and after marriage/birthday ceremonies.
As a custom, the newly wedded couple also touches the feet of parents and other elderly relatives after completing their wedding ceremonies. This is to seek the blessings of the good wishers and leaned elderly members for a harmonious, blissful journey which the couple would be embarking upon. It is a common sight in all marriage halls in Delhi and other northern regions to witness the newlywed going around together touching the feet of the senior relatives.
How it is done: Different cultural background follow their own custom style of touching the feet and these will again be witnessed on all marriage dates in 2019. Some bend the upper part of a body in front of the elder without bending the knees and stretch the arms parallel together to touch the left leg with the right hand and right leg with the left hand and then touch both hands to one's forehead. In some customs, the couple sits down with knees bent and touches the feet or bows their heads to the feet in reverence. The elderly then lightly touch the couples head or back in blessings or sprinkle raw rice colored with turmeric (akshat) to bless the couple.
Benefit: The practice of touching the feet of elders benefits the couple as they start their new phase of life with submission of their egos in front of elders who are more knowledgeable, experienced, well-wishers and guides. The elders impart their blessings which is a noble way of starting a new life together. Scientifically it’s proven that nerve endings at the tip of the fingers are charged and establish a closed circuit contact on touching the feet of elders. This ensures a positive flow of energy. The physical exercise of bending the body and stretching of arms also relieves a couple of any joint / muscle pain that maybe there due to prolonged duration of sitting through the marriage ceremony.
Whose feet do you touch: in most families the couple touches the feet of all elderly relatives of the bride and the grooms family as a mark of respect to the knowledge, experience, and virtues that they have acquired by traversing the earth through so many years. It is extremely important and benefitting for the couple who show them humbleness and respect. In some families, the daughter is revered as a form of Devi and is not allowed to touch the feet of her parents or relatives.
Bending down in reverence in front of elders to touch their feet is a sign of humility and allows the couple to let go of all their egos. The elderly in turn are filled with compassion and shower the couple with blessings of long, happy married life ahead