Why Indians Eat With Their Hands

Eating food with your hands

This may sound familiar to some of you. Remember when your mother or father would tell you to stop playing with your food and use a fork and knife? Well, perhaps you still shouldn’t play with your food, but in India you should definitely set aside that cutlery and use your hands when eating a delicious Indian meal.

In India, as well as other parts of the world, eating with your hands is part of the culture. After all, what could be more natural, more primal? Though many may view this custom as uncivilized, the practice is not as easy as it may look. There is in fact a skill to it and manners to follow. There are also several health benefits from eating with your hands such as improves digestion and prevention of diabetes. There’s also an even deep significance as to why eating with your hands is so important according to Indian culture.

When did eating with yours hands become a thing in India?

The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. The Vedic people believed that our bodies are in sync with the elements of nature and our hands hold a certain power. Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements:

  • Through the thumb comes space
  • Through the forefinger comes air
  • Through the mid-finger comes fire
  • Through the ring finger comes water
  • Through the pinky finger comes earth

When you eat with your hands, you are supposed to do so by joining all fingers together. This is believed to improve our consciousness of the taste of the food we eat. Not only are you feeding your body but also your mind and spirit. When you touch your food with your hands, you’re creating a physical and spiritual connection with it. You’re also much more present in the moment. When food is touched with the hands, there’s automatically more careful attention placed on it – what the temperature is, how much you can carry, how the hand must be held in order to keep the food in it.

Eating with your hands is respectful!

When you are invited into the home of an Indian family for a meal, it’s a mark of respect towards the host and god to physically touch your food when eating. However, there is a technique to eating this way. In the south of India, it’s considered ill-mannered to let the palm of your hands or outside of your fingers get stained. Proper etiquette is to only use the tips of your fingers to pick up the food. This goes back to our fingertips holding certain energies.

What about soupy food? Do I use my hands for these types of dishes?

In general, silverware is used only in the kitchen for preparing and for serving the food. However, for more liquidly foods such as some dal dishes, a spoon can be used. In the North of India, rice can also be eaten with a spoon but in the South, the practice of eating food (including rice) from a banana leaf is practised.

Eating Indian Food with Hands

What about the whole saying “you don’t know where your hands have been?”

Well, I sure hope you do. After all, they are your hands!

You will find that in every Indian restaurant there’s a hand washing station. This is so you can clean your hands before enjoying your meal. As for the skeptics who still believe there’s bacteria on your hands that shouldn’t be consumed….

Our body has a certain kind of bacteria that protects us from other harmful bacteria in the environment. This good bacteria resides in places like our hands, mouth, throat, intestine, gut and the rest of our digestive system. When you eat with your hands, this good bacteria enters your system and protects you against harmful bacteria. So, as long as you wash the bad bacteria you’ve collected from your day off your hands, you’ll be giving your body a dose of good bacteria that it needs to stay healthy.

Along with the ingesting good bacteria, there are other health benefits to reap from eating with your hands:

Improves Digestion

When you use your fingers to pick up food, millions of nerve endings in your fingers relay the message that you’r about to eat. This preps the stomach for digestion by releasing digestive juices and enzymes.

Promotes Mindful Eating

I’ve read several articles sharing the same message of the importance of eating slow and only when relaxed. Eating when your stressed or too fast can lead to some pretty ugly indigestion problems you don’t want to deal with. A calm, aware state allows optimum digestion. Not only that, but it also prevents you from overeating.

It’s fun

Whether you’re a 5-year old child or a 50-year old business man, there’s no fighting the fact that eating with your hands is fun. Admit it!

Final tip!

For India, as well as other countries that eat with their hands, it’s almost without exception that the right hand only is used. Why? The left hand is generally considered too unclean to actually eat with since it’s said to be the one used to wipe up in the washroom.

Have you ever eaten with your hands? Did you enjoy it?


  • You might be born as a Indian, but that doesn’t make you a HINDU! If you are not a hindu then you know 0 about veda agamas, you become a hindu when you discover veda agamas 🙂

    Source code of our reality, everything is in there. INCLUDING eating with hands! Eating with hands is better for sure, veda agamas never lie – what they suggest you should follow 🙂

    There’s no better master to have than Nithyananda <3 he has spoken many times about eating with hands.

  • Indian are poofter by nature they did hold hands even in the Arab world, people thinking these poofters are Arabs. 1960s employment policies in Australia summed up as: ‘No blacks,(Indian & African) no poofters, no male prostitute.

  • It’s okay to eat with your hand unless you make it a mess. Its okay to do anything without grossing people out. But the ayurvedic reasons are hilarious mumbo jumbos. I am an Indian, and I know it doesn’t do a shit related to diabetes or any such lifestyle diseases. This is a western tendency to look for mystified meanings in Indian culture and look at those actions with awe. Please stop that, Its ridiculous. Its just we eat with hand. Just like that. Our food demands for that, the way we mix and match. That’s it.

    • I completely agree with you. The reasons they give here are such a bunch of bullshit. Indian food isn’t much complex like noodles, etc, and neither do we have an extremely cold climate (barring some regions), so it’s a given that the old guys thought it’s just simple to pick up food using your hands and eat.

  • Here in Nepal the people eat with their hands too. Does anyone care how ugly it looks? Are we animals or civized human beings? Just because it is a tradition doesn\\\’t make it right. I say, don\\\’t be a follower.. Think about the message you are sending. Do you want to be perceived as an ignorant peasant or a dignified and refined person.? In almost any classy restaurant you would be kicked out for eating like a savage. Until this year it was the tradition to slaughter thousands of innocent animals too during a religious festival until worldwide condemnation stopped it. That was a centuries old tradition but that was just wrong, and extremely ugly. But at local restaurants people still drink out of a common ptcher rather than ask for a glass. It\\\’s like living in the 17th century before we knew how dangerous germs can be. It\\\’s no wonder India and Nepal are one of the 5 most polluted places on earth where everyone just throws their trash out tgeir windows into the street. But no one seems to care. So I say eating with your hands is just a symbol of how ugly and degraded life has become here.

  • Many benefits have been discussed in Ayurveda for hand-eating. It is said that human body is made up of the sum of five elements. Those called “life energy” are known. According to Ayurveda, the five elements that formed the human body have been created. These five elements are present in the fingers of our hands and five fingers of our hand are symbols of these elements. So this is the reason why Indians Eat with their hands.

  • Im at indian Ghandi Vegetarian Restaurante n KLi malaysia. I notice they dont have napkins either. And they use one of either hand THere is no hand-washing basin anywhere to be seen. Also the rice bucket at beggining of buffet line is put back into the bucket so the handle is touching the rice; laid down upon it after contact with the hand, and i have been here three times because love the food. There are spoons on every table but they use their hands. I am most unjudgemental person i know but to be frank i put this down to group-animal psychosis. As a busiman who has hired over 1000 people in my career i take note. Have lost respect for indians, consider them to be animal brain monkeys. Would never trust one in any executive role.

  • India may have healthy food and their traditions; well, we must respect them but to think that somehow they are some spiritual state is ill thinking. Here’s why- India has zero respect for their female women- family members or community. They are predatory, they marry babies, have sex with babies, use acid as revenge, are hardly ever in the company of women, walk hand in hand in common areas with men, encourage boca boys and relationships, and appear to be more attracted to the same sex than other cultures. This is my observation and research. So, all this spirituality and healthy eating as well as they culture makes them just as human as others; No one on this earth is perfect. Not even how one believes that eating is more spiritual than morals.

    • How can it be healthy when the spatular used to scoop the rice out of the lidded bucket is put back in the bucket, and twice now i have seen hair in te rice. This is cultural. Look at all the skin diseases indians have, not to mention leperosy. Their culture dirty, which in modern world is sheer stupid. 100 years ago medicine didnt know transfer of bacteria causing disease. Sanitary practice is to minimise its opportunity. Its masspsychosis stupidty. I take note. I realise now doing business with indiansbwould be like doing business with monkeys. I love them because they dont eat meat, but their filthy habits are only possible because all the herbs and spicies stop the bacteria.

      • Hey my ex-girlfriend wrote this shit on the website using my name, as I mentioned I had just eaten at a great restaurant was staying near Ghandi Vegetarian Restaurant.
        Can you please remove these rude posts and this post as well. There are three here she has put on this website and all over the internet.

      • M sure u are entitled to your opinion but your opinions are very stimed and Reflect your limited understanding and perception as a person!
        Hopefully u will grow

  • My favorite food is Paneer. (everything without Palak Paneer and Chili Paneer). Go to Mumbai, then you will know how tasty is paneer. Living in INdia is a great expierence for your life. I'm a Indian. Btw, you will hardly find non-vegeterian food like chicken. You will find it but vegeterian will be very common for you. I'm a pure vegeterian, I don't like to eat "animals". No offense BUT I HATE NON-VEG FOOD.

  • I never ate with my hands before (we don’t count some chips and pizza here, right? ;)) and I’m always the person that hates getting her hands dirty, but I would definitely eat with my hands if its polite & respectful!

    • It does count. I’m a Indian. No one in my family ever eat pizza with a fork or spoon or told me to. I eat chips with my hands too. Just some liquidy stuff I use spoons. Even when eating pasta I use my hands and dont really care if my family tells me not to!

  • It’s hard because I’m a left handed. I’m very uncoordinated with my right hand but I had to adapt to be respectful. Great post! New information I’ve never heard before.

      • Hey Anubhav, are you an Indian? If you are an Indian or anyone who normally eat foods with hands won’t have any problem eating with your right hand even if you are left handed. Because it’s a tradition we been following for years so in that case, your family will teach to teach to eat with your right from a little age so if you think about it comes naturally for you but when a person who is eating with their hands for the first time, doesn’t matter if they are right or left handed. For them it’s a new experience and it takes them some time get used to it.


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