Those who do not know much about the Indian culture and tradition get very baffled when they see children in India touching the feet of their elders. This is, infact, the commonest Indian gesture and touching someone's feet means the person who is doing the act is showing his respect and subservience to the one whose feet he/she is touching. However, one important aspect related to this gesture is that the person's whose feet is being touched is always superior in age and position.
Touching elders' feet is the first lesson in manners and etiquette that
all Indian children are taught. So, generally, one is supposed to touch
the feet of a person if he/she happens to be an elder member of the
family or a respected spiritual person. Since Indians normally live in
joint families, this gesture is performed by the sons and
daughter-in-laws for their parents and grand parents. Though very young
children are guided by their parents to learn this gesture, the
comparatively elder ones are expected to do it spontaneously.
In Indian culture, there are specific occasions when a person is
expected to touch his / her elders' feet. These occasions include before
one is departing for or arriving back from a journey, weddings,
religious and festive occasions, etc. In earlier times, it was a like a
custom in India for youngsters to touch their parents' feet first thing
in the morning and before going to bed. Though there are many who still
follow this rule, the truth is that the tradition is now slowly waning
away with time.
When an elder person's feet are being touched, he /she, in turn, is
supposed to touch the head of the person doing the act and bless him
/her for long life, fortune and prosperity. Interestingly, the act of
touching feet gets somewhat intensified during certain occasions. For
instance, many people prefer prostrating before the deities in temples
or before persons of high rank spiritually and even politically.
Touching the feet is an integral part of the Indian culture and
tradition and not adhering to it by natives is considered as