DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY-THE WORSHIP OF FEET

“Vishno pade parama” ituudita prasamsau  

Yo “madhva utsa” iti bhogyatayaapyu paatau  

Bhuyasta dheyti tava paanitala pradhistau  

Sree Venkatesa Charanau Saranam Prapadey.  

 PADA VANDANAM,PADA NAMASKARAM,PADA ARCHANAM,PADA SEVANAM, PADA PUJA OR WORSHIP OF FEET  : 

The land of India is a very unique place on this planet where people are culturally endowed with an ardent desire to worship feet.No other society or social community has openly exhibited this behavioral trait and feet worship could be described as the hall-mark of Indian Identity.This tradition and literal practice of feet worship was well established by the time the epic poem of Ramayana was composed.In AYODHYA KANDA,we read the very moving account of Rama touching the feet of His father Dasaratha and queen mother Kaikeyi after having received the orders for his banishment to live in the forest for fourteen years.Later in ARANYA KANDA,we read about the younger brother Bharata who literally clung to the feet of Rama seeking His refuge.Eventually,Bharata carried Rama’s sandals keeping them on his head and installs them on the throne( PADUKA PATTABHISHEKAM ) and served them with great devotion for fourteen long years during Rama’s exile.  

Lord Rama and the Tradidtion of 'Feet Worship'
Ramayana gives detailed accounts of the Tradition of Feet Worship.Rama had worshipped the feet of His father, mother, stepmothers and His Gurus. Bharata, the younger brother of Rama had installed the sandals(Padukas) worn by Rama upon the throne and had worshipped them for fourteen years.

India is the land where you witness people touching the feet of living persons as an act of worship.This is a fairly common event and sometimes the remembrance of such worship lingers in your mind.I would like to narrate one such event that I had witnessed in the past and my act of remembrance may add-on to the blessings these feet worshipers may be receiving even today.  

I was traveling by train from Rajahmundry to Lucknow City to serve in the Indian Army Medical Corps. I was motivated by a desire to see the land of India with my own eyes and know its people.For the first time, I was traveling in a first class compartment and was the sole occupant. Later in the night, a lady entered the compartment and was apparently traveling alone. She was elegantly attired, looked modest and the picture of an upper middle class house wife. Early morning, when the train had halted at a station, I did not realize that she had reached her destination. She was quietly seated, was not gathering her belongings and was not even looking outside to check if some one had arrived to receive her. After a little while, I had noticed three young men, well- dressed and well-groomed, all of them little older than me, checking the list of passenger names on the door of the train compartment and entered the compartment. They did not pay any attention to my presence. One after the other, they went forward to bend and touch her feet and paid their respects. The behavior of the young men that I was keenly observing was natural, spontaneous and unpretentious. That early morning hour, they were not putting up an act in a public place to impress any one. They acted in a deliberate, purposeful and reverential manner and I am very sure that they grew up in that manner and clearly they were not inhibited in displaying their respect in front of strangers. I was a silent spectator of this scene wherein an unassuming woman suddenly got transformed into a living deity. I can assure you that you would witness such a scene only in the Land of India. Hence, I would claim that the desire to worship the feet of a living person would define Indian Identity.  

Every deity that Indians seek to worship are better pleased when we worship their feet. PRAHLADA had described ” PADA SEVANAM ” as one of the nine ways to worship VISHNU. Indians worship feet not only as a sign of humility but also as a mark of submission, total surrender to the will of God. They touch feet as a plea for protection. This is not a mere religious rite or ritual and it actually shapes the attitudes and behavior of people. The final resting place for the individual souls(‘ JEEVATMA ‘)has been described as the Lotus Feet of the Lord. This is described as ‘CHARANAM'( Feet of the Lord ) ‘SARANAM’ ( Ultimate Refuge ).  

Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian identity – The Land of Karma’  

https://bhavanajagat.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/defining-indian-identity-the-land-of-karma/ 

Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,  

Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,  

M.B.B.S.,  Class of  April,  1970.  

    

Published by Bhavanajagat

Whole Man - Whole Theory: "I am Consciousness, Therefore I am" is my proposition to examine the reality of Man and the World in which he exists.

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4 Comments

  1. Living in Jaipur as a foreigner student from Austria I’ve been instructed by my landlady in performing pada puja and pada seva. She is an experienced Lady – a divorcee of 40 years – and still – she’s keeping a tight reign over me. When commanded I have to bow in front of her feet for respect – kissing the toe imprints of her mules before beginning the pada puja service. Moreover a regular pada seva service for the Ladies would improve my behaviour – my landlady was absolutely convinced of this practise. So I do when she invites her best girlfriends – while I’ve been placed under the table for performing all kind of foot service which pleases to the Ladies. Sometimes I consider it humiliating – indeed – but nevertheless it’s necessary – especially for accumulating enough good karma which prepares the mind for successful meditations.

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    1. Dear Andi Bogner,

      Thanks for visiting my blog post and sharing the experience of feet worship in Jaipur. If time permits, read about the experience of Jesus.

      John 13:1-17 New International Version (NIV)
      Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
      13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

      2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

      6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

      7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

      8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

      Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

      9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

      10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

      12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

      New International Version (NIV)
      Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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  2. Performing pada puja and also pada sevanam is an interesting and deeply rooted cultural practice in India – my college girlfriend Sadhana from Kerala has also confirmed this to me. We live here in an intercultural apartment community in Cologne and so we learn from one another about traditions and customs in our countries.
    One day she allowed me to practise it at her feet – naturally following exactly to her directions. When I’ve prepared a plate of water with almond milk and flower petals I bow down in front of her and removing her mules from her feet – carefully of course! Moving them beside the footstool I bow down my face to her feet giving a tender kiss on her toes for respect! Then I keep my forehead on her feet asking her for a manual pre-cleaning if necessary. When commanded to do this I do it carefully with a slightly damp cotton swab – especially between her toes – for that the pada puja water does not get ruined. Only when she’s content with the results I’m allowed to kiss her toes twice for respect and carefully moving her feet into the water plate. Now I rub them with a soft flannel – slowly and respectfully. After cleaning her feet I also use a soft towel for drying her feet and finally I breathe on her toes in between for drying them. Before removing her mules on her feet I kiss her tiptoes for expressing my gratitude for these instructive hours. When finished I do sasthang dandvat in front of her feet – until she gives me the permission for getting up.
    From this time on the regular pada puja service for Sadhana – three times a week – indeed – has changed something in my life becoming more respectful and humble. Also Sadhana is convinced of this traditional performance which improves men’s behaviour.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story with me. Indeed, you are a very humble liar. But, you are performing some ritual without faith. I recommend that you must read Matthew 15:27.
      The Faith of the Canaanite Woman
      …26But Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27“Yes, Lord,” she said, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28“O woman,” Jesus answered, “your faith is great! Let it be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.…

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