Pranāma or charaṇa-sparśa, the touching of the feet in Indian culture, is a show of respect and it is often an integral part of darshan, or "visions of the divine" in sanatan dharma worship. When greeting, children touch the feet of their family elders while people of all ages will bend to touch the feet of a great guru, deity of a Deva (God) (such as Rama and Krishna).
It is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot accidentally touches a book or any written material (which are considered as a manifestation of the goddess of knowledge Saraswati) or another person's leg or another body part, it will be followed by an apology in the form of a single hand gesture with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the finger tips and then the forehead and/or chest. This also applies to money, which is considered as a manifestation of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi.1
There are six types of Pranam:2
- Ashtangana (touching the ground with knees, belly, chest, hands, elbows, chin, nose, temple).
- Shastanga (touching the ground with toes, knees, hands, chin, nose).
- Panchanga (touching the ground with knees, chest, chin, temple, forehead).
- Dandavata (bowing forehead down and touching the ground).
- Namaskar (folded hands touching the forehead).
- Abhinandan (bending forward with folded hands touching the chest).
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- Touching Feet in India - Indian Tradition of Touching Feet, Concept of Touching Elders' Feet in India