In India, we consider food as a much more than the basic necessity of life. We consider it to be a blessing from the God and our elders. This is the reason, why having food is a kind of ceremonious to us. We always prefer to sit down in a relaxed mood with our family members or friends and have food together.
The practice of eating with one’s hands started from the Vedic times when people used to believe and respect food. They believed that our bodies are in sync with the elements of nature. Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. Through the thumb comes space; through the forefinger, air; through the mid-finger, fire; through the ring finger, water and through the little finger it is earth. The joining of all fingers while eating was believed to improve our consciousness of the taste of the food we eat.
There is a Sanskrit verse:
At the Top of the Palm, or the fingers (i.e. Palm) Dwell Goddess Lakshmi and at the Middle of the Hand Dwell Goddess Saraswati,
At the Base of the Hand Dwell God Govinda; Therefore one should Look at one’s Hands in the Early Morning and contemplate on Them.
Since, in India, food is considered to be the blessing of Goddess Lakshmi, Indians prefer to eat with the hands.
Well, culture apart, our food is of such a way that eating with cutlery does not help much. Try eating a Vada Pav, Panipuri, Dosa, Bhelpuri etc with spoon. Even if by miracle you manage to do that, it will surely leave you in a mess and dissatisfaction.
Let us tell you a short incident: The then Indian president, Dr. Radhakrishnan, met Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill and they sat down for lunch. Before sitting, Dr. Radhakrishnan washed his hands and as the meal was served, he used his hands in eating the meal. Churchill told Dr. Radhakrishnan, “Why are you using your hands? Use spoon and fork, they are more hygienic“.
Radhakrishnan’s repartee was, “Since nobody has used my hand to eat before, my hand is more hygienic than any spoon you can find.“