Indian Hand Gestures and Body Language You Must Know 0

8th Feb 20
Harshal, Indian Travel Blogger

A smile is universally accepted facial expression of welcoming someone. However, India has some unique gestures and body languages which are sometimes too tricky to understand. Indians gestures are open, loud and highly expressive.

As a tourist, you may come across a lot of physical gestures when you visit India, and wonder what they actually mean? Some of these gestures are inspired from different mudra (postures) in Indian Classical Dance. Having a thorough knowledge of Indian gestures can help blend with the people and make sure you don’t get offended or offend someone else.

Here are some of the common body language quirks and gestures practiced by Indians -

1. The Namaste or Vanakkam


So someone joined their both hands with open palms facing each other in front of you? No, they are not pleading or begging for something. This traditional Indian sign of bowing in front of someone and joining hands is greeting them with dignity and respect. This gesture is called ‘Namaste’.

You will be glad to notice a gentle smile on the face of the people while they say Namaste, that is exactly the sign of warm welcome and acceptance. Accompanied with a slight bow, the Namaste is practiced while welcoming someone, saying hello or during Hindu religious gatherings while praying to god. So next time when you are in India, do return with same gesture when someone welcomes you with a Namaste.

2. The Nodding and Shaking of Head


This is definitely one of those Indian gestures that will confuse, not only you, but also a lot of other tourists. Habit of nodding and shaking heads is have been culturally ingrained in Indians.The nodding gesture where the head is moved up and down or sometimes diagonally tilted to and fro shows approval. It usually means acceptance or acknowledgement, ‘yes’, ‘hmm’, ‘okay’ and ‘got it’.

While the other head-shaking gesture where the head is shaken sideways in rapid motion denotes disapproval or denial. It usually means negative response, ‘no’, don’t know and ‘no idea’. This gesture is quite neck-cracking but once you understand it, you would realize that the person is not having a seizure.

3. Touching feet

Touching feet

(Image Courtesy)

Why do Indians usually touch feet of others? Do they want to do yoga? To tie shoelaces? Well, in India you touch the feet to show respect towards someone. It is usually practiced by younger ones to seek the blessings of their elders. The elders accept the respect and in return touch their head denoting the blessings. So now you realize that no one is trying to steal your footwear when they touch your feet.

4. Using the right hand to do almost everything

Eat with right hand

(Image Courtesy)

Using the right hand predominantly in everything auspicious activity is one of the most strictly followed traditions in India. The left hand is considered unclean and unholy while doing activities. Therefore the right hand is always used most prominently while having meals or handling money. Even stepping inside a new house with the right feet is considered lucky and mandatory.

You may also sometimes notice that while talking some Indians may shake your hand with right and place the other hand on your shoulder or hand. This is consider as a gesture of confidence and assurance. If you have an habit of having coke with right hand and eating burger with your left one; try to embrace the change and enjoy the culture, while you are in India.

5. Don’t touch anything with your feet

Dont point your feet

You want to slide the door? Use your hands. You want to point at something? Use your fingers. You want to push something aside? Definitely use your hands. Feet is considered unhygienic and unclean, for the obvious reason that you walk on your feet anywhere and everywhere. Using you feet to do any sort of activity is considered bad in Indian traditions. If you touch anything with your feet any other time, other than while playing football, then you are sure to offend a lot of people.

6. Say "WOW!" with one hand

People saying WOW with Hand sign

(Image Courtesy)

So suddenly someone is very excited and astonished and doing a hand gesture touching the tips of their index finger and the thumb so that it forms a circle, and you are wondering that what they are trying to do?

These gesture actually mean to say is that they are really liked something, it is a "WOW!" experience, also called "Vaah" in Hindi.

7. Accepting the holy offerings (Prasad) in your hand

Accepting Prasad with both hands

(Image Courtesy)

When you visit a temple or place of worship in India, you can accept the sacred offering (usually something sweet to eat) at the end of prayers. The expected and accepted gesture for you to have the offering is that, you need to open the palms of both the hands upwards and join them sideways, as if you are asking for something.

If you have to pick up the sacred offering on your own, you need to ensure that you need to use your right hand.

So there you have it! These are some of the most important gestures that you are expected to know; as they are a part of the Indian culture. Practice these gestures and have a good time communicating with the locals, while you visit the country!

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