Why do we delight in "finger food" like popcorn, watermelon slices, sandwiches & pizza? What is it about holding food in our hand, and then placing it directly it in our mouths that’s so joyful?
Many generations of people in India have been eating with their hands for a very long time... Why?
The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. Vedic people have always known the power held in their hand. It no accident they have chosen to do this...it's actually a purposeful, mindfulness practice. This tradition is derived from the mudra practice, which is prevalent in many aspects within Hinduism and used in meditation and Indian dance. Gathering your fingers together creates a mudra called Shanti, which means peace.
The hands are considered the most precious organ of action. This knowledge is linked to this Vedic prayer:
Karagre vasate Laksmih
Karamadhye tu Govindah
On the tip of your fingers is Goddess Lakshmi,
on the base of your fingers is Goddess Saraswati;
in the middle of your fingers is Lord Govinda),
which we recite whilst looking at our palms.
Thus, this shloka suggests that all the divinity lies in human effort.
Our hands and feet are the conduits of the five elements. The 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.
Each finger aids in the transformation of food, before it passes on to internal digestion. Gathering the fingertips as they touch the food stimulates the five elements and invites Agni to bring forth the digestive juices. In addition to improving digestion, the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating.