We prostrate before our parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn bless us by placing their hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivadan, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.
Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects one of India’s enduring strengths regarding strong family ties .
The good wishes and blessings (aashirvad) of elders are highly valued. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive this positive energy.
Here’s some scientific explanation about prostration. The nerves that start from our brain spread across all your body. These nerves or wires end in the fingertips of your hand and feet. When you join the fingertips of your hand to those of their opposite feet, a circuit is immediately formed and the energies of two bodies are connected. Your fingers and palms become the ‘receptor’ of energy and the feet of other person become the ‘giver’ of energy.
Usually, the person of whose feet you are touching is either old or pious. When they accept your respect which came from your reduced ego (and is called your shraddha) their hearts emit positive thoughts and energy (which is called their karuna) which reaches you through their hands and toes.
In essence, the completed circuit enables flow of energy and increases cosmic energy, switching on a quick connect between two minds and hearts.
Forms of Prostration
The different forms of showing respect are :
- Pratuthana – Rising to welcome a person.
- Namaskaara – Paying homage in the form of namaste
- Upasangrahan – Touching the feet of elders or teachers.
- Shaashtaanga – Prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
- Pratyabivaadana – Returning a greeting.
Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualify one to receive respect. This is why a King though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master.