Text as Saraswati

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Sat Jul 31 21:41:01 UTC 2010

This is actually a multi-layered question.

(1) As other list members have already pointed out, this concerns not  
only Tamilians, nor only brahmins.

(2) The foot is one of the less 'pure' (for want of a better word in  
English) parts of the body, and touching anything or anyone with one's  
feet is considered a sign of disrespect, if not a deliberate insult.  
This goes for books as well as anything else. In Karnataka (and  
certainly elsewhere too), if one person touches another with his / her  
foot, s/he is expected to request forgiveness at once, and this is  
done conventionally by touching that other person somewhere (usually  
on the arm or shoulder) with the right hand and then quickly touching  
one's own eyelids with the fingertips of that hand (signifying "I  
hereby remove the blemish which I have given you and take it upon  

(3) Any kind of printed material can be thought of as Sarasvatī. I  
knew a lady professor of sociology from UP who was short of stature,  
and when once a few telephone directories were piled up so that she  
could stand on them and reach a microphone, she refused to do so.

(4) An American friend of mine once shocked his Bangalore-born wife by  
putting his foot on a one-dollar banknote to prevent it from being  
blown away by the wind: she felt this was an insult to Lakṣmī.


Op 26.07.2010, om 18:11 heeft Joseph Walser het volgende geschreven:

> I have noticed that at least among Tamil Brahmins, if someone  
> touches a book with his or her feet, she quickly touches the book  
> and touches her eyes. The explanation I have heard is that this is  
> to apologize to Saraswati who resides in the print. Can anyone tell  
> me how widespread this practice is? Does anyone know of any early  
> references to or scholarly discussion of this practice?
> Best,
> Joseph

Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Department für Asienstudien - Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
Universität München
Tel. (+49-89-) 2180-5782
Fax  (+49-89-) 2180-5827
Web  http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~zydenbos

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