Hinduism is a religion that gives great importance to personification. We consider wind as a representation of Vaayu Deva, the Sun as a symbol of Surya Deva, and the rain as an image of Indra Deva. Similarly, pieces of equipment related to education like books, papers, pencils, musical instruments, pens, and even computers act as personifications of Saraswathi Devi, the Goddess of learning. Imparting and acquiring knowledge are two fundamental elements of Hinduism. From the ancient Vedic age to the present decade, people yearn to gain wisdom. It is a significant factor in everyone's life. In ancient India, we could classify it as academic and spiritual. Gurus teach their students from Gurukuls. Nowadays, people divide knowledge into two categories. They are sacred and secular. Whether it be in the ancient context or the present scenario, education is an essential component, which everyone has to respect.
In Indian tradition and culture, parents teach their children from childhood several customs and beliefs. One such faith is that we should not touch books, papers, or any item that has educational value with our feet. As per the ancient texts, our feet are the dirtiest parts of our body because we step on different things as we walk, and we cannot clean them every other minute. As Saraswathi Devi resides in books and papers in the form of knowledge, touching them with our feet is akin to showing disrespect to the deity. It can have negative impacts on our lives. As evil karma will lead to wicked fruit, we need to take care of our deeds and focus on performing only good things.
Sometimes we may unknowingly touch a book, paper, or any other educational items with our feet. In such a situation, what can be done? We can remove the sin with reverence and humility. We can do the same by touching the paper or book with our hands and then placing it in our eyes as a sign of apology to the deity.
Significance of respecting books and papers: Respecting the things around us is essential. Whether it be a living or non-living component, we always have to view them with regard. In Hinduism, touching our elders with feet is also considered disrespectful. Here we will be looking into some of the significant aspects of respecting books and why we should not touch them with our feet.
1. As per the Hindu belief system, Saraswathi Devi is picturized by holding the Vedas or the Puranas in her hands. They were written in Talapatras or manuscripts written in dried palm leaves. They are akin to books and papers. As the Goddess of knowledge beholds them, it is sinful to disrespect the divine figure by touching them with our feet.
2. Another important belief in Hinduism is that the lord resides within ourselves. When we touch books or papers with our legs, we are disrespecting the lord within us. We can embrace the divinity in us by respecting knowledge and its providers.
3. When we stamp on books or any educational items, and we fail to apologize, it can have a negative impact on our education. By paying respect to the books from which we acquire knowledge, it depicts our positive attitude and interest in learning. It can please Saraswathi Devi, and you can move forward with your education.
4. During Saraswathi Puja, Dassera, and Ayudha Puja, one can pay our respects to Saraswathi Devi. Students and learners keep their books for Puja in temples or in their home altars during Saraswathi Puja. During that time, devotees who have kept their books for Puja won't read anything until they have taken their books back after the Puja. It is a way of respecting the deity and also reassuring ourselves.
5. According to Vidya Vinayene Shobhate, the significance of knowledge is explained. "Knowledge becomes useful for only he who is humble." As books and papers are sources of knowledge and wisdom, it is wrong to touch them with our feet. We can acquire knowledge only with our humble nature that is possible by avoiding touching of books or papers with our feet.
We can invoke Saraswathi Devi, the Goddess of knowledge, by the recitation of these mantras. Firstly,
sarasvatī namastubhyaṃ, varade kāmarūpiṇī
vidyārambhaṃ kariṣyāmi, siddhirbhavatu me sadā
It is a prayer that one can recite before studying or acquiring knowledge.
Another prayer that can aid us in gaining the blessings of Saraswathi Devi is,
Ya Devi Stuyate Nityam Vibhuhairvedaparagaih
Same Vasatu Jihvagre Brahmarupa Saraswati
One can pay his or her respect to Saraswathi Devi by giving due regard to books, papers, and educational items, chanting or reciting the above-mentioned mantras, keeping books for Saraswathi Puja, and by having a pure heart. It is important to not touch books with our feet as it is a sign of disrespecting the divine figure. We have to respect books as it is a way of conveying our reverence to the deity.