In India, it is common to see a line of footwear outside the front doors of homes, and also outside temples and other places of worship. Have you ever wondered why we take off our shoes at the doorstep, not only of the homes which we visit, but also of our own homes?
There are many reasons, actually. Let’s look at the practical ones first. As we walk through the dust and dirt of the roads, huge amounts of bacteria gather on the soles of our shoes. A study conducted by the University of Arizona in USA found that shoes collect almost 421,000 bacteria! Can you imagine all that bacteria getting transferred from your shoes on to the floors of your home?
Eek! We in India traditionally sweep and then mop our floors with a wet cloth at least once a day. Treading on clean floors with dirty shoes just makes the floor dirty again. So it makes perfect sense to leave your footwear outside the front door.
Temples, mosques and some churches also require devotees to take off their footwear before entering the buildings. That’s because these areas are considered sacred space. Footwear is seen as ‘impure’ and so is not allowed inside.
It’s the same with stages during dance and music performances. The stage is considered sacred space, and artistes remove their footwear before stepping on to it. It’s a mark of respect to their art, and the place where they practice it.
It is also concerned good manners to take off your footwear before entering a house. It’s a way of showing respect to the people staying there. You can either leave your footwear outside the door, or take them off just inside and place them neatly in the place provided for it.