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Why is it that people don't wear shoes and sandals when they visit a temple? Sometimes they remove them outside of temple premises and sometimes outside of the temple steps...

It's a common practice amongst Hindu people whenever they visit a dharmik sthal/temple, so what's the reason behind removing footwear outside?

And is there a rule to do so, or do people just follow a common norm?

Footwear outside temple

Credits for the image: double-barrelledtravel.com

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5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Temples are holy places. Footwears have dirt on them which could make the temple floor dirty. Hence, as a respect towards God's place, people leave their footwear outside. Even people should be clean when entering a temple; for example, in some places, people gargle with water if they have eaten something a few hours before visiting the temple.

Also, this is not just applicable to temples, but this is also a common practice amonst people not wearing footwear in their homes.

A goverment rule says "Footwears are strictly prohibited" as our temples can be visited by people of other religions who may not be aware/care of this respect shown by Hindus.

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removing footwear is a common element in Asian culture, Japanese, Korean and Chinese alike. –  Vineet Menon Jul 1 at 7:53
@VineetMenon I agree.. Even muslims does this too. I am not sure about christians though. –  Mr_Green Jul 1 at 7:55
@Mr_Green Christians do wear footwear in chruch –  Mr. Alien Jul 1 at 8:01
@Mr.Alien Depends on the culture –  called2voyage Jul 1 at 19:14

To clarify some more things (rightly pointed out by Mr_Green), we CAN take footwear inside a temple.

The footwear allowed inside a temple is called Khadau.

Enter image description here

It is purposely used by priests, and those who work inside the temple.

A Khadau is essentially the old style footwear. It is made of wood.

Modern day footwear are not considered holy as these are. We now make footwear with things mostly prohibited to take in use. They also get dirty soon enough.

There is perhaps, more to this. Wooden footwear keep the mind cool and are insulators of electricity and heat (wood used to make footwear doesn't catch fire!).

So, footwear is allowed in temples, but not "modern footwear", due to the above stated reasons...

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This is perhaps the same reason, why some sacred rituals require men to only wear dhoti and janeyu, nothing else. –  Awal Garg Jul 1 at 14:10
Excellent addon to the main answer, I am glad that you didn't wrote scientific reasons, as we are in a debate on meta over science answers –  Mr. Alien Jul 1 at 14:13
just a point, the khadau slippers will not be allowed in temples if they are used outside of temple. link. good answer. –  Mr_Green Jul 1 at 14:22
@Mr_Green you really think someone would wear a khadau outside a temple? :P ...good point though :) –  Awal Garg Jul 1 at 14:23

Footwear irrespective of it being made from leather/rubber etc has to be removed mainly because of dirt that comes along... most temples also have feet washing facilities at the temple entrance. That said, Hindu temples in Europe/north america allow shoes, socks etc especially taking into consideration weather.

P.S: This is just a custom/convention, religion as such doesn't have this rule. Most Indians (irrespective of religion) remove footwear before entering a house.

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Generally footwear is made up of leather. In the Hindu religion they are considered to be an impure thing. One more thing is that the temple is a holy place where everyone worship. And footwear also consists of outer dirt as Mr_Green has mentioned in his answer. So we can't take those dirty shoes inside that holy place.

In temples not only footwear needs to be removed. The upper cloth, that is, your shirt and t-shirt also need to be removed as for worship with Dhoti.

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In South Indian temples, usually there would be turmeric or sandalwood paste like items which happens to be on floor. These are of medicinal values and could help legs in one way or another. So in addition to the idea of respect, there could be a hidden intention.

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