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.
Usually, Temple authorities display a board which 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.
Since no answer gives any reference from any scriptures, i am adding my own.
The reason is scriptural injunction. That is, scriptures ask us not to wear shoes where idols are placed.
There are 5 such places where one is prohibited to enter with shoes on. They are:
The room where the Vedic fire has been established. 2. A cowpen; Goshala or where the cows stay. 3. A place where a Deity is installed, like a temple or a Puja room and a room for the Brahmin. 4. A place for taking meals. 5. The room where one chants the Gayatri.
One should leave off his shoes [before entering] the house in which
the Sacred Fire is deposited, a cow-pen and the presence of a Deity,
or a Brahmana, [and before] taking his meals, or reciting [the
[If a person] putting on [his] sandals, goes, from his house, to the
Five Rooms,* a pious king should cut off his two legs. (62)
Angiras Smriti 1.62,63.
However, these rules do not apply for the following special persons:
An Agnihotrin (i.e., who maintains the Sacred Fires), an ascetic, a
S'rotriya, one who has completely-studied the Vedas ; these may go
there with [their] sandals on ; others must be chastised with
NOTE: Angirasa Smriti is counted among the 18 major Smritis that we have.
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.
Shoes are not clean since they go everywhere. Since a temple is a clean place with pure energies, we leave unclean things outside.
There are a few views offered on this subject. Shoes go everywhere and can collect unwanted energies. To keep them out of the temple shoes are left outside. Second, generally temple practices encourage minimum amount of covering, subject to what would be considered decent in the respective social setting. This may be related to the ability for energy interchange – the temple being a highly energized place. In that context, among various parts of the body, the soles of the feet are considered points of significant interchange of energy. This way when one walks in the temple bare foot, the interchange of energy gives the bliss and high of being in the temple. While the two views noted above are the popular reasons for not wearing footwear inside the temple, there are some additional observations worth noting with regard to footwear use in temples.
There are certain temples in northern India that allow wooden Paadukas to be worn during winter months. In fact, the temple itself provides the wooden Paadukas for a small fee, essentially ensuring that the footwear that goes everywhere outside the temple does not come into the temple. In Udupi Krishna temple, the eight Acharyas only [not devotees] are allowed wooden Paadukas anywhere in the temple premises except in the shrine area itself.Morden footwear is made out of leather mostly, leather comes from a cow! Hindus & tamils are not allowed to eat beef.We worship a cow as a mother because a cow gives us milk & its a holy animal.we are not allowed to eat pork because its the filthiest animal but most hindus/tamils still eat it, its not as bad as eating beef. So you cannot wear anything leather in most temples or go close to anyone with trans wearing leather. Shoes are forbidden because we not allowed to take the dirt into the temple.
According to books I have read ancient foot wares were made of animal skin and therefore killing of animals is not accepted by our religion .So in order to ban these foot wares temple authorities implemented this rule,so from the ancient times the foot wares was prohibited in temple and it is being followed till the present day
Footwear irrespective of it being made from leather/rubber etc has to be removed mainly because of dirt that comes along... most temples even in Europe/North America also have feet washing facilities at the temple entrance.
That said, Even Hindu temples in North america does not allow shoes inside inspite of cold weather,but you are allowed to wear socks
Most Indians (irrespective of religion) remove footwear before entering a house to keep their home clean.
In almost all the holy places of worship, it is believed that the cosmic energy from the cosmos is swirling around, by virtue of the place being a meeting point of energies, or by virtue of continued practice of prayer/meditation/ rituals/etc at that point in the temple or place of worship. This is the reason why we feel a sort of peace and quiet when we enter some temple, since that place is saturated with the vibrations of so many prayers/mantras/divine thoughts, which draw the cosmic energy into that place. The person who enters the holy place, becomes a conductor of that cosmic energy. It is believed that when that cosmic energy enters the person, it can cause drastic changes in the person’s physical and astral body if the person does not pass out the energy to the ground. Even though the cosmic energy is positive and beneficial, it is believed that not all human bodies are equipped to handle that kind of energy. (Some pranic healers even avoid healing babies because of this reason).
Just as a building is fitted with a lightning rod, which is connected to the ground to “earth” the electricity flowing out of lightning, the human body needs to earth the cosmic currents, which is why, many schools of thought suggest walking barefoot on dewed grass or ground early in the morning to “reconnect” with the earth energy. This is said to not only activate the earth chakra in the human body, but also to release the negative energy from our body to the ground.
And this is the main reason why in places of worship, one is required to take off their sandals or shoes. When the cosmic energy passes through the person, the person is cleansed of any diseased or negative energy by the positive cosmic energy. But I must add here that the same anology of positive energy also applies in the case of negative energy. Which is why, one should always WEAR FOOTWEAR in a place of possible negative energy, like a crematorium, graveyard, etc.
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