I often read lifestyle and personal blogs from around the world to see what everyone’s reading. This week I came across this post ‘Dinner Etiquette’ in one of my favourite blogs – A Cup of Jo. It got me thinking – What etiquette do we follow here in my country?

I’m a south Indian hailing from Karnataka, It goes without saying that both my state as well as country is known for their rich culture, an abundance of traditions and rituals.

When I was younger, my cousins and I were usually entrusted with the responsibility of laying out banana leaves in front of guests when we all sat to eat. To date, my dad makes sure we have banana leaf platters for festival lunch and dinners. As far as I can remember, I learnt the very first dining etiquette while laying out banana leaves during our yearly Ganesh Pooja. However, I learnt the reason behind it only recently. Here are a few dining rules that I was taught as a child and follow to date.

PS: These are just things that I follow. It may vary based on which Indian state you hail from or simply what you prefer 🙂

Tip to the left of the diner

Banana leaves are disposable which is good for the host (No one likes to do the dishes after the celebration). They add to the flavour and nutrition which works for the guests. They are biodegradable which works for the planet. The ultimate win-win. They are also easily available back in my hometown.

The rule is that the tip of the leaf should always point to the left of the diner. This narrow part of the leaf is where you serve salt, pickles, papad, chutneys etc. The broader part is for the rice, dal, chapati, sabzi etc. Acidic to Alkaline from left to right. Small amounts of acidic food and larger portions of alkaline food promotes good health. It also helps the hosts identify and serve second helpings based on which portion of the leaf is empty.

Now you might argue that right to left should also work the same way. The idea is that ancient India had another etiquette that insisted one must use only their right hand to eat food. Which made the left to right approach mentioned above convenient to the diner. Your right hand has access to large portions of food on the right side while it is a little harder to reach the spicy acidic food on the left.

Wash your hands and feet

One must wash their hands and feet thoroughly before one sits to eat. Hands because we prefer to eat with our fingers over spoons and forks. Life is simpler without cutlery and butlery. Feet because when you sit cross-legged in front of your plate, the proximity between your feet and the plate is close.

Hand holding some rice over a banana leaf plate with various curries, dips and a poppadom in Kerala.

Also use only your fingertips to eat, not the full palm. (This is just something I follow. I know many prefer to mix their food with their full hand).

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Share food from serving bowls not your plate.


Anything that has touched your lips (hand or cutlery) should never go into another person’s plate or the serving bowls. It is unhygienic. For second helpings, the serving spoon should never touch your dirty plate. You must drop the helping onto the plate from an inch or so above.

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Leaving the table

If you have finished eating early. It is considered rude to leave the table while the host is still eating. The same applies if you’re dining with an elderly or important person. Also, no leftovers. Not only is it considered rude, wasting food should always be a no-no, etiquette or otherwise.

In some places, it is considered rude to take your dirty plate to the sink after your meal. The host arranges for your plate to be taken later. If it’s a banana leaf plate, then taking it with you could lead to a mess. But if it’s normal steel or ceramic plate, I prefer at least clearing the remains into a dustbin and placing it in the kitchen sink if not cleaning it myself.


One must at least thank the host for arranging the meal if not compliment. It is just good manners.

These are just some etiquette that I follow whenever I can. What dining etiquette do you follow? Tell me in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Indian Dining Etiquette

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