Feast Etiquette

Comport thyself with dignity and style:

Indian feast etiquette for the SCA


            Traditionally, all people were seated upon the floor when dining. A white cloth would be placed upon the clean and swept floor. Some people would sit on mats, cushions, special wooden planks or even silver panels.

            Pregnant women would be seated first, then the men starting with the oldest to the youngest. Women would sit to the left of their husbands or brothers.



            Servers, both men and women, would arrive after everyone was seated and perform a simple laving ceremony. The younger server would hold a shallow dish while an older servant with a clean cloth draped over their wrist would pour water from a lotta (small jar of clean water) over the diner’s fingertips. The diner would then use the cloth to dry their fingers.

            Cups of drinking water would be placed to the left of each diner and then a large platter of communal rice and another of bread would be placed in the center of the white cloth. Plates ranged widely, varying from banana leaves to silver, bronze, jade and even china at the end of period.

            Courses would be brought out in large platters or bowls balanced on the left shoulder or hip. The right hand was used to convey the food from the platter to a diner’s plate. Implements of service included spatulas, spoons and clean fingers.

            Portions were small even when plenty of food was available. If a diner desired more of a certain item they would call over their server and request more, leaving the less appetizing items untouched.

            If there was a pregnant woman present she would be served as soon as all the royalty had received their portions. After any pregnant women would come the eldest gentleman, and then clockwise around the circle.


Table Manners:

            Once everyone had been served they were free to eat and socialize as they wished. Right hand fingers, bread and simple spoons were used instead of silverware. The left hand was not used for anything except passing bowls, drinking, or bracing a platter that might need support.

            Offering to share food from one’s plate, even if untouched, was not done as it was considered unclean. Speaking with food in your mouth was also uncouth, as was singing. Fingers were washed often in little bowls scented with rosewater.

            Drinking from one’s cup was a different process than what we in the west are used to. Instead of placing the rim of the vessel to one’s lips and tipping the liquid into our mouths, the cup would be held above the lips and the wrist would flex permitting the liquid to pour down into the waiting mouth. The trick is to find a cup with an outward flaring lip and to place the mouth in the V shaped webbing between thumb and first finger: then practice till it works.


Being excused:

            If someone needed to be excused from the meal they should simply bow their head politely and say something like “excuse me please”. But remember to keep your absence brief since the meal isn’t considered finished until everyone has finished eating. So if you are gone for a long time your friends and family will be sitting and waiting for you to return and finish your meal.