Why do we take off our shoes before entering the Temple?
First, visiting a temple is quite different from visiting any other place. The temple is the best place we visit. That is the place from which we are to gain something invaluable. During our practical life when we go to a minister, we change our mental level and our attitude. Whatever dust has gathered on our shoes, socks or feet are removed by us by striking our feet on the floor outside his chamber or residence. There is a hygienic reason behind this. Cleanliness is as essential as preserving sanctity.
Shoes move on various surfaces both dirty and clean. This cleanliness is of prime necessity to preserve the sanctity of the temple, which is the holy home of God. Temple is a home of GOD, we must maintain the cleanliness.
Moreover when we go to a temple or approach the holy temple altar at home, our mental state and status should be quite different. If we take off the shoes or other footwear, together with all our mental darkness, ego and crookedness and then if we enter the temple and approach God, the receptive capacity of the mind would increase. It will be highly beneficial for us if we keep out the bundle of worldly thoughts together with our shoes or footwear outside and then practice meditation and devotion. If you forget our eternal miseries and surrender to God, the journey of life would be worthwhile. For realizing God we need to keep our egos outside. Some people have a fetish for shoes. We also tend to judge people on what brand of footwear they wear. Hence when one enters the temple all these external judgements and likes or dislikes are left outside as each one is a child God.
Do you remove your shoes on entering your home? Many of us who are not culturally predisposed to this activity avoid thinking about it because we are conflicted about starting a daily routine that you would then need to impose on others.
In Vedic culture it was not permissible to set foot in a room without first removing one’s shoes, to removing shoes at the front door is a mark of respect to the house and to honour its cleanliness and purity, taking off one’s shoes at the front door can be a deeply ingrained cultural habit.
Removing shoes outside a temple is a gesture of being both symbol and a conscious desire to leave behind the outer world by shedding, literally, the first obvious steps—shoes.