If you’ve spent time in Asian monasteries, you might have noticed that it’s quite common for people to hold hands. I’ve noticed among the monks, and it’s one of those little cultural quirks. In my upbringing, you held hands with your girlfriend, it wasn’t really a thing otherwise. But I’m sure this varies!
Anyhoo, in MN 31 = MN 128 and MN 125 there’s a term hatthavilaṅghaka, which Ven Bodhi translates are “joining hands” or “ holding hands”. Now, vilaṅghaka only occurs in this context, and the PTS dictionary is clearly incorrect in saying that it means a “gesture”.
Note that the commentary at MN 31 has both “joining hands” (Hatthavilaṅghakenāti hatthena hatthaṃ gahetvā) and “lifting by hand” (Hatthavilaṅghakenāti hatthukkhepakena). At MN 125 it only has the former. The subcommentary sees these as complementary:
Hatthehi ukkhipanaṃ hatthavilaṅghanaṃ. Tenāha ‘‘hatthukkhepakenā’’ti. Atha vā vilaṅgheti desantaraṃ pāpeti etenāti vilaṅghako, hattho eva vilaṅghako hatthavilaṅghako, tena hatthavilaṅghakena, aññamaññaṃ saṃsibbitahatthenāti vuttaṃ hoti. Dve hi janā hatthena hatthaṃ saṃsibbetvā dvīsu hatthesu ṭhapetvā uṭṭhapentā hatthavilaṅghakena uṭṭhapenti nāma
The two contexts that the term appears in are when two mendicants lift up a heavy water pot, or when two friends are approaching a mountain. Now, in the first case, “holding hands” as a gesture of friendliness is obviously incorrect, but it seems appropriate enough in the second case.
However, the root is laghu, light, and it can hardly be a coincidence that in both contexts the action is that of getting up into a high place. If it was a general term for friendly behavior, you’d expect to see it somewhere else. Rather, the most cogent reference would seem to be “many hands make light work”. The two mendicants “give each other a hand” lifting up the water jar, and the two friends “lend a helping hand” in navigating the rugged ground leading to the foot of the mountain.