A = Alta

It’s finally here my first A to Z blogging challenge and I am super-excited! My theme for the challenge is Indian weddings and I request you all to join the celebrations 🙂 

ॐ श्री गणेशाय नमः

Let the festivities begin

Alta, a red dye, is considered to be one of 16 elements of make up also known as solah shringar. It symbolizes fertility and prosperity and constitutes an essential component of the Bengali bride’s make up. Alta is used to adorn the hands and feet of the Bengali bride. In fact, all married women from West Bengal are expected to wear alta on the occasion of any religious festival or wedding. As a child, I remember my mother putting alta with the help of a swab of cotton wrapped around a thin stick before Durga Puja. We would watch fascinated (and clamor to be similarly treated) as she put her foot on a newspaper and brush the color around her feet. But she didn’t color her hands – instead she would put a dot on the base of her hand to complete the ritual.

Traditionally made from betel leaves, alta is believed to have a cooling effect. Alta stains and dries quickly. Mehendi or paste prepared from henna leaves is the preferred decorating agent particularly in North India. But nowadays, brides from all parts of the country regardless of tradition prefer to decorate their arms and feet with mehendi in an elaborate custom.

Mehendi decoration of bride
Bridal mehendi

In some parts of India, before entering the house of her in-laws, the new bride steps into a plateful of alta and then walks ahead with her right foot first leaving imprints of her feet on the floor of her house. This symbolizes the entry of Devi Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, into her new home along with the bride.

Thank you for visiting 🙂 See you tomorrow and dont forget to leave me a note 🙂

Quote for the day: What you’ll need most is courage. It is not an easy path that you’ve set your foot upon:- Larry Wall

For more information about the blog please click here and for the readers of Moonshine, here’s Chapter 49.

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43 thoughts on “A = Alta”

  1. Ahhh…..A for alta. Nice. I had no idea that it was made from betel leaves. I thought it was a chemical dye! Looking forward to this education from A to Z.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I first came across “Alta” when my son was in primary school and they had to use it for decorating their hands for some play. I was excited to know that there is something so much more simpler to use than the elaborate henna paste that I was familiar with. I just love getting henna on my hands and feet. Strangely enough, during my wedding there was no time at all to do this leisurely and I ended up quickly putting a large dot with little ones around it with henna paste.

    Lovely theme, Dahlia. A to Z is going to be so much fun! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Vidya for sharing your memories – yeah that’s the way we put henna in our childhood (dots and more dots!) and only alta no mehendi for my wedding 🙂


  3. Never knew the name ‘Alta’. Betel leaves sure has medicinal properties. Here, after a meal, betel leaves wrapped with areca nut and slaked lime are eaten…. people relish it so much!!
    Looking forward to reading more such interesting rituals on Indian weddings!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s some new and nice information on alta. Had never heard or seen a bride adorning alta in my part of the country. It’s always been mehendi I believe. And what a transformation…from being organic then to chemical now….


      1. It’s known by the same name…We do use alta for dance performances…and at times when there is a time crunch or when we feel it’s getting messy we compromise by using a marker pen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is wonderful, Dearie! I’ve heard of Henna art before and this is just as stunning!
    Brava! Brava! *applause*

    Sir Leprechaunrabbit

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for stopping by the other day – and welcome to your very first A to Z Challenge 🙂

    I look forward to following you daily through April. Great starting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like your theme. It’s interesting to read about the indian wedding. I once saw a documentary of a German marrying in India, but they didn’t explain much. So I am very happy to learn more during the month of April.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am aware of Alta, as being a classical dancer ( Kathak) Alta is really important for adorning hands and legs. I am a south indian born and bred in north and I got familiarised with Alta as a kid because of my bengali neighbours and after that during dance classes. In south here, Alta water was used as my grand mother told me once ( they said dye from betal leaves) but now it has been replaced by ‘kum-kum’ and vermillion were dissolved in water to create this dye. Thus though their use has been marginalize, alta still find a place in dressing table of a women today too.

    Liked by 1 person

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