Vermilion, a brilliant red or scarlet color originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar, is known as sindoor in India. The groom applies the sindoor on the parting of his bride’s hair (called maang in Hindi) during the wedding and is believed to symbolize a river of blood full of life. The ceremony is called Sindoor-Dana. The groom usually uses a ring or a coin to smear his bride’s hair with the vibrant color.
Sindoor is the most visible and obvious expression of a woman’s marital status as well as prayer for her husband’s longevity. After marriage, the bride is expected to apply vermilion daily after her bath. However, interestingly, this ceremony is considered to be a relatively new practice and one that is not mentioned in the earlier Vedic texts.
The application of sindoor is quite common in many parts of India, although styles and degrees vary from region to region. Some wear it as a dot at the juncture of the parting and forehead others, the entire length of the parting. Or even just as a dot in the center of their forehead. In south India, sindoor maybe worn on the throat near the thaali. Unmarried girls may wear the dot on the forehead but not on the parting of their hair. Once widowed, the woman ceases to wear sindoor or indeed anything to do with the color red. In fact, widows are expected to wear only white. This custom is slowly fading but unfortunately is still prevalent in certain parts of the country.
The act of smearing sindoor on the girl has been used (ad nauseam) in movies to depict a flash/spur of the moment wedding with err all its trappings and unfortunate consequences (for the girl that is). And all married women in television serials are shown to sport thick broad bands (of various designs) of sindoor but it’s use is not without adverse effects. Sindoor has been found to contain high amounts of lead, which could lead to toxicity in women who wear it along the entire length of the parting. In fact, once, a doctor described a case of habitual abortion which was ultimately traced to the excessive amounts of sindoor she applied. After she discontinued the use of sindoor, she delivered a healthy baby. Similarly, there are anecdotal reports of hair loss associated with use of sindoor as well.
In Bengali’s the custom is quite prevalent and women are expected to apply it after their daily bath – to the hair, a dot (bindi) on the forehead and the noa on her hand. In a fun filled joyous not to be missed occasion, married women apply sindoor to each other in celebration of their marital status on the last day of the Durga Puja festival. Moreover, mother and daughter apply sindoor to each other (every time she leaves her maternal home after a visit post marriage) symbolically wishing and praying for each others’ long married life.
There are many dos and don’t associated with the application of sindoor, most of which I got to know of only much later. For instance, she must apply it before she goes near the fire (kitchen) meaning before she does anything else. She must cover her head and she must make sure to tie up her hair before applying it. And if her hair is wet (which it should be because for Bengalis a bath without rinsing of hair is not considered a bath), she should make loose bun (of course you got to have long hair) or at least hold her hair with the left hand and apply with right hand. Beware, if you apply sindoor with your hair untied, your husband is bound to go crazy. Err umm
Quote of the day:
“red the colour of the rose
red the colour of your lips
red the colour of your tongue….
red the colour of your heart……
red the colour of your passion…..”
― Marina G. Roussou
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