There are some traditions in Indian society that date back to ages or in other words to time unmemorable. One such tradition is the wearing of the ‘sindoor’, by married Indian women. In fact no other symbol is as important or significant in the announcement to the world of one’s marital status. The red vermillion applied in the parting of the hair (also called maang), is a matter of not only tradition and culture but also, the safety and long life of the husband. For it is believed that the husbands of those women who apply the sindoor are protected by Parvati (wife of Lord Shiva). The red colour is a symbol of power and female energy and is said to be applied by all married female goddesses and mythological characters, such as Parvati, Sita and Draupadi. Excavations at Mehrgarh and Baluchistan have discovered female figures with the application of sindoor, thus reinstating the theory that this particular practice dates back to 5000 years and more.
Wearing of the sindoor is a phenomenon that is seen across the entire country. It is not limited to any one particular region or state or community. Though the style of wearing the sindoor may differ and it does depend more on the preference of the person wearing it, the sindoor is however, a symbolic representation for the woman concerned of marital bliss. It is because of this, that a widow or unmarried girl never wears the sindoor. In fact, on the demise of the husband the sindoor of the wife is wiped off from her forehead by her family members.
Photo by Nupur Dasgupta
Such a strong symbol is a treat to be seen in today’s modern times. Also, the range of appeal is extremely vast, from a poor man’s domesticated wife to a celebrity outgoing modern woman, most of them still hold onto this tradition with zeal and flaunt it with pride and style.
Of course, as in case with all traditions, there are those that find it stifling and a means of placing unwarranted measures on women only. Since men have no obligations or symbolic representations to show case to the world their marital status, many people have questioned the need for women to be required to do the same. However, let us admit it, if not very openly, that women all over all the world, and especially in India, have had a standing in society that is, to put as subtly as I can, lesser and more of pushers for the other sex to progress and conquer the world. Women are expected to dress, behave and show case themselves in a particular way to ensure that there is no way they can be someone else, other than what others deem fit for them to be. Maybe I am digressing from the issue at hand, however, it is a perception of a small section of forward thinkers that the safety and health of the husband does not depend on the wearing of the sindoor by the women, but on other physiological and scientific reasons that are applicable to not only men but women also.
After a slight detour in the context of this article, let me bring your attention back to the importance of sindoor. No matter what, one cannot deny that its presence is an integral part of the Indian society and to be honest, how much of a shackling affect can a pinch of vermillion on your forehead have on the reality of the person you are and the love that you share with your better half.
Photo by kkalyan
In fact, some studies say that applying the sindoor has medicinal influences on the women. Sindoor is prepared by mixing metal mercury, turmeric and lime and it is said that this mixture helps in controlling the blood pressure and increases sexual drive.
The sindoor is first applied by the husband during the time of marriage and is called Sindoor – Dana. Even as an onlooker this moment gives me goose bumps, when the husbands extends its hand and applies the sindoor in the maang of his new wife for the very first time. Fraught with significance and saturated with emotions, this gesture is the beginning of the long tryst the woman shares with the sindoor. It is a special bond that she carries in her heart for the love of her husband and yet, feels gracious and looks gorgeous in the flaming red forehead that she holds high.
The marriage is like a door into which once the women steps in, she is transformed into a wife, daughter in law and home keeper. Again, a very Indian concept, which though fast changing, is nonetheless prevalent in abundance. The sindoor in a way acts as the stepping line drawn to embark on the new journey that this former girl takes on with nervousness, anticipation and happiness to emerge as a mature woman.
I can only hope that the sindoor though a manifestation of the love and respect in the woman’s heart for her husband and his family, is reciprocated and met with equal love and respect from the other side. Also, the sindoor, which in turn means marriage, should act as an extension of one’s own self and not a way to limit and draw lines on the wings of the woman’s dreams.
To all married Indian women, a big bow and a prayer to keep you all as alive with colour and passion as the sindoor you wear, for everything you wish, love and want from life.
Featured Photo by public.resource.org