Photo by Arindam Mitra….
Sindoor Khela or the game of smearing vermillion is one of the much-awaited ceremonies of Bengali married women. Call it a Holi of vermillion that Bengalis utter sindoor in their own style for centuries. Notwithstanding the fact that only the female clans are only allowed to be a part of this colorful ceremony, while the males are passive onlookers. They are mostly happy to get the glimpse of their women smearing the red vermillion on each other’s forehead and face on the last day of Durga Puja- the greatest of all festivals of the Bengalis.
If you are ever in West Bengal during the four days of the Durga Puja, you will get to know the grand arrangement that is planned and executed. Sasti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami are the four days when the Goddess along with Her four children are worshiped. She is invoked, prayed and immersed on the fourth day. But before the immersion, married women take part in sindoor khela after worshipping the Goddess Durga, Devi Laxmi, and Devi Saraswati along with Lord Karthikeyan and Sri Ganesha.
The rules are same for the Barowari pujos (pujas arranged by the clubs or other organizations) or the Barir Pujos (Private Pujas arranged in privately). Mainly the vermillion is offered at Her feet and later a pinch is applied on Her forehead as a mark of respect by married women. This ritual is called Boron.
Next to the ritual, the married women start playing the vermillion by applying it on the foreheads and on the sankha (conch bangles) and pola (coral bangles) of their plebeians in the game. Along with the forehead, they also apply the vermillion on the red and white bangles of the women. The bangles are made of conch and coral and Bengali women wear those as the marks of the married hood.
No unmarried girl or windows are allowed to attend the program. For some time, they smear the red vermillion on each other’s face and hands and they enjoy every inch of the time they spend in each other’s countenance. Finally, they end up by sharing the sweets offered to the gods and goddesses as Prasad.
But soon after the sheer enjoyment, the saddest episode of the grandest festival of the Bengalis comes forth. It is the immersion of the deity along with Her four children known as Visarjan. They are loaded on trucks and followed by a crowded procession towards the Ganges or in lakes or ponds. Here, the deities are immersed with the hope that next year Maa Durga along with Her children will again come to Earth to check on Her Bhakts and bless them.
Sindoor Khela symbolizes the power of womanhood and mainly the power of the women or Shakti to protect her husband from all maladies and will respect the companionship through thick and thin. Women clad in red and white colored sarees while they come to play the vermillion along with beautiful jewelry to represent Devi Durga’s Shakti and to seek the goddess’s blessings for the long life of their husbands, children, and other family members.