Vermilion, or as we more fondly call it Sindoor, is a proprietary of Indian married woman. It is customary to wear Sindoor in the mang (hair parting) across states of India. Sindoor is made up of vermillion and it is the red powder, stark red or sometimes orange in color, applied by woman post her marriage.
What is more interesting is the fact, that, this customary practice of Indian married woman has a long history, dating back to some 5000 years ago, as described in Hindu texts. Historians say that it existed during the Harappan civilization. So, did woman applied Sindoor to signify marriage even then? Well, the answer is a surprising yes, because as per Hinduism, women in the Harappan civilization did apply Sindoor in their hair partition to symbolize the sacred practice of marriage. Our Puranas also talk about Sindoor in brief and its value for married Indian women. In fact, a quick internet search on the subject will tell you how female figurines excavated at Mehrgarh (Baluchistan), show that sindoor was applied to the partition of women’s hair even in early Harappan times.
Mentioned in Hindu Epics
- In addition, legend has it that Radha, the companion of Sri Krishna transformed the Kumkum into a flame shape on her forehead.
- Draupadi too wiped her Sindoor in utter dismay and despair at the time of stripping off her saree in the Hastinapur court.
- In Ramayana too, Sita used to apply Sindoor to please her husband, Lord Rama.
- As per our traditional belief, Ma Parvati also applied Sindoor and shared her sacred sentiments on marriage and Sindoor with her women folks.
Mentioned in Adi Shankara’s – Soundarya Lahharis
‘Avoiding of birth and death‘
Sudha-sindhor madhye sura-vitapi-vati parivrte
Mani-dweepe nipo’pavana-vathi chintamani-grhe;
Shivaakare manche Parama-Shiva-paryanka-nilayam
Offered to Lord Ganesha
“Sindoor Lal Chadhayo Gajamukha Ko”, popular Ganesh Aarti in the Marathi language. Sindoor and kumkum are also offered to Gods mostly in temples dedicated to Shakti, Lakshmi, and Vishnu.
During Indian Festive Times
- In North India, husband applied Sindoor on his wife’s forehead during Navaratri and Sankranti.
- In West Bengal, on the day of Vijayadashami, married women play Sindur Khela, smearing Sindoor on each other.
- In wedding rituals across India, the practice of applying Sindoor in the hair parting is followed ritualistically, signifying saubhagya (good fortune). Sindoor is regarded and revered as the symbol of Shakti (female energy of Parvati and Sati).
Significance and Benefits
This age-old tradition of wearing Sindoor in the mang still holds significance and a lot of household value in Hindu culture.
- Sindoor is basically vermillion made of red-orange tint. The preparation of Sindoor is done using turmeric, alum or lime, applied on the mang, which has some health and psychological benefits too. It is because the metal mercury is added to the mix which has beneficial properties for a woman, only when used in moderation.
- According to the head of the Department of Rasa Shastra Prof Anand Chaudhary in Banaras Hindu University, “Mercurial preparations in Ayurveda are not toxic in nature if prepared according to classical parameters with guidelines of good manufacturing practices”.
- “Indian knowledge is perfect as it developed technology to produce a stable and non-toxic form of Mercury as Rasa Sindoor, Rasa Parpati and many other forms of medicines of Ayurveda”, he claimed in a report published in Times of India in 2014.
- As implied in the Science Journal, Science Direct, Mercury as a chemical continues to attract the attention of the chemists and physicians of ancient India and China. The red sulphide of mercury, in particular, mentioned in ancient Indian literature as rasasindur (alias rasasindura, rasasindoor, rasasinduram, sindur, or sindoor) has been used to treat ailments and diseases because of its chemical characterization.
- Mercury is used in Sindoor in the perfect chemical ratio of 1:1 of pure α-HgS with Hg:S ratio respectively. Besides, the particles in Sindoor are in nanoscale. It has antioxidant properties in mild.
- According to Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Ayurveda makes use of herbal preparations for their curative effects.
- Metallic based herbal preparations is a unique property of Ayurveda termed as bhasmikarana. Use of metallic herbal preparations is called bhasma. Through bhasmikarana, the metal gets converted into an especially desired chemical compound, eliminating its toxicity in the process and thus, leaving only the essential medicinal benefits. The chemical used in the preparation of Sindoor consists of small grains, with no metallic shine.
- Ras-Sindoor, the mercury-based bhasma, is good to treat certain diseases like syphilis, genital disorders, neutralizing the toxicity of mercury. It is also used for rejuvenation purposes.