Why women put Sindoor? Know the True Cultural and Scientifical Reason behind Putting Sindoor
Sindoor, made up of a vermillion coloured powder, put in the middle parting of a woman’s hair (also called “mang” in Hindi and “simandarekha” in Sanskrit) is a sign of a married Indian woman, but the significance of sindoor is more than that. At the time of the wedding, the sindoor also known as “Kumkum” is first applied to the parting of the bride’s hair by her groom. It is a symbol of matrimony and a widow or an unmarried woman can not apply it.
It is a symbol of female energy and traditionally always applied in the centre. After its application, it becomes a ritual.
Sindoor is prepared by mixing turmeric, lime and cinnabar. One of the main components of the traditional sindoor is cinnabar, which is a toxic mercury sulfide mineral and has a bright red color which has caused people to use it as a pigment for thousands of years in many parts of the world, such as Indian subcontinent, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and countries where Hindu tradition is practised.
Cultural, Astrological and Religious Importance and Belief
Application of Sindoor is a Hindu tradition. There are several stories and reasons behind the application of sindoor.
Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva embodies strength and courage. It has been said that Parvati wanted to marry Lord Shiva for which she performed ‘tapas’ which means ‘austerity’ or discipline. Lord Shiva, finally appears and accepts her hand in marriage but on a condition. The condition was to sacrifice Parvati’s third eye, which is on her forehead.
Parvati accepts the condition and on the day of marriage Shiva removes her third eye, it starts bleeding. Thus, the area becomes the place where women apply sindoor and why sindoor is red and not some alternative colour. And also why, application of Sindoor is performed during marriage.
Another reason why sindoor is applied is when the women figurines were extracted from the ground at Mehrgarh, Balochistan showed women with sindoor in the partition of their hair in Harappa culture.
The fact that sindoor is said to be applied to show a woman’s love and devotion for her husband has its reason behind it. It is also about the orange sindoor which comes from Ramayana. Sita, wife of Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman, a devotee of Lord Rama are central figures in this Indian epic. Sita is known for her self-sacrifice because she had to prove her purity and love for her husband Lord Rama. Hanuman was sent by Rama to rescue Sita in Lanka.
Hanuman saw Sita applying a red dot to show her devotion and love for Lord Rama. Seeing her, Hanuman bathed himself in orange sindoor to show his devotion to Lord Rama. Rama was pleased to know that Hanuman smeared his body with sindoor to add years to Lord Rama’s life. Thus, Hanuman’s devotees apply orange sindoor to show their devotion and love to Lord Hanuman.
According to the legends, Lord Krishna’s consort Radha turned the Kumkum or sindoor into a flame-like design on her forehead. Sindoor is applied in many ways, like a dot in the centre of the forehead called bindi, an upward going line on the forehead called a “Tilak”, and sindoor in the middle parting of a woman’s hair.
Social norms dictate that after marriage sindoor must stay with the woman, or she with it, as long as her marriage lasts. Sindoor is a proof of monogamy, it confirms her unavailability and marital status, along with mangal sutra, bangles, nose pin, toe rings, ring etc.
Red colour shows strength, power and beauty, all these qualities reside in a woman. Women wear sindoor to celebrate her matrimony. When the sindoor is applied in the mang of a woman it starts from the front of the mang and goes upwards along the parting, the upward direction shows the growth and positivity. Also, sindoor is a visible expression of a woman’s desire for her husband’s long life.
Kumkum or sindoor has an emotional connect in India. Some would say that sindoor is applied because of the fear of widowhood but it is not. According to the Hindu culture and mythology, sindoor or Kumkum symbolizes fertility, growth and prosperity. Many women wear sindoor like a dot which is called bindu or bindi.
When you need to draw something, a line or anything, you put a dot first, because without a dot you cannot draw anything. So, a bindu symbolizes a seed, without seed you cannot grow anything, therefore it is said to be a symbol of fertility and growth.
Astrologically, Aries which is called mesha rashi resides on the forehead of the human body. Mars is the planet which was ruled by the lord of Aries. Mars is red. Sindoor being red and also applied on the forehead, holds a very important place in Hinduism. Sindoor affects the well-being of not only the married woman but also of her significant other.
In many of the Hindu festivals like Navratri and Teeja, sindoor plays a very important role. Navratri, also known as Durga Puja or Durga Pooja is a festival where we revere and pay homage to the Hindu Goddess, Durga. It is particularly popular in West Bengal.
There is a Bengali Hindu tradition where women smear each other with sindoor on Vijayadashami, the last day of Durga Pooja. In this ritual, Bengali married women apply sindoor on the forehead and feet of the goddess. Here the luscious red is used to celebrate womanhood. In festivals like Teeja, the husband is required to apply the sindoor on the parting of the hair of their wives to pay her respect and show her that, their relationship is as strong and deep as the colour of this vermillion.
Present Day Scenario
Application of sindoor still holds the same significance and value. Even today, for a married Hindu woman, the sindoor proves her desire for her spouse’s long life, growth and prosperity. It also shows her undying love for her significant other.
However, with all the modernization, the tradition of applying sindoor now is merely a formality for this generation in several sections of Hindu society. The women of today’s generation had been liberated from this custom, they are now totally in charge of whether they want to apply sindoor or not. Although, during certain festivals and rituals, it is customary for a husband to put sindoor on his wife’s forehead. Sindoor now has been accessorized, it is modernized by the new generation.
Scientific Significance of Application of Sindoor
Apart from being the symbol of matrimony for a Hindu woman, sindoor (red vermilion powder) has some scientific significance. It contains turmeric, lime, and a minute level of the metal mercury. When sindoor is applied on the bride’s hair partition, the mercury cools down the body and makes her feel relaxed. It also triggers a sexual drive among them. And this is the reason why widows or unmarried women are not allowed to wear it.