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When a comical Deepika Padukone implored an imaginary "Ramesh Babu" if he knew how significant one pinch of sindoor was, for a married woman, most of us laughed. For married Indian women, the world over, however, sindoor is no laughing matter.
Many claim there are scientific reasons too for the application of sindoor on the forehead. All said and done, the significance of sindoor for married Indian women is not something to be taken lightly. But how much do we really know about sindoor?
Sindoor, known also as kumkum, was originally extracted from the sindoor or achiote tree (bixa orellana). It can also be made industrially using turmeric and lime. Not only is it a part of an everyday ritual for married Indian women across the world to apply it on their forehead, it is also an inseparable part of of our Indian culture.
Non application of it could signify something ominous like mourning or widowhood. Sindoor and its applications vary from region to region in India and many a mythological tale is associated with it. Here are some of the reasons on why sindoor is, and will always be a significant part of a married woman's attire in India.
Symbol Of Fertility
Since India is a country where the unit of society is family, a lot of emphasis is laid on the fertility of women - how capable she is of bearing children. Since fertility is symbolized by menstrual blood, the colour of blood - red - became the de facto colour of fertility. The fact that women can create life within them makes them akin to the Creator in Indic thought. Application of sindoor signifies that a married woman is thankful for her role as a creator and aware of the responsibility it demands.
Protects Ajna Chakra
The Yogic system of healing and wellness describes seven chakras or centres of energy in our body. Many believe that the points described as centres of energy are also the same points where an important endocrine gland is located. These chakras are the Muladhar Chakra (base chakra), Swadhishthan (Sacral), Manipur (Solar Plexus), Anahat (Heart), Vishuddha (Throat), Ajna (Forehead) and Sahasrara (Crown). Since the face remains uncovered, it is said that the Ajna chakra is the most vulnerable energy centre; and energy can be sapped from it with relative ease. In order to protect it, the application of sindoor is suggested, in fact, for both men and women.
Significance According To Ayurveda
Ayurveda, the ancient treatise on medicine and wellness in practice since ancient times suggests that a combination of turmeric, lime and mercury regulates blood pressure and increases fertility in women. The combination, known as sindoor or kumkum, is supposed to be applied right upto a woman's pituitary gland. This is also the reason why a number of women, especially all over northern India, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar apply sindoor deep into the parting of their hair, up to where the Sahasrara or Crown Chakra is supposed to be located.
Intrinsic Part Of Culture
All over India, in some form or the other, although in varying lengths, Sindoor is a part of a married woman's daily ritual. Many a women feel incomplete without having applied it. Also, throughout India, one may notice that offering Sindoor to other married women is one of the most important ways in which women bond and show each other respect. At every festival, married women, especially across south India, who visit family and friends, are offered turmeric and sindoor by other married women.
Also, all over West Bengal, married women indulge in what is known as the Sindoor Khela - a ritual that takes place on Vijayadashami - where they offer sindoor to Goddess Durga and then apply it on each other's faces. The practice is said to mean that every woman has in her the potential to be the Adishakti, or Primeval Power.
Offering To The Goddess
Many a times, when praying to goddesses like Durga, who is often depicted as a bride, Gowri, another avatar of Adishakti where she is depicted as a wife and mother, as also Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth and prosperity, sindoor is used as an offering.
The kumkum or sindoor offered thus becomes akin to prasadam, or a gift from the Goddess herself, and is then offered to other women. Also, temples dedicated to Durga, Lakshmi and Vishnu often include sindoor in the offerings.