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Bride in Assam

A Bride in Assam, wearing Sindoor on her forehead

Sindoor is a red powder (Vermilion), which is traditionally applied at the beginning or completely along the parting-line of a woman’s hair (also called mang) or as a dot on the forehead. Sindoor is the mark of a married woman in Hinduism. Single women wear the dot in different colors ("bindi" in Hindi) but do not apply sindoor in their mang. Hindu widows do not wear the sindoor, signifying that their husband is no longer alive. A version used in Hindu rituals or puja is known as Kumkum. This also lends itself to the name of a wedding ritual in some Hindu communities, known as 'Haldi-Kumkum'.


In Hindu culture, the tradition of wearing Sindoor or vermillion is said to have been prevailing through more than 5,000 years. Female figurines excavated at Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, show that sindoor was applied to the partition of women's hair even in early Harappan times. [1] Besides, legends says that Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, turned the kumkum into a flame like design on her forehead. In the famous epic Mahabharata, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, is believed to have wiped her sindoor in disgust and despair at the happenings in Hastinapur. Use of Sindoor has also been mentioned in The Puranas, Lalitha Sahasranamam and Soundarya Lahharis. [2]

In Hindu tradition, the practice of wearing vermilion/sindoor by married women has been explained with the help of mythology. According to the scholars, red is the color of power and vermilion represents the female energy of Sati and Parvati. Sati is considered an ideal Hindu wife because she gave her life for her husband's honor. Hindus believe that Goddess Parvati grants "Akhand Soubhagya" (lifelong good fortune) to all the females who wear sindoor in their hair parting. [3]

Sindoor expresses a woman's desire for a long life for their husbands. The reason sindoor is red is because it comes from vermilion, and it is said to represent strength and love. A woman's initial experience with the sindoor is during their marriage ceremonies. The displaying of the sindoor is considered very important since the bride belongs to the groom.[4][5]

Many experts in Vedic traditions say that the sindoor is placed on the part of the hair at a Hindu marriage ceremony to signify that the wife is now under the protection of her husband and that anyone who harms her would find that their blood would be shed.

Adi Sankaracharya writes in Soundarya Lahari (Translated bY P. R. Ramachander) [6]

(curing of all diseases)

Tanothu kshemam nas tava vadhana-saundarya lahari. Parivaha-sthrotah-saraniriva seemantha-saranih. Vahanti sinduram prabala-kabari-bhara-thimira-. Dvisham brindair bandi-krtham iva navin'arka kiranam; 44.

Oh mother, let the line parting thine hairs, Which looks like a canal, Through which the rushing waves of your beauty ebbs, And which on both sides imprisons, Your Vermillion , which is like a rising sun, By using your hair which is dark like, The platoon of soldiers of the enemy, Protect us and give us peace.

Red tikka powder

sindoor (vermillion)

In general, using sindoor is a Hindu tradition, and not followed by Muslim women. In the 19th century, sindoor was one of the rituals that a Sufi leader Sharafuddin Maneri had permitted Bangladeshi Muslim women to practice; however, soon thereafter a reformist organization was established to eliminate it.[7]

Though most Indian women do continue to wear the bindi, it has become a decorative accessory often applied as a sticker.

In early 2008, allegations of high lead content led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce sales of Sindoor in grocery stores.[8]

In popular culture

Shop selling Sindoor (Vermilion) in Pushkar, Rajasthan

Shop selling Sindoor (Vermilion) in Pushkar, Rajasthan

There are many Indian movies and dramas involving sindoor — Sindoor Tere Naam Ka and the movie Sindoor released in 1987 — with their themes revolving around the ritual's significance.


Traditional sindoor was made with turmeric and alum or lime, or from other herbal ingredients.[9] Many commercially available powders are usually mercury or lead compounds (e.g., powdered red lead); these are toxic and can cause lead poisoning.[9][10] However, Mangalore Kunkuma, traditionally prepared by mixing powdered and burnt betel nut with turmeric is available in some shops in South India.


  1. Vermillion/Sindoor
  2. History and Significance of Sindoor
  3. Vermillion/Sindoor
  4. Ahearn, Laura M (2001). Invitation to love: Literacy, Love Letters, & Social Change in Nepal. University of Michigan : Michigan. pp. 95. 
  5. Selwyn, Tom (December 1979). "Images of Reproduction: An Analysis of a Hindu Marriage Ceremony". JSTOR 14 (4): 684–698. 
  7. Akbar, M J (2002). The Shades of Swords: Jihad and the conflict between Islam and Christianity. Routledge: London, New York. pp. 111. 
  8. "After sindoor, bindi taken off American shelves". IBN Live. 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kapoor, V P (July 2007). "Kohl and Sindoor: the potential source of lead poisoning". EnviroNews 13 (3). Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  10. "The Hazards of Synthetic Sindoor". Hinduism Today. 2004-10-12. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 


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