Sindoor: Beautiful or a Burden?

how to wear sindoor{Left: The ‘Sindoor Dani’ I keep on my vanity but rarely use! Right: A stunning bride sporting just the right amount of sindoor in her part. Image via Pink Orchid Studio}

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with the look of sindoor. There is something so captivating to me about the red powder that married Hindu women wear in the part of their hair. Even as a kid I would admire the sindoor lined parts of my favourite Bollywood actresses and imagine how I would look wearing it one day. Sadly, I didn’t realize as a kid that it wasn’t a thing that Sikh women did, and other than my wedding day and a handful of occasions over the year I’ve never worn it. 

My favourite ‘sindoor look’ is when Bengali women wear a thick long line in their part, a big red kumkum on their forehead, and a white sari with a red border. Hands down my second favourite Indian look. (The first one is Punjaban in a phulkari of course!)

Last week we went to a family wedding and I really felt the urge to pair my sari with sindoor, but I didn’t feel courageous enough. Most of my extended family is Sikh and conservative, there would have been a lot of staring. But in hindsight, I’m sort of sad that I didn’t just do it. 

ash madhuri{Two of my favourite Bollywood beauties Ashwariya and Madhuri rocking sindoor in real life}

As I’ve been thinking about this all week it occurred to me that some of the women that are are encouraged or even forced to wear wear sindoor because of their religious and cultural beliefs may not have such a romanticized image of it. Is it a beautiful symbol of shingar, or an archaic tradition forced on women? I’m not really sure.

On the one hand I love the beautiful colour, and the thought that sindoor represents a love and bond between you and your spouse, however, on the other hand I can’t really buy into the notion that you can only sport it so long as your spouse is alive. The moment your spouse is gone, your right to a coloured life is gone too? (If you want to read more about the symbolism and superstitious beliefs around sindoor, check out this link).

I feel like my internal struggle with the ritual of sindoor this week is a good metaphor for how I believe about many Indian rituals and superstitions. I love the traditions and spirit around so many of our beliefs and our history, but I try to overlook the very sexist back story to many of them. Maybe we just need to change the perception and beliefs behind these old traditions and repackage them for the new generation? There has to be a way to save the traditions without being burdened by the obligations right?

Good thing I have several years before I have to have the ‘sindoor talk’ with my daughter or future daughter in law {if she’s Indian …. oy vey!}

 

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5 Comments

  1. July 6, 2014 / 6:34 pm

    haha I absolutely love how the Sindoor looks. Been married for a year now and as much as I like it I do not like being stared at since we stay in Florida. But I’m thinking I should just go ahead and do it 😀 may be quirky clothes and Desi style? 😀

    • July 8, 2014 / 9:48 pm

      Lol, I’m sure some people would stare, but it might just be because they think it looks different, intriguing maybe?

  2. July 6, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    Also, I love your Sindoor Dani 😀 It looks so beautiful.

  3. Shankar R
    November 28, 2014 / 7:28 am

    Sindoor looks like the aftermath of being struck with a dull knife on your forehead. Looks beautiful? I don’t think so!

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