Sunday March 18, 2018

Custom or Science? The Tradition of wearing Sindoor in Hinduism

Using sindoor is not only religiously valuable but also has many scientific benefits attached to it

Sindoor. Image source:

India is the culturally rich homeland of Hindus with rituals that retain man’s beliefs in his religion. From birth to death, it is more or less the customs that drive the very essence of Hinduism. One of the most significant practices of India is using ‘sindoor‘ or vermilion that you would most definitely find in a household. Even though sindoor is used for several religious purposes, the practice of wearing sindoor can be dated back to 5,000 years; travelling through the Harappan civilisation to the modern times.

Source: Pinterest
Sindoor applied on a woman during the marriage. Image Source: Pinterest

The excavation of female figurines at Baluchistan prove the usage of sindoor during the Harappan civilisation. Also, legend has it that Radha turned this vermilion into the design of a flame on her forehead. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, wiped her sindoor in disgust after her dignity was questioned. The use of sindoor is mentioned in Soundarya Lahharis, the Puranas and other legends.

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In Hinduism, the shades of red are usually denoted as the colours of goddesses and that of a married Indian woman. Legend has it, that Goddess Parvati grants ‘akhand saubhagya’ to women who wears sindoor on their forehead.

The sindoor is a red/saffron colour vermillion that is not only religiously valuable but also has many scientific benefits attached to it. While women wear mangalsutra and sindoor, married men wear ‘janeu‘.

Source: Pinterest
Lord Hanuman. Image Source: Pinterest

The sindoor holds immense values in all branches of Hinduism. It must be noted that idols of Lord Hanuman in most temples are made of or are covered with orange sindoor. It is believed that Lord Hanuman had covered himself in sindoor for the well-being of Lord Ram. Besides that, the Bengali community celebrates ‘Sindoor Khela’ where Bengali married women offer sindoor to Goddess Durga and fellow ladies wishing each other a prosperous married life.

Sindoor Khela in Bengali Hindu women. Image source:
Sindoor Khela in Bengali Hindu women during Durga Puja. Image source:

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While this tradition of sindoor has been going on since time immemorial, it must be noted that increasing commodification has led to cosmetic sindoor that contains red lead (Pb304) and other toxins. Substandard oil and oxidised metals are often used by even branded companies to acquire texture or make liquid sindoor. This not only leads to hair loss but also edima and erythema.

Natural sindoor also has its own scientific and physiological benefits. It contains a mixture of turmeric, lime and mercury. It is put on the partition of the hair on one’s forehead, right at the pituitary glands. The mercury not only soothes one’s mind but the pituitary glands also awaken the sexual desires, for all our emotions are centred up at this gland. This also stands as a justification as to why the widows have been kept away from using sindoor.

But as India is trying to become a westernised nation, the custom of sindoor is slowly being forgotten by the Indian youth. It is and will remain throughout as a debatable subject whether the issue of gender equality should be dragged into this tradition.

– by Chetna Karnani of NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna


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  • Manthra koliyer

    The tradition of wearing Sindoor has been carried since years

Next Story

Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS