Since time immemorial, a bride’s book has pages filled with facts about solah shringaar. The sixteen pieces of adornment are not only symbols of a bride’s marital status but have deep-rooted implications. Even Indian mythology has some exciting instances. Remember the episode in the epic Ramayana by sage Valmiki when Anusuya gives her ornaments to Sita and tells her that a married woman must always illuminate herself with solah shringaar.
Read the epic poem Geet Govind by Jayadeva and you are bound to find sweet references of shringaar when Radha asks Lord Krishna to adorn her body with jewellery, her hair with flowers, put a bindi on her forehead and earrings on her ears — when it is time for her to go home. The pieces of shringaar not only serve the purpose of gracing the woman but are essential tokens of her social status and virtue as the torch bearer.
Popular culture would have us believe that our heritage, customs and rituals have no logical base. However, contrary to this, these rituals are a development of scientific study and research. Indian sages and seers were scholars of astrology, ayurveda and astronomy. Even with evolving times like ours, their research provides us with appropriate explanations behind the adornments.
There are only sixteen items of a bride’s beautification and not more or less. It is because the solah shringaar corresponds to the sixteen phases of the moon, presumably linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle, leading to negative effects on a woman’s mental and physical wellness. Our ancient sages believed these effects can be repealed by wearing the sixteen items of cosmetics and jewellery. There are scientific reasons behind each element of shringaar which enhances a bride’s beauty. The reasons help in making her more adept at her wifely duties.
The Colours Of Shringaar
Sindoor is the most significant element of the solah shringaar. It symbolises the beginning of a woman’s marriage and the commencement of her sexual life. It is applied in the middle parting line of the bride’s hair, where the brahmarandra aperture is a woman’s point of balance. The mercury present in the sindoor helps in cooling down the bride. After marriage, the free-spirited girl transforms into a woman and has to shoulder the responsibilities which can devitalise her. The sindoor is very important for a bride as it will help her maintain her serenity and peace.
A bindi, worn on the forehead between the eyebrows, pretties the bride instantly and makes her fair features even more gorgeous. The bindi not only accentuates her features but activates a woman’s Ajna Chakra or the forehead chakra through the pressure applied by the bindi’s weight. Ajna, translating to ‘command,’ is believed to be the eye of intuition. This chakra is a gateway for all the spiritual energy coming from the environment. It also protects the chakra from the surrounding negative energy. The bride is expected to perform her duties proficiently for which her Ajna Chakra must be properly activated to let her maintain her mental balance in her new house and absorb the new energies.
Mehendi, the most fundamental component of the Solah Shringaar, not only lends colour to the arms and feet of the bride but has medicinal properties too. Getting married is a serious business in India and can get very cumbersome. Therefore on the night before the wedding, mehendi is applied on arms and feet– home to our body’s nerve endings, to de-stress and relieve them. Also, mehendi heals the minor cuts and bruises the bride might have sustained during the preparations.
Kajal or kohl, used since the times of Greek queen Cleopatra, makes a bride’s eyes look expressive and innocent and is believed to purify the eyes from pollutants. It also protects the eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Weddings tend to get exhausting for the bride since many preparations are involved, which takes months.
Hindu brides wear red, maroon and pink dresses on their wedding day because these colours signify fertility and passion. Red and orange are associated with the rising sun, which connotes the beginning of a new life for the bride. Also in Hindu tradition, the reddish planet Mars is linked with marriage; hence, Hindu brides prefer these colours. These colours fill the bride with vitality and fire that are important for her married life.
The Rhythm Of A Shringaar
Nath is not just a symbol of marriage but has an ayurvedic significance too. Having the nose pierced on the left side is customary for Indian brides for a good reason. The spot for the nose piercing is linked to a woman’s reproductive organs. It is said to ease menstrual and labour pains. Not only this, but the piercing also contributes to the general reproductive health of the bride, thus making her fertile enough to procreate. The nose piercing is also associated with protecting the nasal track of the bride, thereby preventing her from any infection when she enters a new milieu. The modern version of nath is called the nose stud/ring, smaller than its older version and can be worn with any outfit.
The choodian or chhoda looks divine on a bride’s hands, besides being a mark of her suhaag, the choodian and paayal aid the bride in maintaining her energy levels throughout the day. Her strength, which gets consumed while doing the household chores, gets vibrated back to the body through the sound waves produced by the choodian and paayal. Also, a paayal prevents inflammation of foot soles and aid in general blood circulation of the body. Hindus also believe that the crackling sound of the choodiyan and paayal helps ward off the negative or evil energy. The modern bride prefers to wear bracelets and anklets which are much sleeker and trendier. Jewellery is the most prominent element of a woman’s bridal attire. They grace the bridal look like nothing else does. Ornaments made of gold and silver, like mangalsutra, kamarbandh, bajubandh, haar, karnaphool, maangteeka and bichua are worn by the Indian brides. Gold is believed to have a hot effect and silver has cooling properties on the skin, thus helping maintain body temperature. These metals are abundant in a bride’s trousseau as they have cancer-averting properties. Emperor Akbar is believed to have gifted many pieces of unique navratan and kundan jewellery to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
Shringaars With Effervescence
Gajra is a bunch or a string of flowers, usually made of jasmine, worn by the bride in her hair to make her hairstyle stand out. They beautify her hair, and their aroma lends a sense of freshness and calmness to the bride on her wedding day when she is tense about leaving her parents and going to her husband’s house.
Itra (perfume), besides making the bride smell heavenly, stimulates the bride’s senses. It is made of fragrant ingredients like rose and sandalwood and lifts the bride’s spirits and moods on the day of her marriage. Scents trigger the bride’s emotions and enhance her mood on the day when she has to leave her parents.
A Meaningful Adornment
The bride is the centre of attraction on her wedding day and must look divine. Hence the solah shringaar is of utmost importance for a bride. She is adorned from head to toe to capture her groom’s attention forever and prevent him from going astray. Not just on their wedding day, women wear all the solah shringaars, even on festivals like karvachauth and Teej, as a mark of love for their husbands. However, the modern brides have given a modern twist to the shringaar. For instance, Sindoor has replaced the traditional powdered one.
The Gajra has been replaced by various hair accessories like artificial flowers and metal hair pins. Nowadays, instead of mehendi which takes hours to apply, brides opt for mehendi tattoos, which are quicker to apply. The vermillion bindi has given way to sticking ones having kundan or Zircon stones on them that can be worn with both the traditional and Indo-Western outfits.
Bring The Charm
Indian brides, though not so conventional anymore, haven’t forgotten these items’ significance and are still rooted. Looks are God’s gift but beauty is what you can acquire and solah shringar will help you achieve that. So brides-to-be and all the other women bring out all your fine jewellery and cosmetics from the confines of your lockers and flaunt them proudly, for now you know how very beneficial the solah shringaar is. Not only will you benefit yourself, but make your husband go crazy about you by waking him up by the rhythmic sound of your choodian or paayal and by asking him to decorate your hair parting with sindoor and your luscious hair with gajra. So adorn yourself more ‘meaningfully’.