Beauty Rituals

Hello from IWA team,

We are often asked a number of questions regarding the beauty rituals of different traditions. We spent quite a while researching, and indulged in fascinating conversations with a number of experts. Here’s what we came up with.

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Wedding Beauty Rituals

Wedding beauty rituals have a threefold purpose – cleansing, purifying and enhancing beauty. After all, what would any bride want on her special day – beautiful skin, get glowing skin.

Different Indian communities have varied practices. In some regions, both bride and groom undergo this ritual; in others it’s just the bride. Various local ingredients are used to prepare the cleansing mix. What’s common to most communities is chandan (sandalwood) for its soothing and softening properties, haldi (turmeric), which is a traditional antiseptic and rosewater which perfumes the mix. In all places, this is an informal occasion for the immediate family and close friends to get together in a spirit of camaraderie.

Wedding Beauty Rituals – Bengal Tradition

The gaye holud ceremony is common to both Bengali Hindus and Muslims. The groom’s family goes to the bride’s home, taking the bridal sari, ingredients for the ritual (haldi, mehndi), mithai and various gifts. A whole fish (or sometimes two, to resemble a couple) is wrapped in traditional red and gold and also taken as an auspicious symbol. One by one, the visitors apply haldi paste on the bride’s face and body. Her feet are then lined with alta (a red liquid). Her family performs a similar ceremony at the groom’s home.

Wedding Beauty Ritual – Tamil Tradition

The ceremony, known as nalangu is performed the evening before the wedding. Members of both families and friends gather at the venue. The bride is first seated on a special chair with the ritual ingredients placed before her and brass oil lamps lit on either side. The gathered womenfolk apply chandan paste on her face and arms, kum-kum on her forehead and sprinkle flower petals and rosewater on her. Finally, they perform aarti with a large plate containing haldi-kumkum water and camphor. This is followed by a similar ceremony for the groom.

Wedding Beauty Rituals – Kashmir Tradition

Kashmiri Muslim pre-nuptial ceremony is called maanziraat, a combination of three rituals – the purification bath, mehndi ceremony followed by a program of music called wanzun. Prior to the bath, the women of the house apply a rich, skin-nourishing paste made of gram flour (besan) and curd, perfumed with saffron and rosewater on the bride’s face. The bride’s eldest aunt applies mehndi on her palms after the bath.

Wedding Beauty Rituals – Goa Tradition

In Goa, for instance, the pre-wedding beautification ritual is known as roos. The night before the wedding, bride and groom bathe in coconut water. Family and friends gather in the pandal where the bridal couple is seated. The roos is then applied from head to toes, symbolizing the end of their single status. There’s much camaraderie during this function. After it’s over, everyone partakes of atoll, a special sweet made of rice flavored with jaggery and coconut.

Wedding Beauty Rituals – Gujarat Tradition

The ritual, known as pithi, follows the mehndi ceremony. Pithi is a paste of chandan powder, rosewater, herbs and mogro (a sort of attar), which is traditionally mixed by the bride’s kaki (paternal uncle’s wife). After a priest blesses the pithi, the gathered womenfolk apply it on the upturned palms of the bride, who is seated on a low stool. At the groom’s home, a similar ceremony is performed.

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