Hindu Hair Style: Why Hindu women put Kunkum on Parting of Hair? (Post No.3198)


Research article written by London Swaminathan


Date: 28 September 2016

Time uploaded in London: 15-30

Post No.3198

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.



After reading my article on Vedic and Tamil hair style, a teacher from a Delhi school wrote to me asking for more details about hair style in ancient Indian literature; the school has taken a project on hair style in ancient India; here are some more details:-


Hair Style of the Goddess

Saundarya lahari (waves of beauty) is a famous hymn on the goddess by Sri Adi Shakaracharya. It contains 100 verses. I quote below only two verses here to show the importance of hair style. The mentioning of hair styles in the oldest Sanskrit work the Rig Veda and later Sangam Tamil literature emphasize the importance of hair style in ancient India.
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;

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.

(Blessing of Goddess of wealth, Your word becoming a fact)
Aralaih swabhavyadalikalabha-sasribhiralakaih
Paritham the vakhtram parihasati pankheruha-ruchim;
Dara-smere yasmin dasana-ruchi-kinjalka-ruchire
Sugandhau madhyanti Smara-dahana-chaksur-madhu-lihah.

By nature slightly curled,
And shining like the young honey bees
Your golden thread like hairs,

Surround your golden face.
Your face makes fun of the beauty of the lotus.
And adorned with slightly parted smile,
Showing the tiers of your teeth,
Which are like the white tendrils,
And which are sweetly scented.
Bewitches the eyes of God,


In the above slokas/verses, we see the beauty of Goddess Parvati’s hair style described by Adi Shankara. Parting of hair is very important for married Hindu ladies. They apply Kunkum (holy vermillion powder) on the Parting. This is a symbol to identify a married woman.


Porcupine needle/thorn

Parting of Hair Ceremony, Acupuncture?

Seemantham means ‘parting of hair’ which is one of the 40 important rituals in the life of the Hindus. This is performed when a woman is pregnant. There are two traditions of doing it: some people do it on the 6th or 8th month of pregnancy and others do it in the odd month of pregnancy (3, 5, 7).


Though there are lot of explanations, I believe that it is an acupuncture ceremony to get a healthy child. The family prays for a male child, but they are happy to get a healthy baby irrespective of the sex.


Since we have celebrated several Seemanthams in our family, I know that the priest uses a porcupine’s thorn to do the parting of hair (of the pregnant lady). This shows that the pressing with porcupine’s thorn has some effect on the health of the baby. Of course there are other things such as the Vedic mantras, shower, gifts from the relatives, big feast, worship of god, blessings of the elders – boost the confidence of the pregnant woman.


The Kunkum (sindhoor used for Tika or Bindi) was a medical preparation in the olden days. The turmeric used in Kunkum has anti-bacterial chemicals. Now they use artificial colouring.

Kunkum wards of the evil eye as well.

So the parting and applying Kunum in the parting has lot of meaning and scienitific basis.


Hair Style in the Vedic Literature


Vedic literature has the following terms for hair and hair styles; I will explain them in the second part:-



Kaparda, braid 



Kesa , hair

Ksura, razor (Sangam Tamil Literature has Scissors=mayir kurai karuvi )


Palita ,grey haired

Pulasti, wearing the hair plain

Sikhanda , lock

Sikh, top knot


Siiman (parting)


Varahamihira and Vatsyayana also discuss the colouring of hair and grooming of hair in their books. I will give them separately.


My Earlier article:

Vedic Hindus’ Hair Style, posted on 22 April 2015



To be continued………………..



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1 Comment

  1. This is a poem I just read yesterday, on the subject, by the Indian-American doctor-poet!


    Well yes, I said, my mother wears a dot.
    I know they said “third eye” in class, but it’s not
    an eye eye, not like that. It’s not some freak
    third eye that opens on your forehead like
    on some Chernobyl baby. What it means
    is, what it’s showing is, there’s this unseen
    eye, on the inside. And she’s marking it.
    It’s how the X that says where treasure’s at
    is not the treasure, but as good as treasure.—
    All right. What I said wasn’t half so measured.
    In fact, I didn’t say a thing. Their laughter
    had made my mouth go dry. Lunch was after
    World History; that week was India—myths,
    caste system, suttee, all the Greatest Hits.
    The white kids I was sitting with were friends,
    at least as I defined a friend back then.
    So wait, said Nick, does your mom wear a dot?
    I nodded, and I caught a smirk on Todd—
    She wear it to the shower? And to bed?—
    while Jesse sucked his chocolate milk and Brad
    was getting ready for another stab.
    I said, Hand me that ketchup packet there.
    And Nick said, What? I snatched it, twitched the tear,
    and squeezed a dollop on my thumb and worked
    circles till the red planet entered the house of war
    and on my forehead for the world to see
    my third eye burned those schoolboys in their seats,
    their flesh in little puddles underneath,
    pale pools where Nataraja cooled his feet.

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