Cosmetics, Jewellery, and Perfumes

A Hindu bride just prior to the wedding ceremony. Her jewellery is made of 22-carat gold. After marriage, Hindu ladies should wear the bindi in between the eyebrows. A most important accessory for the bride is the mangala-sutra (auspicious necklace), made of black beads and a golden disc-shaped pendant.

Ancient Sanskrit texts laid down the concept of sola singar, the sixteen items with which every woman should adorn herself. They are: the bindi, necklaces, earrings, flowers in the hair, rings, bangles, armlets (for the upper arm), waistbands, ankle-bells, kohl (or kajal – mascara), toe rings, henna, perfume, sandalwood paste, the upper garment, and the lower garment. Though modern life makes wearing all of these impractical, many women will dress up in most or all sixteen items for weddings, festivals, and other special occasions.

Hindu jewellery and ornaments are now popular amongst non-Hindus. The nose-ring, or nose-pin, traditionally represented purity and was often adopted when a girl reached marriageable age. The word “bindi” derives from the Sanskrit word “bindu,” meaning “point” or “dot.” Like tilak (see Four Main Denominations), it is placed on the agya-chakra, often termed “the third eye.” In some traditions, the bindi (also called sindoor) is the sign of a married lady. Customarily it is made from kum-kum — vermilion), but as a fashion item it now comes in many shapes and colours.

Hinduism engages all the senses in the pursuit of a higher pleasure, and aromas are particularly useful in invoking an appropriate mood. The distillation of fragrances goes back to ancient times, when there were two main preparations – pastes (ointments) and liquids. Sandalwood paste is still made by the long process of rubbing and grinding the wood on a flat stone with rose-water. In temple ceremonies, the paste is mixed with saffron and daubed on the forehead. It is especially cooling to the mind. Indian perfumes are usually pure essential oils – flower and herbal extracts without the addition of alcohol. They are used in puja, as well as for personal use.

Popular fragrances include rose, jasmine, amber, kush, and sandalwood. Camphor, an off-white crystalline powder, is often burned in lamps offered during the arti ceremony. One feature of Hindu aromatics – familiar to most Westerners and easily available – is incense.These are used during worship and to pleasantly scent the home.There are different forms such as sticks, cones, and resins burned on charcoal.