Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pigtails to Beautiful Brides

A close relative was always telling me that she was envious of those parents having daughters.  She has two sons and no daughters.  Her complaint was that she could only buy limited range of dresses for her sons while there was a much bigger range available for girls.  "I cannot beautify or bedeck these fellows as can be done with the daughters",  was her perennial lament.  I realized this with total impact last fortnight when we were part of the wedding functions of two nieces.

It is still a man's world.  In many parts of the world and our country women are still a suppressed lot and they have to fight every step not only to assert themselves but also to stay alive and live with dignity.  But it is heartening to know that there are still people longing for daughters and the richness they bring to the lives of their parents.  And the achievements they have made by penetrating into the fields that were thought of as male bastions a few decades ago.

The two little girls running around in pigtails around us a few years ago were now standing on the marriage platform with "Solah Singar", the sixteen beautification aids.  What is this solah singar or sixteen adornments of a bride?  Different sources describe them differently, but there are at least 12 common adornments.  The adornments are made from head to toe and considered a good omen or aid to good luck and prosperity.  The more commonly accepted sixteen adornments are:
  1. Wedding dress in the form of a Saree or lehenga or Salwar and Kurta.  It could be a gown or frock with frills and attachments as we see in church weddings.  Selection of the fabric and stitching of the dress has now become a specialized art and costs always appear to be stretching the limits of the purse.
  2. Hairstyle with flowers and jewellery forming part of the hairstyle.  Hair stylists are also specialists now and are in great demand.  General belief is that these people are responsible for the bride turning up late for wedding receptions and make the guests wait endlessly.  Those who do not like them also say that the bride would have looked even more beautiful without their interference!
  3. "Maangtika", an item of jewellery worn on the parting of the hair.  (Baitale Bottu)
  4. "Sindhoor" or a colouring power used on the parting of the hair.
  5. Bindi or Kumkum which is considered sacred and has religious significance in addition to enhancing the beauty of the face.  There are many different ways of using this adornment.
  6. Kaajal or black outlining of the eyes to make them wide and appealing.
  7. Nose rings.  There are umpteen varieties of nose rings and in many shapes and sizes.  The right size and shape chosen for a bride adds to the facial appearance and overall beautification.
  8. Earrings with maati and/or Jhumkas, again of multiple varieties and sizes.
  9. Necklaces, chokes or similar ornaments.  Each one to their taste and purse.  Any number the neck can accommodate and hold.
  10. Armlets or Baajoo bands, worn on both arms, usually in a defined shape.
  11. Mehendi or beautification of the palms and arms with Henna, a reddish orange dye obtained from a plant.  This Mehendi beautification is ideally done two  or three days before the actual main event so that the full effect of the dye is visible.  
  12. Bangles.  Bangles made of gold and glass are ideally worn in combination.  Other varieties made from many other materials are also available. Again multiple varieties and designs and as much and as many as the purses can afford.
  13. Rings on the fingers, generally gold ones.  From one or two to as many as eight, thumbs being spared.
  14. Kamarband or gold belts, embellished with stones or diamonds.  Lesser the kamar (trunk) size the better!
  15. Anklets or Toe rings, worn above the red line drawn on the feet, usually made of silver.  There is no bar to use golden ones, though.
  16. Kalungura or finger rings on the second fingers of the feet.  
Some sources include perfume also among the sixteen beautification aids.  Perfume being something not to be seen is better kept out of the count.  The sixteen items mentioned above are actually beautification aids and visible.  There may be a difference of opinion  about one or two items mentioned above, but they generally cover the description of "Solah Singar" or sixteen items of beautification.

The bride is bedecked with all these sixteen items of beautification and nobody complains on the wedding day.  But what about women on other days?  For many, some of these items are a daily routine and a must.  May be they may dispense with an arm band or kamarband, but other items like Bindi, Bangles and rings are a must on any given day.  Some lose interest in these aids later on in life which should never be the case.  We know of many personalities who are always seen turning up at events in their best outfits and adornments irrespective of age.

The solah singar industry is growing day by day and providing employment to thousands of workers and artisans.  Marketing techniques and modern technology have made the selection of the aids easy as well as complicated at the same time.

Getting back to the two brides we started with, we may not see them running around in pigtails again.  But there is no cause for disappointment.  A few years down the line, may be four, five or six, there could be another beautiful little girl in pigtails running behind these beautiful brides of today.


    1. Dear Keshav, This time you donot appear to have done full justice to the subject. The tone & tenor with which you started the blog with a desire of a mother to have daughters was diverted to the description of beauty parlours and beauty industry which are becoming costly day by day. I would appreciate if you would write that in India even the sixteen beauty shingaars are regarded by women as good omens for good luck in marriage and women prefer to adorn themselves with as many as possible as long as they have a living & healthy husband. But with age of modernisation the girls are doing away with many within weeks of their marriage.

    2. Hi Mr. keshav, have been reading your blog from yesterday...good article.

    3. Ask me about the 16 adornments! My daughter got married last month and after paying for some of the adornments my gasp has still not turned to normal breathing !