The haldi kumkum ceremony: the essence of womanhood

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The auspicious haldi kumkum ceremony at Makar Sankranti

The haldi kumkum ceremony is quite popular in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Goa. The married women of Tamil Nadu host a similar function called Aadiperukku, which is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month called Adi (mid-July to mid-August).

This small function is hosted in several Indian homes on festive occasions like Makar Sankranti, Chaitra (the first month of spring) Mangal Gauri, Hartalika and during Navratri.  The house is decorated with fresh torans (floral hangings).

Basically, it is an all women social gathering in which a married woman invites her relatives, friends, neighbours and acquaintances to take part in the haldi kumkum ceremony.

The haldi kumkum ceremony
Each aspect of the haldi kumkum ceremony has a deeper meaning.

  • The hostess applies haldi first and then Kumkum on the forehead of a married woman. Haldi dispels the negative energy between them and kumkum infuses positive energy in their bond. The hostess invokes the divinity that lies dormant in the form of Durga Devi within the guest when she applies haldi and kumkum on her forehead.
  • She then applies some perfume on the wrists and clothes of the married woman. This way she hopes to please the divine Goddess that resides in her guest’s soul.
  • She then sprinkles some rose water on the married woman. The fragrance of rose water purifies the atmosphere and awakens the dormant power of the Goddess that resides in her guest’s soul.
  • She then offers her a gift of a blouse piece, with coconut or fruit placed over two betel leaves, two areca nuts, some bangles and some flowers. The hostess holds all this within the pallu of her saree. The guest respectfully bows to the gift first. The guest then accepts the gift with both her hands and places it within the pallu of her saree.
  • The entire ceremony is simple. But it has a profound impact on both the donor and the recipient of haldi kumkum.
  • In some homes, women sing bhajans/prayers or recite some chants to cleanse and purify the atmosphere.
  • During the haldi kumkum ceremony, each woman prays for the long life of her husband and the welfare and prosperity of her family members.
  • All the women then seek the blessings of the seniors in the family.

Snacks, sweets and beverages are now served to all women. Small til gud laddoos (balls made of sesame and jaggery) are served during Makar Sankranti. If the haldi kumkum ceremony is organized during the month of Chaitra, seasonal delicacies made out of fruits and vegetables are served to all the guests along with kairicha panna ( a refreshing drink made with raw mango and jaggery).

The significance of applying haldi first:
Haldi (turmeric) is applied first on the forehead of the married woman.  Turmeric has antiseptic properties. It has the potent warm colour of the radiant Sun. And symbolically, like the Sun, haldi too has the ability to destroy negative energy around a woman.

The significance of applying kumkum:
Kumkum is commonly known as vermillion powder. It can be made either from turmeric or from saffron. The rich yellow colour of Haldi turns into the deep red colour of Kumkum when some slaked lime is added to dried and powdered turmeric.

Kumkum is red in colour. It is the colour of love. But it can be symbolically connected to the fertility of Mother Earth. It infuses the woman with positive energy.

That is why it is imperative that women apply Haldi first and then Kumkum on the foreheads of other women.

Women are considered to be a form of Mother Earth. They are givers. They have the tendency of losing themselves in their roles. They have an abundance of love in their hearts for others but often forget to love themselves.

The haldi kumkum ceremony is a small yet highly significant way of celebrating the womanhood and divinity of a woman. It’s small wonder then, that women love to drape themselves in their finest sarees, adorn themselves with their favourite pieces of jewellery to attend such small social gatherings. The positive energy of such haldi kumkum functions permeates into their souls and is reflected in their radiant yet subtle smile of peace and happiness.

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