Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sindhoor in Harappan figurines

My response to the following article that quotes Prof BB.Lal

on the Harappan findings is mixed.

It is an important and a good news that the artifacts unearthed in the Harappan sites

show women wearing sindhoor in their forehead.

This habit is a very deep-rooted one even today,

not only in the North but in the Southern sates also.

This is also an indication that Harappans were a

continuing civilization of the Vedic life

that flourished in the Saraswathi river basin

It is more apt to call the Harappan sites as Saraswathy or Vedic sites.

But I can not accept the last paragraph of the article

as though the south Indian culture is different–

"He said that linguistic differences between the Saraswati civilisation

and the one that existed in South India came to be known as the Aryan-Dravidian divide. "In the third millennium BC, there was this southern Neolithic culture in the region which later became the states of TN, AP and Karnataka,"

said Prof Lal an archaeologist of international repute."

Why the tag 'neoloithic culture' here?

The western classification of time period holds no water in the Indian sub continent.

For, there is a continuing history in India

from the times of the end of the last Ice age.

The Vedic civilization was spread throughout Bharatha varsha

that included the south of the Vindhyas too.

The naming such as Saraswathy, Harappan, neo-lithic civilization, etc.,

are all done by us.

It was the same culture throughout India

and it is wrong to classify Indian regions as separate.

One may not get adequate archeological inputs in the South –

as one can get in the Harappan sites.

It is because the habitation is a continuously happening thing

in the south leaving only the life-style of people and the inherited literature as proof, while the locales of the present excavations in the course of Saraswathy

were all abandoned ones or located in the desert.

Every kind of samskara (practices from birth to death)

are similar throughout India.

Sindhoor is very much part of Indian or Vedic culture.

Even Sita was wearing a mark -"thilak" on her forehead.

One of the incidents she narrated to Hanuman to be told to Rama

was about how the Thilak on her forehead was once effaced and

how Rama replaced it with "manah shila"

(a kind of mineral of the red arsenic variety)

from the hill where they were standing then.

(Valmiki Ramayana, Sundhara Khanda, sarga 40)

Sangam literature contains many instances of

thilak or sindhoor worn by women.

All men and women used sandal on their body.

The sandal was got from Himalayas, and Podhigai too.

The sandal paste was mixed with other sweet smelling agents

and worn on the forehead by men and women.

When it comes to married women,

turmeric was added along with 'Chunnam" (calcium carbonate) to get a red colour.

There is a mention of a tree called 'thilakam'

of which a paste is made to decorate their forehead.

This tree is also known as 'Manjaadi' indicating the colour ingredient as yellow.

Kumkumam – the Tamil equivalent of Sindhoor was known as

"Chem-saandhu" (Choodamani Nigandu 6-14)

Another name for this sindhoor in Tamil is 'virai'(Choodamani Nigandu 6-14)

In Mangala vaazhthu paadal chapter (verse 53) of Silappadhikaaram,

the auspicious women are described as "Viraiyinar, malarinar.."

indicating the mark on their forehead.

What this "virai" consists of ,

is told in another chapter that describes Madhavi's make-up,

"Aindhu viraiyinum"

There are 5 types of ingredients to make this 'virai',

according to the commentary.

(kottam, thurukkam, thakaram, agil and aaram).

In Manimegalai we come across a description of women smearing

"kumkuma varNam" on their breasts.

Like this we can quote many verses on how the women in Tamilnadu

were wearing the red colored thilakam –

worn in different shapes –

the most beautiful being the shape of the spread -feathers of the peacock.

The tradition is that sandal paste is to be worn in the chest of men

and the forehead of men and women.

But married women wore red or yellow coloured thilakam on their forehead.

The tradition continues even today in the case of death ceremony of women.

The birth canal of the dead woman is closed with a handful of sandal paste

in the case of a widow and

with turmeric paste in the case of a sumangali

(who leaves back her husband).

Sandal and turmeric are the basic ones used throughout the Aryavartha for all times.

Any variation in their colour as red or magenta etc are as per one's wish.

But it is not confined to certain regions of India.

Similarly it is not possible to expect archeological support to such practices in the South But literary evidences are there.

Again any theory on discrepancy between the north and the south

on the basis of linguistics also will not stand for long.

Tamil had been distinct.

Other so called Dravidian languages of the south were the resultant

of a combination of Tamil and Sanskrit.

This again shows that these people were the real migrants and not the Tamils.

Their migration had obviously happened from Dwaraka

as I have noted in my precious write-ups.

When Dwaraka was getting flooded, people moved through the banks of river

that started in the Himalayas and drained in the sea in Gujarath.

Mahabharatah gives this information.

It is also probable that the displaced people settled all through the stretch of this river while a part of them went on to settle in Kashmir.

What we see in the Harappan sites is perhaps the remnants left by these people who settled throughout the course of the river.

The Dwaraka bound river starting form the Himalayas tally

with the Saraswathy river now researched.

Another group of people were led by sage Agasthya to Tamil nadu

and they settled what are now Kerala and Karnataka.

The merger of their language with Tamil gave rise to their languages of today.

From very ancient accounts drawn from puranas,

it can said that Tamil was the Manushya bhasha in the previous manvanthra

(Sanskrit is always the Deva bhasha)

and was given written form by sage Agasthya (Agastheeyam)

and later enriched by sangam poets whose works stretched to 10,000 years.

The Manushya bhasha of the current manvanthra was Prakrit

which was given written form the later Vedic period.

Coming to the topic under discussion,

Sindhoor was part of the entire Indian culture, so also the bangles.

Tamil women attached auspiciousness to bangles only as their North Indian counterparts.

Mangalya sutra or thali is a later practice –

not found anytime in the past throughout India –

but was followed only in the last 1000 years -

which I will be covering soon in this blog.


Related articles:-


Your sindhur is 3,000 years old



Sindhur, the unique marking on the foreheads of Indian women, dates back to the third millennium BC. Even during the early days of civilisation women used to wear the sindhur or tilak on their foreheads, excavations along the now defunct Saraswati river have proved.

"The Indian woman had adorned her forehead with sindhur as a symbol of marriage. This perhaps also indicated the existence of a structural family life in an orderly society," Prof BB Lal, former director general, Archaeological Survey of India told Deccan Chronicle.

"We came across the sindhur in terracotta figurines from the sites along the states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Carbon dating confirmed the fact that these terracotta figurines date back to the third millennium BC," said Prof Lal.

"Similarly the practice of greeting one another with namaste and the criss-cross pattern of furrows on farm lands, seen even today in Haryana and Rajasthan, date back to the Saraswati era," he said. The Harappan and Mohenjo Daro civilisations were only extensions of the Saraswati or Vedic Civilisation, according to Prof Lal.

"Since the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro happened simultaneously in 1920, they are known as Harappan civilisations. But the Saraswati civilisation is much older than that of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro," said Prof Lal.

He said that linguistic differences between the Saraswati civilisation and the one that existed in South India came to be known as the Aryan-Dravidian divide. "In the third millennium BC, there was this southern Neolithic culture in the region which later became the states of TN, AP and Karnataka," said Prof Lal an archaeologist of international repute.


a said...

You said 'TaaLi' or 'Mangal-sutra' is a later practice, but Rig-veda does mention about taaLi for which there's a quote: " Mangalyam tantu naanenaMama jeevan hetuna.KanTe badhnaami subhagetvamjeeva sharadahshhatam"

plz put some light on this

Dr Jayasree Saranathan said...

This sloka is not from Rig veda or from any other veda.

It is from Vayu purana.
Infact both kanya daan and mangalya dharana are not sruti (veda)- based but dharma-satra based practices.

The tying of mangal sutra is not mentioned in many popular marriages from Sita kalyanam to kannagi- kovalan marriage in Tamil nadu. I am sifting through different information on these for the past few months and improving on my earlier write-ups on this topic published in a yahoo group.

The words mangal, jeevanam and sharata shatam in the sloka for mangalya dharanam connote a different picture, indicating the origin of this practice.

Since it will take 3 to 4 posts to cover all the information I have, I will be posting them only when I can sit and write continuously all the posts. Hoping to write soon:)