Hinduism have evolved to be a complex religion. The religion has become a concoction of almost all possible philosophical and theological ideologies. However, the concept of Hinduism is not my primary concern here.
Hinduism, in its evolution has become a mix of science, spirituality, superstition and “symbolism”. The symbolic aspect of two such traditions:
1) Vermilion Sindoor.
Almost everyone acquainted with basic Hinduism knows the application of sindoor by married Hindu women. The idea or symbolism that carries the action is so as to identify an individual of her marital status. There are lot more additions like a necklace “Mangalya Sutra, Thaali, Minnu“, Nose rings, Toe rings “Minji in Tamil Nadu”, even bangles and earrings. The Idea of Minji or toe ring is so that the onlooker can find out the marital status just by looking at the feet and not even the face of the woman. Giving her the respect she deserves. (Also, signifying her availability or lack thereof- if she is available, go ahead and look her other features kinda sign.). In Ramayana, there is an incident of Lakshmana handing the toe-ring of Sita, (which she lost during the kidnapping act by Ravana) to grief stricken Rama, signifying that Lakshmana had laid his eyes only on the toes of Sita.
Anyways, the prompt for the post came when I heard a new theory about Sindoor. The theory that the line of Sindoor in blood-red color across the hairline partition on the forehead is analogous to the “laceration of hymen”. Denoting a blood line forming during the sexual-intercourse. Further denoting her marital status. When I heard about this for the first time. I was like ‘wow’ at the idea of Symbolism.
Link to Photographer
Sankara the ancient philosopher has a different take on the whole thing. His version is also beautiful.
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 Vermilion, 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.
-Sankaracharya in “Soundrarya Lahari”
Footnote: It’s said that the amount of Sindoor that falls on the bride’s nose determines how much her husband will love her. (I am so sure..!)
2) The sacred ash (Vibhuti)
In Hinduism, A man and even a women wears sandal paste, turmeric, ash, along the forehead. The symbolism that I found most intriguing is the wearing of Ash. In Hinduism, generally a corpse is cremated by burning on Pyre. What remains after the cremation is just the ash. The wearing of ash suggests our mortality. Or the knowledge/wisdom of such an eventuality. [There is also the suggestion that, the forehead region is some kind of tantric hot-spot and all, for me as of now, that is less convincing.
Memento mori – Latin for “Remember your mortality”
I find the mortality version quite profound.
P.S: There is a science called rumpology, a science that tells that your bum represents your brain. May be if we extrapolate the theory, it has a grain of truth. Genitalia::Bum :: :: Forehead::Brain.
P.P.S: Hindus are called dot-heads by ignorant-racist individuals.