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Solah means sixteen and Shringar means makeup or adornments. So, solah shringar is the 16 steps that women follow for their beautification from head to toe at the time of their wedding, some religious ceremony or festival. They have a sentimental value attached to them as they help a woman transcend into a beautiful bliss of being married in India. It is believed that these adornments increase the beauty of women by giving them a celestial beauty and divinity. According to Hindu beliefs, solah shringar is related to the 16 phases of the moon. These phases are believed to be connected to the menstrual cycle. So, solah shringar helps in negating the negative effects of woman’s menstrual cycle.
The ceremony starts with a pre-shringar bath. Firstly, hair is oiled properly and then they are washed with the help of amla, reetha, shikakai, milk and water. After that, hair is dried and fragranced with the help of incense sticks. Dried hair is then styled into braids and then tied into a bun. Then a turmeric, sandalwood, milk and honey paste is applied all over the body to give a natural radiance. The women look graceful and with a natural glow after taking the bath.
So here are the 16 steps of bridal makeup or what we Indians proudly call as Solah Shringar.
The Indian bridal dress is usually a saree, lehenga or ghagra choli. It can be red, maroon or green in colour; usually, the colour is red which symbolises auspiciousness. The bridal dress can be embroidered with gold which symbolises the ceremonial purity.
Sindoor or Vermillion is a red coloured powder that is applied on the centre parting of bride’s hair by the groom. The sindoor beholds the religious significance as it separates the bride from other unmarried women. A woman applies sindoor only after her marriage as a mark for the well-being of her husband.
The bindi is placed on the centre of the forehead. It is a red dot. Traditionally, it was made up of Vermillion but now the artificial fancy bindis made up of plastic have taken its place. The bindi symbolises a mystical eye which rests at that place helping her to foresee the future. Hindus believe that it is a place where our soul resides making it a place where wisdom and experience lie.
Kajal is purely used to enhance the beauty of eyes and give them a dramatic look as it is said eyes are the windows to our soul. Traditionally, kajal is prepared from the soot of an earthen lamp by lightening a wick in ghee. It is believed that Kajal guards a woman against all evil eyes.
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Indian brides wear more than one necklace on her wedding day. They can be short or long, haars, chokers, and simple chains or elaborate long pieces. A necklace can be made up of gold, diamond and often set with precious stones. But, the most traditional necklace is the mangalsutra, which is given by the husband on the wedding day. It is made up of gold with black beads. Mangalsutra symbolises marriage and is a token of love from the groom.
Maang tikka is a hair accessory which is made up of gold and other precious stones. It is worn in the centre parting of the hair; it ends till forehead. This accessory increases the beauty of bride as it highlights her face.
A nath or nose ring is made up of gold, diamond and other precious gems. It is worn in the left nostril. Some nath is extended towards the left ear with a chain and is tucked behind the ear. It is believed that women who get their nose pierced experience less pain during childbirth.
Mehndi is the art of applying the paste of henna on brides and grooms hands and feet in various designs before the wedding. Mehendi leaves a dark red colour. Applying mehendi is a very famous pre-wedding ritual in Hindu weddings. It is believed that the darker the colour of your mehendi, deeper the love of your soul mate will be. Henna also signifies the essence of love and strength between the couple.
Earrings are a very important part of bride’s attire. They are usually made up of gold, diamonds and gems, and are complimenting the necklace worn. Some of the popular styles are jhumkas, chand bali, kaanphool, danglers, ear-cuffs, meenakari, jhalar and kaan-chains. Earrings are considered auspicious.
Brides adorn their wrist with bangles made up of glass, lakh or gold. They are the visible sign of a married woman. Some brides like Punjabi and Sikh bride adds kalire to her bangles. These bangles or choodiyan symbolises her married status and scientifically increases a woman’s blood circulation.
This kind of jewellery is worn by a bride in her hands. Eight rings are worn by a bride in both her hands excluding the thumbs. These rings are attached to a central flower adornment in the upper part of her hand. Apart from wearing these eight rings in fingers bride wears an Aarsi which is a thumb ring. This thumb ring is studded with a mirror which enables the bride to catch a glimpse of her groom from the mirror.
Armlet or bajubandh are worn on the upper part of the arm by the bride. They are made up of gold or silver and are adorned with diamond or precious gems. They are mostly worn by Rajasthani and South Indian brides.
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Kamarbandh is the waistband that is tied on the waist of the bride. It enhances the graceful shape of a female silhouette, by making it look slender. Moreover, it helps in keeping the saree in place. Kamarbandh is usually made up of gold and embedded with precious gems.
Payals are also known as anklets. These chains are worn around the ankles; mostly attached with chiming beads. It may be a single chain or thick multi-layered chains. Payals are made up of silver as wearing gold on your feet is considered inauspicious in our Hindu culture.
Bichuas are also known as toe rings. These are worn on the second finger of each foot. They are also made up of silver as wearing gold on your feet is considered inauspicious. The toe ring is a symbol of marriage and only married women wear them.
The scent or itar is another element of solah shringar. It is applied to the bride to keep her fresh and fragrant throughout the wedding rituals. It also helps in keeping her calm.
These are the hair adornments that a bride wear along with her braid or attach them to her bun. They form an integral part of her solah shringar. Generally, white flowers like Jasmine are used but sometimes Rose and Marigolds are also used.
So, be it a metro city or a village almost every Hindu family follows these rituals of solah shringar as they form an integral part of our culture. We all follow them because we believe in these rituals and their implications and importance in our culture. Moreover, according to Hindu beliefs bridal look is incomplete without these solah shringars.
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