Meaning of the term “Solah Shringar”
The word “solah” means sixteen and “shringar” means beautification or adornment. Solah shringar is the term mostly used during the makeover session of Indian brides. It is a traditional way of beautifying the bride before her marriage. Solah shringar includes sixteen rituals which are carried out since ages. It is believed that the rituals of solah shringar actually enhance the charm of the bride and bestow her with a divine appearance. According to Hindu mythology, solah shringar correspond to the sixteen phases of lunar cycle (which affects the menstrual cycle of women). Solah shringar is believed to counteract the negativity of that cycle.
In the word “shringar”, shri means Lakhsmi, the goddess of beauty, good luck and wealth. It can be said that on the day of wedding, after solah shringar, the bride is believed to be an embodiment of the goddess, marking her entry into her marital life, as a new step of womanhood. Many elderly people call the bride “Lakshmi”, signifying lady luck and prosperity. The ritual of solah shringar is not only restricted to marriages, but it is also a part of many religious festivals. In olden times, the queens used to go for this elaborate ritual during any public appearance or on the blissful day of return of her king from battle.
Ritual of bathing before solah shringar
A divine bath of the bride marks the pre ritual ceremony of the solah shringar. It includes applying aromatic oils to the bride’s hair followed by a hair mask of Bhringraj, Amla, Shikakai, Bramhi, Aloe vera, Reetha and other essential herbs as these are considered to have therapeutic properties and impart shine to hair. On her skin is applied a paste of turmeric, gram flour, milk, sandalwood (which is known to be both therapeutic and auspicious) and rose water. This mixture is known as “Ubtan” and it brings glow to skin. In olden times, the bridesmaid used to sing while bathing the bride. Finally the bride is made to have a proper bath.
Steps of solah shringar
- “KESHAPASHARACHANA”:- This ceremony follows the divine bath. The bride’s hair is dried and made into any style which may be a part of the tradition or according to the latest trends. Her hair is adorned with flowers and other head ornaments. Again, it is a myth that a woman’s hair is enchanting to a man. A “gajra” (garland) is worn around the bride’s bun or braid made.
- A “maang tika” or “borla”- It is attached to the hair which adorns her forehead as well. It can be in different styles and designs and is mostly of Gold, silver or even pearls. It enhances the majestic appeal of the bride. Maharashtrian brides are known to wear a different kind of head ornament known as “Mandoria”. It is tied around the forehead with strings of pearls hanging on in either side. Basically a maang tika is a type of tiara with a chain attached to the hairline of the hair.
- VERMILLION or “Sindoor”- It is of significant importance to a bride and hence an indispensable part of solah shringar. During the marriage ceremony, the groom puts the sindoor to the bride’s forehead which marks the completion of the marriage. A bride is supposed to apply sindoor all throughout her life as long her husband is alive. Thus, Sindoor is believed to be the sanctified symbol of a bride or any married woman.
- BINDI: – It is again said to have a lot of religious importance and like the vermillion, it is also a holy symbol of married women. It is a common ritual to adorn the forehead of the bride with patterns of sandalwood and vermillion with a red dot at the centre of the two eye brows. This is the traditional bindi. Bindi binds the groom to his bride and contributes to a happy marital life.
- KAJAL: – It is actually kohl which is used to define the beautiful and mesmerizing eyes of the bride. An earthen lamp lit with a wick dipped in “ghee” is used to prepare the kajal. It is basically the soot formed which is made into a paste. Nowadays, Kohl sticks (or eye pencils) are used to beautifully line the eyes). Being smudge proof, these are preferred over traditional kajal.
- NATH: – It is a nose ring of pearl or gold. As the name says, it is worn on the left nose and sometimes it is extended with a chain up to the left ear. Wearing nose rings has been a convention since long. It bestows the bride with an ethnic look.
- JHOOMARS OR KARN PHOOL: – These are the heavy and gorgeous ear rings worn by the bride. Jhoomars can be extended with a chain up to the hair, covering the entire ear or it may be hanged from the ear lobe ending in a pendant.
- MANGAL SUTRA AND NECKLACES: – Mangalsutra is a necklace of black beads with a gold locket. The groom ties it around her neck. Other types of necklaces of gold and even flowers are worn by the bride.
- ARMLETS: – Armlets are beautifully decorated ornaments like a chain or band which is wound around the arm.
- CHOODIYAS AND KANGANS: – “Choodiyans” is the native term for bangles. Kangans are the heavy bangles similar to a bracelet. The traditional bangles are mostly of glass, iron, shell and even ivory. Bangles are considered auspicious and are believed to bring in fortune and good health.
- HENNA: – Mehendi or henna is the beautiful and intricate patterns made on the palms and feet of the bride. The red color of the henna is considered auspicious. Henna signifies the bond of love between couples and hence is considered as a pivotal ritual to preserve the everlasting essence of love. Mehendi ceremony is one of the most special and celebrated ritual in an Indian wedding.
- HATHPHOOL AND RINGS: – Hathphool is an ornament with finger rings attached to chains with a medallion on the upper side of palm, which ends in a bracelet. The bride wears eight rings on the day of marriage.
- AARSI: – It is a thumb ring with a mirror that the bride has to wear to get a glimpse of her face as well as her spouse.
- KAMARBAND OR KARDHANI:-It is a waist band of mostly gold and silver embellished with precious stones. Waistbands not only beautify the waist but also help women to secure the sari.
- PAYAL: – Payals are anklets that the bride wears. These are silver chains with cluster of tinkling bells. When the bride moves, these payals produce a pleasing sound.
- BICHUAS AND MAHUR: – Toe rings (known as bichuas) are the foot jewelry and are worn as long as the husband is alive. Mahur is a red colored liquid used to draw outer borders on the feet.
With this, the pre-wedding ritual of solah shringar is completed. The bride, ready for the wedding ceremony, enchants everyone with her majestic charm. She is then blessed into her newly married life.