No Offence, But What The Sindoor?

Why do women have to wear signs of matrimony like the sindoor and the mangalsutra? A post that will make you think.

Why do women have to wear signs of matrimony like the sindoor and the mangalsutra? A post that will make you think.

Sindoor, mangalsutra, red bindi, green/red bangles and ring on the toe – these are some of the markers that according to societal customs signify that a woman is married. This is not a feminist rant. But two valid questions to think about:

  1. Why exactly do we need anything that signifies a married person, especially a woman?
  2. And if we really do, why exactly don’t we have such things for men?

And if you don’t find a valid answer, please – think. These customs were perhaps made according to some thoughts by the people in the previous generation. I could call them misogynists, and we could debate meaninglessly over it. But there’s no point (apart from historical analysis) in trying to find logic in that. But in today’s day and age, there’s no logic why these systems should exist now.

We generally put marks and symbols on what we own, like our house or our cows, dogs, other cattle and pets. For a fact, a man does not own his wife so evidently there need not be any symbol representing a married woman. 

Answers apart from ‘because our ancestors did it’ and ‘because Indian culture promotes it’ would be appreciated. Because there are many such things that we conveniently stopped doing over time. As a part of a civilized society, we have evolved parts of our tradition. Like we don’t walk from city to city to trade, we don’t have to hunt everyday to eat, we don’t practice sati and dudhpiti anymore (I hope), a lot more people go for love marriages, widows-widowers can remarry, we condemn eve teasing (street harassment), domestic violence, rapes and so on. But this we did not change.

Also, I do not wish to be enlightened with the supposedly scientific (and unproven) analogies around these customs, unless we propose to do them about men too- for any ‘mental, psychological, sexual health benefits’.

For all the ‘pro science’ people, modern sindoor mainly uses vermilion (made up of mercury sulfide which is chiefly toxic), an orange-red pigment. In early 2008, allegations of high lead content led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recall batches of sindoor from several manufacturers.

Even apart from this, no civilized person or human being, be it male or female; should have to wear anything that signify they are someone’s someone.

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So, some women do it because their husband/family believe in these customs. Some women say ‘I do it because it is my personal choice’. It is technically not, this personal choice is derived from our patriarchal societal norms. And of course go ahead and do it if you wish to, but at the back of your mind, remember it is not such a flashy and sentimental thing as our daily soaps and ‘K3G’ like movies have shown to us all these years. We must see that a lot of these traditions are market driven and directed.

The Indian Market of Sindoors

The Indian Market of Sindoors


Some women, on the other hand, have lovable and supportive husbands who don’t wish to ‘own the wife’. I have had the privilege of know some such amazing Indian men. The kind who won’t have ego issues if his wife has a male best friend, or have many male friends. The one who treats his wife as his equal, and doesn’t make her quit job after marriage or pregnancy. However it is true that not all men are like that and it is true that not all women want equality.

If you still do it, it’s okay. But remember what it truly means. It means that you are owned by a man; and so you, all other men who see you, and the society must remember the same. It also means that your husband is your God, and he may do whatever he wants to you. Remember this and then think, how is it different from a dog’s belt?

Sorry to be offensive but it is all for the good if you are offended. It will make you think!

Published earlier here.

Image source: groom putting sindoor on bride’s forehead by Shutterstock.


About the Author

Aarti Nair

Co-founder of, India's first platform for college reviews and ratings, she is also the youngest founding member of an Ahmedabad, India based rationalist group which aims to discuss social issues and read more...

9 Posts | 52,067 Views

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