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The Real Significance Of ‘Ek Chutki Sindoor’ For Hindu Women

More from Sohini Chatterjee

By Sohini Chatterjee:

A luscious red in the middle parting of your hair sends a simple message – you are married. But is the message really that simple? From the moment that a woman is smeared with the sindoor at the time of her wedding, socio-religious norms dictate that it must stay with her, or she with it, as long as her marriage lasts. From a woman’s forehead, the symbol cries out her non-availability. It vouches for her fidelity. Her marital status is confirmed by it and others accompanying the package, like the mangalsutra, bangles made of conch shells, red corals, toerings, nosepins etc. It is the proof of monogamy, her loyalty towards her husband. The warning is implicit in the message the sindoor sends out – Do not mess with the woman, she “belongs” to another man. A cold shiver runs down my spine as I write this. Even if nobody lays down the implications of the vermillion powder in so many words, it is not too difficult to comprehend. In a society where a woman’s “no” makes little difference, sindoor can be a powerful tool to keep the unwanted attention at bay, many seem to believe and forcefully argue in social circles. This argument especially finds favour with the self-professed custodian of Hindu traditions, rituals, customs and morality. The most common argument posited by this lot is that signs of marriage worn by a woman ensures her husband’s long life. But this is not the most forceful of their contestations. They often refer to the security that this sign of marriage brings to women in society. It’s less idealistic, and hence more acceptable. These arguments seem banal when one tries to read the implications of sindoor.

Picture credit: Anamika Singh
Picture credit: Anamika Singh

A woman is treated like an object. The father gives her away at the wedding to the husband who must henceforth bear all her responsibilities. He procures charge of her life and she wears signs of marriage in consent. No matter how “independent” she is, the sindoor from the parting of her hair screams that she is sexually available to just one man. But no such customary commitment is forced upon the husband who can only confirm his marital status on being asked. This non-egalitarian arrangement is deeply problematic. The obligation of monogamy is exclusively extended to the woman. The man, on the other hand, is under no ritualistic obligation to profess his fidelity. This leads one to suspect that since humans are not naturally monogamous, men are given some leeway as it is not compulsory for them to wear signs of marriage. But the same courtesy is not extended to women whose libido was, and still is, a fearful and shameful reality best kept under the wraps. Since a married woman is viewed as an object rightfully owned by her husband, she must bear proof of his authority. But the master is under no such obligation. It indicates strongly uneven power dynamics between the sexes which persist in a marriage between them. What ideally should have been a relationship based on equality is coloured, quite literally, in favour of men. There are numerous arguments that approve of this superficially harmless understanding through the use of gender-specific signs of marriage, but they most often have little foundation in facts.

The apparent “security” that the sindoor is thought to bring is a myth, since newspaper dailies almost everyday report incidents of married women being sexually harassed. The sindoor cannot bring women safety. Even if it did, the ground on which it would be provided would be deeply insulting to women. Those who defend the sindoor by the obvious feeling of ease it provides, do not realise the dangerous implications of their defense. Their argument reeks of patriarchal arrogance, a woman can only hope to be safe if she willingly prioritizes her identity as someone’s wife before she can speak in the capacity of an individual whose marital status is so unimportant that it is rendered useless. Their argument is part of the larger societal expectation which makes a woman identify herself in relation to a man by apply the sindoor. Since women are considered inferior units in the family and society with little or no respect for their distinct identity, no matter what their accomplishments are in the 21st century, patriarchy has made it so that women have to yield to normative values to win protection from their husbands to successfully ward off undesirable propositions. Common knowledge dictates that women are incapable of protecting themselves, hence must seek it from their husbands. Even if the husband does not perform the duties a marriage brings, he is represented by the sindoor and is considered borderline invincible. The only way women can taste freedom is by applying the sindoor, otherwise men roaming the streets are free to hinder their mobility. No matter how ludicrous or unreasonable, such are the arguments in favour of sindoor. If security is provided by sindoor alone, then such luxury would not be afforded to single, divorced, or widowed women. What we need to understand is that women’s separate identities are hard for patriarchal structures to accommodate and hence they must be given a less scarier shape under the shadow of women’s legal male partners.

What is shocking in this day and age is that even though women are finding employment in large numbers and are more economically independent, their submission is still commanded by male authority for their own good, as is claimed. Being able to wear the sindoor makes married women distinct from women who do not have the same “privilege” and offers them a higher status in society. It is considered a huge accomplishment for a woman to die with the sindoor on her forehead intact and she is given a royal farewell on her good luck even today in some parts of the country. In the past century, it could have really been a matter of good luck for a woman. Employment or educational opportunities were not readily available to women and they were entirely dependent on their husbands for sustenance. However, times have changed, but it’s worrying how little modifications have been made in age old customs and practices. They remind us of a time we do not wish to remember. These stubborn customs and practices often embarrass the dignity that feminism has provided women with.

As I write this, I am reminded of the controversy Rekha had to face on wearing the sindoor casually at an award ceremony. A valid point was raised on the occasion – even if worn for decorative purposes alone, can the sindoor be shorn of its socio-religious implications? The voice of sanity questioned. On the other hand, the self-confessed righteous, scrupulous defenders of Hinduism took Rekha to task for apparently harping on the privilege only secured to married women. This goes to show the sindoor after all is not as vacant of meaning as the turn of century had had us believe. At the very outset, the denial of the privilege to Rekha goes to show that it is not to be seen as merely ornamental. It is not devoid of meaning. It would be wrong to assume that it is just another practice that has been so naturalized by women generation after generation that it does not seem threatening to the least in their identity construction. The passionate defenders of the Hindu culture believe men can rightfully validate women’s existence and women should comply. It’s a matter of great defiance to do otherwise. But Rekha’s bold stint of wearing the sindoor, even when unmarried, was largely subversive. She made re-signification of the sindoor possible and that is what irked the guardians of the Hindu morality. If the sindoor is only worn for its aesthetic appeal by women regardless of their marital status, it would cease to be the signifier of male authority over women. The sindoor is the glaring proof of a woman’s lack of agency and that is precisely why patriarchy resists its re-signification.

It is time to question and problematize the rituals, customs and practices we have internalized. It is precisely the lack of awareness on which they thrive. Let’s make it clear once and for all. Mindless compliance for social convenience would lead to the perpetuation of women’s inferior position in society and perpetuate the myth of male superiority. Signs of marriage, like the sindoor, can come in conflict with women’s self-hood and their experiences that are so often inconsistent with their marital status. A woman’s marital status need not be confirmed before her achievements are. She need not be known as someone’s wife or mother to gain social acceptance or reverence. What men take for granted, women have to earn through defiance. But the struggle must continue. One tiny step at a time.

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  1. RHT

    Spot On!! Very good article….need more of these to awaken our society specially our youngsters.

  2. Babar

    The author writes: No matter how “independent” she is, the sindoor from the parting of her hair screams that she is sexually available to just one man.

    What exactly is wrong being sexually available to one man?

    The author then states: A woman is treated like an object. The father gives her away at the wedding to the husband who must henceforth bear all her responsibilities.

    How is a woman an object if a husband has to bear her responsibility? Furthermore, what is “give her away” supposed to mean?

    It is the systematic and strategic use of words which has been the highlight of the feminist movement, use of words to brainwash and deceive women into buying absurd feminist theories.

    Is a man supposed to go and live with his wife and her parents?

    This is yet another article filled with lies and half-truths, aimed at making women feel like victims. A very carefully worded propaganda, hopefully it will fall on deaf ears.

    Meanwhile, join the campaign. #womenagainstfeminism.

    Women Against Feminism

    1. Voice of reason

      Dear Babur, while i agree with you on most parts, but what does your statement
      “Is a man supposed to go and live with his wife and her parents?” mean

      if a women is supposed to leave her family behind, even the men should be ready for that.

      if you do not agree with this, it would signify that we inherently believe that women are inferior!!! ( or at least a gender inequality exists in your mind).

      i agree that feminism has actually started to loose its main agenda, but it is actually questions and statements like this that make one believe that, a women still needs feminism

    2. Babar

      if a women is supposed to leave her family behind, even the men should be ready for that.

      @Voice: Women leave their families because men bear their responsibilities.

    3. Whatever

      Why should men have to bear their responsibility? Are women not capable of it?

      Let me remind you, feminism strives for “equality”. Feminazism and Feminism are two completely different things. Get your facts straight before you make a comment on social forums.

      Women against feminism? Women against equality, more like.

    4. Doulatramani Chandu

      I completely disagree with this Sohini. You should respect Indian culture and go with it. In the similar way you have objectified the woman. Would you want your own mother to not be your father sole partner ? When you get married you would realize the significance of the Sindhoor (See how I place importance to capitalizing the first letter here). You, in my opinion are a shame to the Indian community and you should reconsider staying in India.If you believe in what you have stated above, keep you hand on your heart let us know if you would not stand in the ladies queue at a public place where you would get access faster just because of the convenience given to women? I being a woman myself agree that I’ve used this benefit and I do not want to be on two sides of the coin trying the ask for best of both worlds.

    5. Shilpi


      I am not amazed at ur disagreemnt on the article..i know many woman fall in ur bracket who proudly celebrate thier own slavery and sugercoat it to satisfy thier patriarcal partiotism.
      Futher to ur queztion-1-
      Would you want your own mother to not be your father sole partner ?
      I dnt knw if to ridicule or laugh or just pity u..its our mom’s choice!! a womans choice..before my mom!!!!.. u cant see a woman beyond sm1’s mom thats disability of ur mind n not the writers!!!!!
      2-? When you get married you would realize the significance of the Sindhoor (See how I place importance to capitalizing the first letter here).
      Again , i am amzaed.. i m married and i do not realise any significance of Sindhoor(even wid capital S) excpt that makes me feel …. opressed and signifies ..i do not have an independent identity !! it makes me feel awful as a woman… and i feel i m disrespecting my own community..!!
      The queue example is not a convenince but a regret to undo the biasness woman has faced since centuries
      You, in my opinion are a shame to the woma community and you should reconsider your thots before insulting any other woman.
      PS- I dint mean to atack u personaly but u did to teh auther,i copy paste ur language!!!

    6. Prashant Kaushik

      Respect to you madam. People like you are getting rare these days.

    7. Utkarsh Tyagi

      Mr. Chandu,

      Apart from all your other ridiculous reasons given in your refutation, the last one (about the queue) was a gem. The day when all the men stop staring at the girls standing in the line next to them, and stop touching them ‘By Mistake’ while standing in a queue due to crowd, that day women will stop standing in a different line where they get privilege according to you. So, first lets make ourselves better, then we can think about your logic.
      Take care. 🙂

  3. Shilpi

    Shohini chatterje.. first and formost …LOVE U ..for the article,for each and every idea u wrote here …. and more for”No matter how “independent” she is, the sindoor from the parting of her hair screams that she is sexually available to just one man.””
    To make the concept of “SINDOOOR” more clear-A parting in hair and red colour into it tradationally signifies the vagina and blood in it.. which means ..u r no more a virgin and hence sexually not available!!!!!!
    I also get a shiver whn i see women ( of all sects/dependant/independnt/progressive/no n pregressive) proudly wearing it and announcing as”choice””..
    I feel guilty ,pity ,frustratedand ashamed for those that they choose to be slaves by “choice”. It is not about choice..if it is choice it should be applicable is not choice…rather it is socialy conditioned illusion of “choice” i think that u announce the lower social status of women…loud and clear..the society sees it as norms(all “married” signs ONLY for women) and so the norm of inferiority of women is also restablished .

    It is the deep rooted fear of female sexuality which brot these social practices( sindoor,chuda, mangalsutra, sirnames) …If u are adoring any of them.. u accpt that we women r inferior and ashamed of our own sexuality , we do not beleve in equality and hence promote the rape culture!! Thiink about it….doesnt “rape culture” says the same????
    Til the time women will be doing all this… she wil nvr b she has to first feel equality herself !! Hope to see the time soon !!

    1. Voice of reason

      Dear Shilpi, it is because of people like you that feminism has actually lost its agenda. Cant you see it, many girls are not brought up with oppression, many feel that all men are not rapists and all rules are not to ‘ enslave’ an women. Many wifes today enjoy as much freedom as their husbands do in modern time ( which era are you living in). they work as engineers, bankers, musicians and even are a part of the armed forces. These wifes so not even consider that they are enslaved or anything, they take pride in Sindoor, as a style or fashion statement. There are so may females i know who love to wear a “chura” after wedding asa style statement, not as a sign of bondage. These days most husbands from metros or tier 1 and 2 towns dont even care about ” ek chutki sindoor”.
      Many women in this country and the world are oppressed but your generalization that every lady who wears ‘sindoor’ is actually a slaves by choice, is utterly ridiculous. Please do some research before you comment on public forums. Tomorrow feminists like you will say that posting wedding pics on social networking sites , thereby declaring that you are married, is also slavery. I know of many working females who changed their surnames in social networking sites right after engagement, not because they accept slavery by choice, but because they are way too thrilled about the wedding and may be it is their way of expressing their excitement ( no one is asked to change surname after engagement, even in most rural parts!).

      so please stop writing such ludicrous comments which actually defame feminists and only hurt their cause

    2. Shilpi

      Dear Voice of reason…..just tagging ur name “reason” do not make u reasonable!! My writing is based on reasoning and not on wts being practiced !!! …feminism is doesnt blv in power equation… but in equality …and hence the agenda is equality .THESE ARE SIGNS OF BONDAGE NO MATTER IF U DO IT BY CHOICE OR NOT !!!! and yes i pity these privileged women who get pacified by the superficial choices presented to them and happily squander their freedom without even a thought about the consequences….by weraing a chura or sindoor ….what u called style statement ..those do not eist for men….and hence y i m questioning it!!!! I m not pin pointing any male here ..its in ur mind.. i m talking abt the whole culture…which is patriarcal!!
      I might sound ridiculous to u … cz culture is not a one day affair..its reinforncemnt of the same thot.. over a period of time and that reinfornces the inferior status of women as “taken” or Property”
      If its abt being thrilled abt marrige and engagement ..y dont men do it?? simple question!! dont they get excited and happy abt being married !!!
      I am not defaming any1 ..niether do i claim to b feminist but i do belive in eqality and that is my biggest cause and concern..I do not expect u to agree wid me .. but at least thing about it “A choice of which cage to inhabit is not a free choice “”””
      Till the time we will keep endorsing these in the name of culture and tradition..the equality between men n women will never come….And till the time we shun these….we should not tlk about equality..if you are doing any of these…you are promoting oppression of women in my opinion…and you are NOT AGAINST IT!!!

    3. Voice of reason

      Dear Shilpi,

      i could not find the reply tab ( my bad) in your comment ( which was a reply to my comment) hence i am replying here

      First of all use reason, logic and mental constitution ( if you have any). How can you make this assumption that anyone who wears ‘sindoor’ is squandering her freedom, how do you know that. As i mentioned many women wear it with pride, they do jobs, spend their money the way way they want , lead the lives of their choice, marry the person of their choice etc, if this is not freedom then which freedom are you talking about. I do agree that gender inequality exists, but its your generalization of all women who wear sindoor as slaves that i am against. What data do you have to say that all women who wear sindoor are slaves. Since you appear retarded let me give an example, my own sister is a team lead in TCS ( pretty big deal) she is a master degree holder, goes for vacation whenever she and her husband get time, had a love marriage, the choice of either wearing or not wearing sindoor or bangles ( sakha, a bangle worm primarily by bengali women) is completely hers. tell me how did she squander her freedom, and there are many females like her. many wear the sindoor with pride. i beleive you always looked at your mother or sister with sindoor and considered them as slaves, grow up YOU ARE WRONG, but AS you are beyond reason SO YOU WONT UNDERSTAND.

      you must be actually deranged to ask a question like why do men not celebrate engagements or marriages, really that is what came to your mind when you read what i wrote. I beg you please do us all a favor and consult a doctor. what i wrote was that particular female was extremely happy with her engagement and changed her name on a social networking site. My entire point was she was not forced. My god really how did the question of men celebrating or not come into the picture, every one has his or her own style and ways of expressing them selves.

      Trust me Shilpi you belong to that deranged group of “So called” feminists who comment and write without even understanding the truth behind the scenes. Just because you feel something you want to generalize the same for all women, it is women like you who are a cog in the wheel of real feminists who approach problems from a practical perspective..

      P.S. – i have nothing against you but seriously you need to get yourself checked and get your facts right, try not to be a hitler

    4. Shilpi

      Dude…ur way of calling me a retard is nervous reaction to ur own insecurity!!! So better don’t show that up!! i know u just trying to outsmart me wid words !!! I dont know if i will be able to dril it in ur head…but still trying-
      further to ur queries-.”How can you make this assumption that anyone who wears ‘sindoor’ is squandering her freedom, how do you know that… ”
      I am not giving any data but i have studied the origin of cultures and tradations and hence ssaying.
      It is not an assumption … do you know how this tradations came n what do they signify????..they were all developed and designed to confirm the inferior status of women of the “taken” or”property”””.. now even if u wear it out of choice….what does that signify?? That i will wear attire/sindor /mangalsutra all those which were used to opress women for centuries but i m not opressed!!! what a logic!!! ..for me it just signifies -I need emancipation so that I can wear chains and serve my master without being called a slave .There “symbolises “the control of society over the freedom of women that has taken deep roots in their psyche, which has altered their perception to accept it as their identity. I am not all woman whu wear thios are opressed.,…but rather they are so socially ,culturally conditioned that they dont know that ..this promotes the opression !! hope i make it clear !! I am also not saying that they are forced… and more than that u have major problems wid feminism..tho no whr i said i am a feminist… but i m an egalitarian.
      Your understanding is superficial , you just see whats happnign around… do u knw the data of acrocities against women..what do think contributes to that?? the child growing up in family whr its a norm for women to take up surnames and wear signs of marriage which subconciusly reinforce the idea of inferior status of women… think it is a ok.., the child growing up sees th the given right to access to public space/right to study/right to independence( and even right to being born (these rights are stil reserved for males) are all given tomales …and hence the superiorty complex is developed … this is one of root cause ..psychologically … and I know it..if you want i can send u some refernce..this all contributes the superiority…which in turn becomes acrocities for women!!.., what i am trying to say is far more rooted and these cultures reinforces it ..
      I also do not have anything personal against u… my data are all checked and i m sane in my mind…. its just that i dont choose to ignore the obvious …and i do a deep dive analysis n not just superficial!!!! i have seen many like u.. and its fine… to close ur eyes…and see only the rosy picture……but i m sorry …. I cant do it.
      Hoping for the best

    5. Shilpi

      I forgt to add… the “Sankha” that u mention or the “chuda” or sindoor.. is not hers..its is the society that gave her that …. as a mark of her “belonging ” to a man…. which is not choice… choice wud be… if she cud wear them wn even she wasnt married ..or cn wear despite her marital status( i hope i m clear)…. which doesnt hapen.. it is for a social recognition of the ” enslavemnt” ( dont go on words,the original idea) which reinforces the idea of “taken” women or “reserved for sm1” woman ,just to be shown to the world!! I am against it cz this doesnt apply on men..niether by society nor by choice!!
      PS- I loved the reply that u gave to sohini…. and thats wat i also agree with….we sud create a world whr these sudnt matter..only equality matters……and I am not a terrorist 😉

  4. justathought

    Hey Sohini, quite well contemplated article I must say! Loved it..! Though in reality, only a small fraction of women really care! Saying this because I was aghast yesterday when some of my friends reached a consensus that it is easier to be a woman, because no matter what, they can always get married and be taken care of..!! If this is the view of some of the most educated women of our country, ( the concerned group of girls are pursuing their Masters from one of the IITs), imagine what is the mindset of the majority of Indian women, who have this idea so deeply ingrained inside them, at they take it onto themselves not just to follow it, but also defend it!

  5. Prerna

    So this previous comment indicatess its ok to wear sindoor even if the woman is not willing to?

    “What exactly is wrong being sexually available to one man?” – Well nothing, as long as they dont have to wear a proof of it. We dont want men to wear it either. But why should we?

    “How is a woman an object if a husband has to bear her responsibility?” – Did you not read the article, or was it just your closed mind?

    “Furthermore, what is “give her away” supposed to mean?” – Seriously?

    “Is a man supposed to go and live with his wife and her parents?” – Exactly!

    Furthermore, I do not respect your thoughts in opposing such a well drafted argument the author has posted, not to mention the 100s and 1000s of voices its representing. You cant claim to be pro-women mr. when you meet a feminist argument with such condescension (which i am sure will increase in case you chose to reply)

    The problem is that we are step by step, told to show, prove and vouch for our fidelity and submission. And even if we choose to ignore that for a second, why aren’t our male counterparts being told to do the same? and even if we ignore THAT for a second, what hurts more is when pro-women men come up with a condescending comment, coz hey! They are men, they are meant to behave that way.

    what did you say?
    “This is yet another article filled with lies and half-truths, aimed at making women feel like victims. A very carefully worded propaganda, hopefully it will fall on deaf ears.”

    Replace “article” with “comment”

    WOMEN AGAINST FEMINISM? Please, lets have a comment from those “women”
    Also, they have been mentioned in this article as well.

    Finally: by the look of the shares this article has got in no time at all, and by the current medical fitness of my hearing ability, this article in NOT falling on deaf ears.

    But we could do without you.

  6. kamini

    Superbly written!! 🙂 kudos

  7. Voice of reason

    Sohini, a very well written article Kudos to you.

    you know what, when feminism is presented with proper logic and arguments, like you did, it makes sense. I am however appalled these days with the way feminism is portrayed, as if its borderline terrorism. look at some of the comments your article has generated, some people would go to the extent of saying that even if a women would like to wear churas, mangalsutras etc, she should not. Is this not what terrorism does, not letting you do what you want to. I definitely agree that gender inequality is rampant in India, steps must be taken, enlightenment has to be sought and a lot of steps have to be taken. However i do not conform to aggressive feminism.
    In this day and age i think in most places frankly people dont care, neither men nor women. For many women i know of, sporting a chura or sindoor is more of a style statement, showing of their wedding pics on social networking sites is a matter of pride ( goes for men too), they really do not care if it is a sign of bondage. They enjoy all the freedom in the world and they are happy with it. The ideal situation should be such where one is allowed to do whatever he or she want, sport a sindoor if to want to, dont if you dont want to, change your surname if you please to do so or else do not, enforcing the same is a crime. Similarly branding every female who wears a mangal sutra, a salve and asking her not to so so is a crime, branding every female who believes that ‘sindoor’ would actually improve her husbands lifespan ( though i know its preposterous beyond infinity) as a slave is an insult to her believes, and as level headed feminists, i think you will agree that no one should do that

  8. Babar

    “Is a man supposed to go and live with his wife and her parents?” – Exactly!

    @Prerna: So you think that men are supposed to go and live with women and her parents? Ok, but in that case, will women be willing to bear all the responsibilities of men? The answer is no. Then you will cry sexism citing a host of reasons which has gone on to prove how women love playing the victim.

    “How is a woman an object if a husband has to bear her responsibility?” – Did you not read the article, or was it just your closed mind?

    You have failed to answer a simple question, and you state that my mind is closed. Nevertheless, you have stated that a man is supposed to live with a woman and her parents. Wouldn’t that make men an object according to your (bizarre) theory? What would you do then to achieve equality?

    1. Prerna

      No body wants men to leave their homes. Men suggested that for women. Whoever told you women are not ready to bear responsibilities? And by that I think you only refer to the financial aspects of that responsibilities. Which in turn suggests that you think a house wife is bearing no responsibility of the family. Well done. *Raise your hand if he made you puke*

      I have not stated that a man is supposed to leave his house and live with the woman’s family. Although, that really seems to offend you. Why not me then? Why not any woman?

      ““How is a woman an object if a husband has to bear her responsibility?” – Did you not read the article, or was it just your closed mind?

      You have failed to answer a simple question, and you state that my mind is closed.”

      Seriously, I do not wish to spoon feed your cave man-ish head, if you cant read between those lines. Think what you may. You are a waste of space. More so, since you posted your first comment as “women against feminism” and then called them “love playing the victim.”

      SHAME! I dont even.

      And btw, stop treating feminism as if its bad word. Read a little literature and then become mature enough to understand the term “poetic justice”

      It seems as if nothing scares the shit out of men than a woman strong enough to NOT play victim.

      You know who is a victim? Who hides himself by claiming everyone else is playing victim. In short people like you.

      Honestly, I have learnt a lesson from you. I should not have tried to hit my head on a wall by expecting reason in place of gloated ego from you. Whatever you reply is, its just going to prove me right anyway, just like this reply of yours did, so I dont need to argue my case anymore. Your stupidity is enough for that. I hope to god that SHE gives you some sense.

    2. Shilpi

      I raise my Prerna

    3. Angad

      Fabulous reply!!
      I liked your last line the Most: “I hope to god that SHE gives you some sense.” 😀 😀

    4. Debjyoti Dutta

      i am a boy and i like to wear sakha, pola and sometime saree and when i wear those things i feel proud as i am unmarried.

    5. Aadrita

      have u ever heard of a thing where both the sets of parents of the couple live together under the same roof? have u ever heard of a working woman who earns about 80000 a month and can handle her own expanses? i guess know that is why u r constantly ranting that a husband have to always bear the expanse of her wife u sound like those typical males for whom wife is a burden are u sure u are from this era and not from 10th century who time travelled and landed in this century?

  9. P

    I love this website! I love the writers that challenge every thing about the indian culture and its norms…or shall I say “ab-norms”. I love that we (all who are here) are finally questioning, personally and publicly, what we have been engrained with and for the first time breaking some very thick chains of suppression and regression…if that makes any sense:) Keep up this important work guys and keep liberating our minds with fresh thoughts and ideas.

  10. Prashant Kaushik

    Writer has a pic of her posted here where she is sporting a ‘Mala’ or necklace kind of thing.. made up of pearls or something..

    So going by the same logic and trait of excessive deduction which she applied, should i also make some conclusions ?

    1) Such round ornament which she is hanging around her neck were originally invented to tame wild animals into domestication. DOes she admits herself to be a domesticated animal ?
    2) Malas are also worn by a lot of self proclaimed Godmen . Does she proclaim herself to be one such miracle woman?

    Sorry for using this wild-animal-domesticated example. But same kind of illogical deduction you have used to write down this article. Wearing Sindoor, or saree or any kind of dresses doesn’t make a person slave or inferior. It is simply a symbol of our advanced, refined taste, culture and heritage. Stop projecting every phenomenon with such grave negativity.

    1. Voice of reason

      @Prashant, agreed but they do represent inequality between man and women

      of course they do not represent Slavery and any such conclusions will only defy logic and common sense. But you would agree that the fact that a man does not need to flaunt his marital status where as a women does ( or has to), is in some sense a sign of inequality.

      may be they represent our traditions, heritage and culture, in that case the gender in equality in our traditions etc is also visible through these actions and activities

    2. Babar

      @Voice: Are you concerned over women having to ‘flaunt’ their marital status, which is a sign of dignity and entails respect, or is it men not having to ‘flaunt’ their marital status that you are concerned with?

      Another thing is, going with your assumption of equality, where is equality when a man works 24/7, earns enormous amounts of money only for women to spend it in a shopping spree, among other vain pursuits?

    3. Voice of reason

      @Babar – first of all the respect and dignity that you are talking about is a social condition that has been created as a ” made to feel good” factor to cover up the inequality. As for you question of my concern, my concern is about inequality, i completely agree that these signs ( sindoor etc) are adorned by many females and they definitely have the right to do so, but they do represent inequality, whether you agree or disagree or care about it is your concern. I am concerned about those social practices which indirectly represent inequality, you question is moot as my point is ‘ if men do not wear any sign of marriage , then why should women’ thats it. The respect and dignity is all to cover up the inequality..

      As for working hours, can you deny that these days women are working at par with men, I do not know where you work, but i work in a MNC and there are many females who work 24/7 are in even executive vice president positions and are in no way inferior or less hard working then their male counter parts. you are writing under the assumption that no female works and it is only the male that earn, times have changed my friend and we should wake up to the same.

    4. Voice of reason

      @Babar – Honestly , do not mind but your comments seem to indicate that you come from one of those places or backgrounds in India where the only role a women plays is either in kitchen, or producing kids. She has no right to education, no freedom of choice ( marriage, career etc) and has no other role in the family. She is not taken seriously and males earn all money and take all decision . My friend times have changed, these days women are earning equally and contributing to the financial well being of the family as well, they are exploring newer boundaries and challenging new thoughts, which in my opinion is right and that should be the way. Equality should be in all spheres, work , education, career etc…. (if you say a husband earning and wife spending is inequality then a husband eating and only wife cooking is also inequality)

      P.S. – i have nothing against you, your comments made me say the background thing

    5. Templetwins

      Signs of Inequality:-
      Men had always been the one who were pursuers of women and women were the choosers , either from the ancient ‘Swayamvara’ where the princess put a garland on the number of suitors of her preference or this modern rules of engagement in a marriage. Even in the current dating pool the men are expected to approach and ask for a date, to propose a marriage etc. So on a social setting men had to identify who is available and who is already ‘taken’. This symbol would aid that. If women pursue men, as much as men pursue women, then we could put such symbols on men too.

      Signs of inequality 2:-
      It is a sign which shows women as weaker sex is the other point we discuss. The current setting of a marriage is a legal contract which dictates that husbands must provide for their wife while they are married and even after the separation by sharing their properties (both inherited and matrimonial properties) for her. These obligations are unfair too on an equal society. So before you complain about womens obligation to wear a sindoor, give up the privilege of holding mens finances (which is his obligation towards you) and be an independent, self-reliant partner.

      Cynical take on the complaint:-
      My cynical view is that the law is made in such a way that divorces are an incentive towards married women as they gain so much properties than they originally signed up for. So what these modern empowered women want is to give up on mangal sutra and sindoor an implication that they are married, so they can still be on the dating pool, even after the marriage, once they find a better suiter(more richer/handsome than the current husband). Then they could rip off the current husbands money and take him to cleaners and marry up(hypergamy) to the new ones.

  11. Aadrita

    so true this article indeed brings out the psychological domination a woman have to face in our society but i m more surprised reading the comments where the readers are justifying the use of marital symbols for women. different things prevailing in our society in name of tradition tends to suppress women be it kanya daan or kanakanjali (the ritual where bride throws rice at the time of bidaai stating that she had paid every loan of her father{what rubbish}) or mangalsutra or sindoor first of all a woman is not a furniture or cattle to be given away in daan secondly the very act of marking a women with sindoor is like branding an object and all those who are finding something good from all these shit i would like to draw ur attention towards the fact that every ritual that is widely celebrated in our culture is for the longevity of males be it karva chauth bhai duj or rakhi even the blessings females get are for the longevity of their husband where is the importance of women anywhere? and we are not projecting every ritual with negativity just bringing out the facts i agree we do wear necklaces and bangles for fashion but that is entirely upon our own will but the objects like mangal sutra and sindoor are kind of forced upon the women and is made sort of compulsory by the society. why is that the female have to by default change her surname and gotra after marriage why the child always have to take the surname of the father while he is having DNA of both the parents why does a women have to wear sari while men in cities no longer wear dhoti for their inconvenience why does a girl have to leave her parents behind even if she is the single girl child? i m not starting to tell about religion as a patriarchal construct as that will take up a whole book not a comment. just that what u know as tradition and heritage today were made by men long ago and just because they are tradition doesn’t make them good if sindoor is tradition so was child marriage and dowry and sati and whatever u say in favour of them is not going to make it otherwise. and why is that the rejection of such constructs is a matter of so much fuss i don’t understand. is it because the society doesn’t want women to be free psychologically? and if u truly love a woman before marriage when she doesn’t wear all these things what is making u fuss about it after marriage why cannot both sets of parents of a couple stay under the same roof? don’t give excuse of money and space because it’s always possible for the couple to stay with parents of the boy even in a one room set flat. and if u are not able to accept all these notions just accept u are a misogynist and don’t pretend otherwise. cause there is no in between for this u are either a feminist or u r not

  12. search

    Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any
    better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I will send this information to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a great read. Many thanks for sharing!

  13. areesha singh

    dear mam,

    thank you so much for this article becoz I have been trying to figure out the need fro the wearing of sindoor. I always believed it was for man to assert his dominance over females. the story of its protection abilities does not fly with me. all we need is for the different genders to respect each other, then there will be no need for such bright reminders.

  14. Satarupa Pal

    great article….loved it. But unfortunately very few people realize it.

  15. souvik

    Hi, great article, I was wondering what’s the source of your information. It would be great to know the references… Please let me know. Perhaps you can suggest a book?

  16. Ratz Roy

    As an academician by profession with progressive ideology, I really feel proud to see a girl writing the truth behind rituals and rites forced upon women in the name of chastity and tradition. I hope you will enlighten many ignorant souls around with your write up. Proud to see that a bengali girl still is bold enough to challenge the usual. Kudos sohini…

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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