As I say in my lectures \u2013 traditional art in Asia is rarely ever \u201cart for art\u2019s sake\u201d and almost always has a second layer hidden beneath.\nIt is either created to make some functional object beautiful or is created to convey some meaning. In this example \u2013 a\u00a0 Sindoor Box \u2013 a functional object is created in an artistic way and given a gopuram form.\n\u00a0\n\n\n\n\u00a0\nThis artistic box is meant to hold kumkum or sindoor \u2013 a red powder that must be applied\u00a0 as a dot on the forehead of a married woman. In some parts of India, the parting of a Hindu married woman\u2019s hair is also adorned with sindoor.\nThe reasons for the application are many \u2013 from announcing her marital status to warding off the evil eye and praying for her husband\u2019s long life.\nToday Sindoor is commercially available in little plastic boxes but in the olden days temples were the source of this auspicious powder.\nToday \u2013 the dot on the forehead is created using stickers. In the olden days, it was created by first applying a thin base of ghee (to ensure that it does not flake off) in the form of a dot with the third finger of the right hand and then applying sindoor powder over it.Further, even unmarried girls put on the dot so it has lost its significance of \u2018declaration of marital status\u2019.\n**\nBut, even now, at the wedding, in one of the many ceremonies,\u00a0 the groom applies the sindoor powder in his bride\u2019s hair parting.\nIn Bengal,\u00a0 the sindoor is poured onto the parting using an oyster shell as a scoop. Bengal also has a major festive event called \u201cSindoor Khela\u201d among married women where they celebrate their status using vast amounts of Sindoor powder. Why only here? I cannot be certain but from Bengali literature set in the 1800s, it appears that the high incidence of child marriage along wih the high incidence of child-widowhood was common. The reason I do not know and whether statistics bear this our I do not know. But if we assume that literature reflected the actual situation of the day, then to have a living husband was indeed a reason to celebrate. In those days a husband represented economic security and that in turn meant social security and conversely, resulted in social stigma for the young widow.\n**\nMuch has changed since then and though most urban Hindu women that I have spoken to find the custom of applying sindoor in their hair, beautiful, they do not practice it out of shyness \u2013 as it is not seen as \u201cmodern\u201d.\nMost of the women who still continue to practice this custom are in smaller towns and villages, who say they do not have the freedom to choose their own path.\nAnd here we urban people sit on our thrones of modernity endowed with all the freedoms we need to choose our own path \u2013 and what did we do with these freedoms?\nIronically we chose the wrong one* \u2026 we chose to de-culturalise ourselves!!\nWeren\u2019t we,\u00a0 the educated modern ones\u00a0 supposed to shoulder the greater responsibility?\n\u00a0\n\n\n\u00a0\n.\njm\nJuly 2016\n*my opinion\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\nThe Sindoor box from South India is from the wovensouls collection and may be viewed here on wovensouls.com\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\nThe post Art in service of Culture \u2013 A Sindoor Box appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.