wedding sutra

Solah Shringar - The 16 adornments of the Hindu bride

Why 16?

According to traditional Hindu beliefs, the 16 phases of the moon have a negative effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle, that is why the 16 adornments, considered to correspond to the 16 phases of moon, are believed to nullify such negative effects.

The word shringar can be translated as adornment/jewel, and even make-up; it contains the particle “shri/shree”, from Shri/Shree/Shriya/Shreya, another name of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and success. Every bride is considered to be a ‘Lakshmi’, bringing prosperity to her new family and home.

1. The wedding dress

Be it a sari/saree, or a lehenga-choli (skirt-blouse ensemble), the bride’s outfit depends on her ethnic heritage. Red is considered to be the most auspicious color, the color of purity in Hinduism, however, the attire may be of other colors, as well, such as golden, green, and even white (Kerala). Embroideries and patterns differ, as well.

2. Hair-style (kesha-pash-rachna)

Be it a bun, or a braid, a bride’s hair is adorned with flowers (gajra) and even jewelry. If braided, the 3 parts of the hair are considered to represent Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati - the three holy rivers of Hinduism; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva - the Hindu trimurti; the groom’s family, the bride’s family, and the new family now created.

3. Hair accessories (maang-tika, maang-patti, borla, etc.) 

Made of precious stones, gold, or silver, it is worn in the center parting of the hair, the area where the most important chakra resides;

4. Bindi

Donned on the center of the forehead, the bindi represents a circular red dot made of vermilion powder; its name literally means ‘ornament’; brides may chose more elaborate designs and also different colors to decorate their forehead.

5. Kohl

Traditional kohl was obtained from earthen lamps (diyas); this make-up element is applied on the upper and lower rims of the eyelids and, besides being a tool of beautification, it is also considered to protect the bride and ward off the evil eye on such an important day; 

6. Nose ring(s)

Worn, generally, in the left nostril (may be in both nostrils, as well); some nose rings are extended till the ear by a chain that is hooked across the cheek and tucked to the hair;

7. Ear-rings

Consisting of different designs, patterns, gems, their form may vary from region to region, etc.

8. Armbands

Worn on the upper part of the arm, even on the sleeves, they are considered to protect the bride from evil;

9. Bangles

Worn on the wrists, bangles are another sign of marriage; these may be made of glass, iron, metal, ivory, ceramic, gold. Punjabi brides add kalira to their bangles.

10. Rings

Rings come in different shapes, sizes, having different precious stones; in many regions, the thumb ring is the most important, and has small mirrors incorporated;

11. Waistband 

A type of belt, tied around the waist, embellished by gems; besides helping to keep the dress in place, people connect it with the idea of fertility.

12. Anklets and toe rings

In many regions, rings placed on the second toes is a sign of a married woman; many people make these adornments of other metals except gold, since they consider that wearing gold on an area lower from the waist is disrespectful.

13. Henna (mehndi) designs applied on the hands and feet; 

Usually, the day before the marriage, henna paste is applied in various intricate designs; It is said that the darker the color of mehndi, the deeper the love of your soul mate will be; brides chose to add the first letter of their future husband’s name in their mehndi, as well. In some regions, a red-colored ink-like paste (aalta) is applied.

14. Perfume

A natural sweet floral fragrance has always been considered to be auspicious and add further charm to the bride;

15. Sindoor/sindooram/kumkum 

During the wedding rituals, this sign of wedlock, a red powder, is applied by the groom to the bride’s central parting of the hair. It is believed that if a woman wears sindoor, goddess Parvati wards off evil spirits and safeguards her husband, bestowing on him a longer life.

16. Necklaces and the mangal sutra

Besides various necklaces worn by the bride, after the wedding rituals, a necklace of black beads is given to her by the groom (or his mother). This necklace is called mangal sutra and symbolizes the sanctity of marriage; a bride wears it all her married life;