In India, Indian heritage, People & lifestyle

Definition of Indianess (1) – adorning faces


    Every society, region and race has certain characteristic feature or quality that is distinct or isolated, that makes it unique. I decided to put together a series, of how I would express this term.  The Collins dictionary describes “Indianess” as a perception or feeling of being Indian socially, culturally and spiritual.


Sindoor is the mark of a married woman in Hinduism. Single women wear the dot in different colors but do not apply sindoor in their maang. Widows do not wear sindoor, signifying that their husband is no longer alive.

Adi Shankaracharya writes in Soundarya Lahari (translation below)

(Oh mother, let the line parting thine hairs,
which looks like a channel,
through which the rushing waves of your beauty ebbs,
and which on both sides imprisons,
your Vermillion, which is like a rising sun,
by using your hair which is dark like
the platoon of soldiers of the enemy,
protect us and give us peace.)

The colour vermillion is significant for the married woman as she is full of colour.


Nose ring is also one of the several symbols of a married woman. As part of Ayurveda, ancient Indian medicine (which is still practiced today), it is believed that a hole in a woman’s left nostril relieves some of the pain in childbirth.

However, the side of the piercing (or if piercing both sides or the center) depends on region and community.

I choose this image of a Marathi woman wearing the traditional nath or nose pin, as it is so distinct in design.


Kohl is used to mark young children on the side of their face or forehead with a black dot, a nazarbattu (token to ward of the evil eye) It is often an intentional blemish or flaw that is introduced to prevent perfection. Sometimes eyes are marked with kohl too for the same purpose.

Turmeric has been used as beauty product over the centuries. Application of Turmeric paste on face helps prevent acne, wrinkles and signs of aging. Chickpea flour added to kasturi turmeric can be used as a facial scrub to inhibit hair growth. One of the most important ceremonies of Indian weddings is the ‘haldi‘ ceremony where a paste made of turmeric is applied to the bride and the groom’s body as part of their marriage preparations.

In this image family members are applying turmeric paste in preparation to celebrate Eid- Al – Fitr, a Muslim festival to mark the end of Ramadan fast.


Mustaches, before the 18th century, when the caste system was prevalent in India, were allowed only to high caste men. Lower caste men were either clean shaven or sported a beard. During the period from 1850 to 1950, men kept mustaches as a symbol of power and to display of their robust personality. During the 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi Movement against British rulers advised Indians to have beards so that imported shavers and blades could be stopped.


Tilak, a mark worn on the forehead by followers of Hinduism. The tilaka is a mark created by the application of powder or paste on the forehead. It is mostly applied by holy men and are varied in design, according to different sects.

Theyyam preparation

Kathakali , a traditional dance form from the state of Kerala, uses an elaborate make up process lasting for 3 hours.It helps in giving a super human look to the actors.The make up of the male character other than the saint,is tedious.

The Chutti (a series of white ridges built up from the chin to the either side of the cheek) plays a crucial role in differentiating the characters and their personality and has the following basic classification Pachha(green), Katti(knife), Tadi(beard), Kari, Minukku.

The make up colour also plays an important role in Kathakali –

Green goes with godliness, white with spirituality,

red with ambition and violence, yellow with passivity,and black with evil.


Adivasis means “original inhabitants” are the indigenous population of India. Nestled in the hills of the Eastern Ghats they constitute 25% of Odisha’s population. The docile Kutia Kondh, one of the tribes are peace loving people with a strong belief in the spirit world.

The women are readily identifiable by their geometric facial tattoos that on close observation bear striking similarity to tiger’s whiskers. These identifying marks ensure they will recognize each other in the spirit world.


The Apatani, are a tribal group of about 60,000 members, often praised for their extremely efficient agriculture, performed without animals or machinery. They have no written record of their history, and traditions are passed down orally, from generation to generation.

There was once a time when every woman had to wear these huge nose plugs but since the middle of the 20th century, the custom began to die. According to the Apatani, the nose plug was born as a way of protecting the women of the tribe. Apparently, Apatani women have always been considered the most beautiful among the Arunachal tribes, their villages were constantly raided by neighboring tribes, and the women kidnapped.

To make themselves unattractive to the other tribes, Apatani women began wearing these hideous nose plugs and tattooing their faces with a horizontal line from the forehead to the tip of the nose, and five lines on their chins.
Image and feature courtesy –


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