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What is Sindoor Khela, and Why Married Bengali Women Play Sindur Khela?

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DURGA PUJA 2022: Sindoor Khela or Sindur Khela is a traditional component of Durga Puja celebrations in the Bengali community of India. The ritual involves the application of vermilion powder or sindoor on the idols of Goddess Durga and amongst married women during the conclusion of Durga Puja on Vijayadashami. This before the idols are immersed. This year, Vijayadashami falls on October 5. Below, we take a look at the history of Sindur Khela, its significance and the way it is celebrated today.

Sindoor Khela or Sindur Khela is a traditional component of Durga Puja celebrations in the Bengali community of India. (Representational image: Shutterstock)
Sindoor Khela or Sindur Khela is a traditional component of Durga Puja celebrations in the Bengali community of India. (Representational image: Shutterstock)

History & Significance

Sindoor is an orange or red powder, traditionally made from lime or alum and turmeric. The powder is an auspicious signifier for married women in traditional Hindu households. During a Hindu wedding, a groom puts sindoor on the bride’s forehead, where her hair has been parted.

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During Sindur Khela, the women apply the vermilion powder on the forehead of the Durga idol and offer her sweets before her Visarjana, which symbolises her return journey with her children and animals, to Kailash, the abode of her husband, Lord Shiva.

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Traditionally, Bengali mothers applied sindoor on the foreheads of their married daughters before they left for their in-laws after visiting their paternal home. This application of the sindoor was treated as a form of blessing for women to strengthen their marital bonds. Since Goddess Durga is treated both as a mother figure and as a daughter, the gesture naturally extended to Durga idols as well.

The present form of celebration

Sindur Khela, in its original form, used to be a simple ritual undertaken by married elderly and young women. It used to involve only the application of Sindoor on the idol and among women in addition to sharing sweets after offering it to the goddess. Presently, the ritual has evolved into a fun affair where married women put Sindoor all over each other’s faces and enjoy themselves while dancing to the beats of the “Dhaki” drummers’ beats.

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