September 21, 2010

The Hair Parting in Beauty Culture

The maang, or the parting in the hair, enjoys a unique place in Indian culture. It has always had a special significance in our society because of the relationship it has with Sindoor and marital status.

Many Bollywood films have tried to cash in on this sentimentality and romanticism and to lure audiences – Maang Bharo Sajana, Khoon Bhari Maang, Sindoor Tere naam ka to name a few.

Indian bride-groom applying sindoor on bride's hair parting
Bridegroom appying sindoor in maang (hair parting)

Ash with sindoor in her maang
Ash with sindoor in her maang

While in the northern and some eastern and western states, sindoor in the parting of the hair symbolizes the married state and putting on the sindoor, all the way through the parting is an important ritual in solemnizing a marriage, in the south too the hair parting is not devoid of social and religious significance. In many communities, sandalwood paste or some other type of Prasad is applied at the base of the hair parting where it touches the forehead.( Pic Source)

In some communities, the same spot is the place where kumkum is applied when a lady is honoured with the gift of a coconut, flowers, rice and other gifts on ceremonial occasions like her first visit to the houses of friends and relatives after marriage, Haldi Kumkum ceremony, visiting houses to invite people for the marriages of her children, rites connected with her first pregnancy, etc. This sort of reverence attached to the spot is probably due to its position on the uppermost part of the body, namely, the head.

Woman applying kumkum during Haldi Kumkum ceremony
Woman applying kumkum during Haldi Kumkum ceremony
Often the head and hair partings are highlighted with ornaments. Tikas and jhumars are important bridal adornments in our country. They are also used by dancers. If they are not a part of one’s jewellery collection, they are either borrowed or costume jewellery is used in their place.
Ash wearing jhumar (Bindi) on her hair parting
Ash wearing jhumar (Bindi) on her hair parting
When long hair and various fashions in styling were in vogue, parting the hair in front or even at the back was a convenient way of arranging it neatly and keeping it in place.

But somewhere along the way, with the popularity of modern hairstyles, especially those with short hair, the hair parting has become a thing of the past. Most hairstyles today do away with the parting of the hair replacing it with a mop of hair or lock.

Lakme Jewel Sindoor
Lakme Jewel Sindoor
Smriti Irani sporting sindoor on her foreheadInstead of applying the sindoor all the way through the parting, most Indian women, nowadays sport this “signature” of marital status on the forehead at the base of the parting, if at all there is a parting. Instead of the traditional vermilion powder kumkum/sindoor, fancy ones like Lakme Jewel Sindoor, that is available in 4 different shades(Gold, Maroon, Coral and Pearl) is often used.

Does this parting serve any purpose besides the sentimental one? “Of course, it does!” is the answer. The hair parting serves an aesthetic purpose, apart from styling the hair more conveniently.

The simple act of applying sindoor on the hair parting, to which many attach religious, social and emotional significance, could have been just a beauty aid for the bride initially, and an effective one at that due to the colour of the sindoor being bright and the spot of application being conspicuous.
Indian woman applying Sindhoor
An Indian woman applying sindoor in her hair-parting

Gives an individuality
Like the way you walk, smile or talk, the hair parting gives the face or the person an in individuality and identity. It gives the face a better shape and look, besides correcting many anomalies connected with the face and head, if used wisely.

In the late 40s, especially in Bollywood films, parting the hair in the center was as fashion with men, and the side parting was popular with women. Whereas, the 70s saw the hair parting getting shortened to an inch of two, with the hair behind it being back-combed and that on either side being combed sideways. This style gave the hair a full look.
Asha Parekh sporting the 70s hairstyle with side parting
Asha Parekh sporting the 70s hairstyle with side parting
Just as different hairstyles make for variety, parting the hair in different places too does away with monotony in looks and this frequent changing of the spot where the hair is parted also prevents the parting from becoming too wide. It can also be chosen to suit different occasions.(Pic

That the hair parting has been considered a sort of a beauty aid is reflected in a narrow one being regarded as a sign of beauty. Perhaps it connoted a luxurious crop of hair. Similarly, a straight one was a mark of neatness and one with strands of stray hair was considered to mar neat grooming.

At a time when beauty and grooming was just restricted to powdering the face and  combing hair, “Is my hair parting straight?” was a question often asked by women when they wanted to quickly tidy up but were too busy to go to the mirror. When the others said it was okay, that meant it was straight and neat.

Hair parting and face shapes
Though making simple changes in the way you part your hair does not make any significant difference to your looks or help in camouflaging your flaws as much as a change in hairstyle does, nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong in incorporating some of these tricks and tips to accentuate the main assets of your face.

A forehead that is too broad can conveniently be camouflaged with hair. But it has to be done cleverly if it is to look decent. With long hair, it can be done effectively by parting the hair and bringing a part of it to the forehead. This trick is resorted by many bald men who with the help of a side parting, comb hair towards the bald patch to conceal it.

Similarly, a face that is too broad can be made to look less so with a central parting while a side parting suits one which is too long. A nose that is too short can be made to look longer if the hair is parted in the middle so that a look of continuity creates an appearance of length.

Eyes that are too closely set or set too far apart too can be made to look better with a central or side parting respectively.
If your face is longer than it is wide, then you should let your hair have a natural parting and nice flowy texture. You should steer clear of pin straight hair and centre parting. Round face shapes are best accentuated with the help of a middle or side parting depending on the hairstyle. Those who own a square face can also enjoy the honor to sport side-parted hair styles. However it seems that diagonal parting is just as perfect for them. A Heart-Shaped Face shape can also be fabulously matched with side-parting as well as diagonal.

This piece on hair partings is incomplete without a mention of our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She would have looked less elegant and “Different in a different way” without the hair parting that she sported. The neat hair-parting at the side added to her neat and well-groomed look!

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi sporting her signature side-parting

Also there is this strange, highly skeptical but interesting hair-part theory, put forth by Walters brother-sister duo, that says that when a person puts a part in their hair, they are emphasizing either the right or left brain functioning.

Hair-part theory in brief: A man who parts his hair on the right, and who is striving for positive assessment in a traditionally male role is at risk for having difficulties in interpersonal relationships, since he is sending a mixed, subconscious message by emphasizing the activities of the brain traditionally attributed to femininity. A woman who parts her hair on the left, and who is striving for positive assessment in a traditionally male role (for example, in business or politics) will be taken more seriously than a woman with a right part, who is emphasizing mental processes that are traditionally attributed to femininity. Read the complete report on this theory here,

To tell you the truth, this theory doesn’t quite impress me.  Barbara Presnell, who studied this theory thoroughly, in fact, says, that even after using all the library resources available, she couldn't find anybody who seemed to agree with the Walters hair-part theory. She concludes saying: “Let your hair, if you have hair, part where it parts, if it parts at all. Life will be easier that way.”
(Guest Post by Sneha)

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  1. Wow excellent topic. Nice sharing.

  2. Anonymous10:51 AM

    The application of sindoor by married women carries physiological significance too. This is so because Sindoor is prepared by mixing turmeric-lime and the metal mercury. Due to its intrinsic properties, mercury, besides controlling blood pressure also activates sexual drive. This also explains why Sindoor is prohibited for the widows. For best results, Sindoor should be applied right upto the pituitary gland where all our feelings are centered.

  3. Anonymous10:56 AM

    The red colour of bindi or sindoor represents the passionate aspect of prakriti. The red
    implies also love, fertility and strength. Sindoor (vermilion) is sublimed mercuric sulfide and is a brilliant red pigment.

  4. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Traditional authentic Kumkum of India is made by grinding the dried turmeric to a powder. A few drops of lime are then added to this yellow powder, which changes its hue to a bright red. Kumkum is considered to be very auspicious by Indians and thus, used for various purposes on special occasions like wedding and festivals. People, however, use both red and the original yellow powders depending upon what they need the Kumkum for


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