The Solah Shringar-Sixteen Steps To Beauty

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The term Solah shringar is often used in Bollywood movies and songs. It can be literally translated as the 16 steps to a woman’s beauty routine. According to author Ved Bhatnagar’s book “Shringaar The Rasraj, A classical Indian View”: ‘Shringar evokes images of beauty, sensuous delight, and rejuvenation. Shringar conveys ‘the reaching of emotional climax and the summit of sensuality’.

Painting of the Solah Shringar-Circa 1770 AD-National Museum, New Delhi

India, the Land of Kama sutra, has indeed helped define the Shringar of a woman. It is her essential beauty routine for getting ready to meet her beloved; dressed up in fine attire and having a charming body fully decorated and exuding fragrance.

The concept of Solaah shringaar has been passed down to the modern Indian brides through our rich culture and traditions. There are five beauty aids that are essentially utilized in the solaah sringar on the wedding day:

  1. Hair is made fragrant ( Kachdharya Prasadhan) or decoration with pearls and flowers.
  2. The body is decorated (Dehdharya Prasadhan), forehead, cheeks, hands using decorative designs, flowers and ornaments
  3. Colorful clothes are worn (Paridheya Prasadhan) in preparation for meeting a lover
  4. The body is made fragrant (Vilapan Prasadhan) using fragrant pastes and oils like sandalwood, kesar(saffron) etc
  5. Additionally there is shringar based on local customs (deshik prasadhan).

According to Valabhdev in his book ‘Subashitawali’, the solah sringar list consists of the following 16 steps:

  1. Manjan –toothpaste
  2. Cheer vastra-attire
  3. Haar or garland
  4. Tilak-mark on the forehead
  5. Netranjan-Black kohl in the eyes
  6. Kundals-earrings
  7. Nasamautik-nose ring
  8. Keshpach rachna-hairdo
  9. Kanchuk-Necklace (ornamentation around the bosom)
  10. Nupoor-anklets
  11. Sugandha angrak-fragrant pastes
  12. Kangan-Bangles
  13. Charan rag- vermilion
  14. Kardhani-girdle
  15. Tambul-betel leaf for a beautiful red mouth
  16. Kardarpan-mirror

A few variations were made to this list in the 15th Century by Roop Goswami in Ujjwal Neelmani but they essentially have the same objective: the woman looking her best for her lover. Over the years, Indian weddings have included the Henna art or Mehendi, Maang Tikaa, finger rings, waist band or kamarbandhs, toe rings, etc as a part of the solaah sringar.

Here are a few pictures of an Indian bride’s  Solaah Sringar on her wedding day. Enjoy!


Photos: 1) 2) 3)  4) 5),6) &7) Sandeep Gupta photography
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