How To Make Your Own Sindoor (kumkum, vermillion)

Now that I’m a married lady, I’ve been putting sindoor in the part of my hair.

Why? Mostly because it is tradition. Where in the west there is just the wedding ring to tell you someone is married, in Hinduism there are a number of elements and different ones or combinations used in different regions and communities: toe rings, a particular bangle, the mangalasutra necklace, nose ring, red bindi, and sindoor in the part of the hair. (For men there is not so much. Hey, this is an ancient tradition carried on from a time when women were property. They needed to show that they belonged to someone while men did not!) They say wearing sindoor is a way to honor your husband and to wish for his long life.

I love that bright red color!

But it turns out that commercial sindoor contains toxic ingredients like mercury and lead! I definitely don’t want to be putting that on my skin every day. (Some sites will tell you that mercury is a good thing, but it can lead to neurological damage, genetic disorders, and hair loss). If you live in India, you now have access to brands that are trying to be safer and more natural, such as Shahnaz Husain Shabride Herbal Sindoor. But I can’t find a way to get it in the U.S. [UPDATE: A reader on my Facebook page kindly sent me a link to a site that does appear to ship to America! http://sureherbalcure.com]

“Fatal if consumed” Not what you want your kumkum to say!

So instead, I found instructions to make my own.

UPDATE: I have found that while I can get a red powder from these instructions, if it dries for too long it turns back to orange. This will only work if you’re making very small batches and using it quickly. I also tried another recipe a friend suggested of grinding beet root into powder. I dehydrated beets and ground them in a coffee grinder, but the resulting powder was purple and not red. She has suggested adding red sandalwood powder to the beet mixture. I may just go to buying pre-made beet root powder. Other suggestions have been powdered non-toxic paint and red lip pencil.

UPDATE 2: Lately I’m using a red lip pencil for sindoor and bindi. Still using homemade kumkum for ritual purposes.

What You’ll Need

  • Tumeric
  • Calcium Hydroxide (which is mineral lime). You can get it at Ace Hardware called Pickling Lime
  • Water

After a few days, I noticed that it started to get more rust colored and a little orange and then more and more and more orange. In future I think I will make the little balls and then break one open at a time as needed or just make a much smaller amount each time!

***

I like how subtly this can be done. It is not as glaringly obvious as wearing a bindi. You can put just a little so only people really looking for it notice (or you can put a lot and fill in your part for an inch or more).

Perfect!

Here is a video of the whole process…

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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Jay Nazir

    There is no need to make Kumkum at all, Kumkum grows naturally on trees, the English name for it is Annatto, you will find it in the spice section of your grocery store, I found it at my local Walmart, it can come in the original seed form and you can use a coffee grinder or a pepper mill to make it into a powder, or for a little bit extra some places sell it as a power, and Latin markets often sell it in paste form, as it is very prevalent in Latin and Spanish cooking. Please do not use lime, while certainly not as bad as mercury, it is still not healthy. Please look for annatto at your local grocery store and use it, I personally but the whole seeds, and grind it up using a coffee grinder, they cost me sixty five cents for a pack.

    • Ambaa

      I have never heard this before. Every source I’ve spoken to says kumkum is created from a blend of things O.o

      • Jay Nazir

        Here is a page describing the plant, https://www.nabard.org/english/medical_annato.aspx

        As I said here in the USA you can buy it for roughly sixty five cents in seed form, Latin markets sell the power form for a little over a dollar, personally I buy the seeds and grind them myself using a coffee grinder. The best part of it is it is all natural and comes straight from the plant, and can be eaten, this is the same thing used to dye high end cheeses here in the west.

  • jyotsna

    gud i like it


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