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Stefan's Florilegium


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Indian-KumKum-art - 8/22/13


"15th Century East Indian Cosmetic KumKum" by Baroness Anastasia Alexandrovana Andreeva (OL).


NOTE: See also the files: cosmetics-msg, cosmetics-lnks, p-hygiene-msg, Indian-Sari-art, dyeing-msg, Scented-Oils-art, Moghul-India-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at




15th Century East Indian Cosmetic KumKum


by Baroness Anastasia Alexandrovna Andreeva (OL)

for Kingdom A&S Championship




15th century miniature of Rhada awaiting Krishna


Hindus attach great importance to the ornamental mark on the forehead between the two eyebrows -- a spot considered a major nerve point in the human body since ancient times. Also loosely known as 'tika', 'pottu', 'sindoor', 'tilak', 'tilakam', and 'kumkum', a bindi is usually a small or a big eye-catching round mark made on the forehead as adornment. Ancient Chinese women wore similar marks (for purely decorative purposes) since the second century, which became popular during the Tang Dynasty.


The area between the eyebrows, the sixth chakra known as the 'agna' meaning 'command', is the seat of concealed wisdom. It is the centre point wherein all experience is gathered in total concentration. According to the tantric cult, when during meditation the latent energy ('kundalini') rises from the base of the spine towards the head, this 'agna' is the probable outlet for this potent energy. The red 'kumkum' between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration. It is also the central point of the base of the creation itself — symbolizing auspiciousness and good fortune


The kumkum is an auspicious symbol. When a girl or a married woman visits a house, it is a sign of respect (in case of an elderly lady) or blessings (in case of a young girl) to offer kumkum to them when they leave. However, it is not offered to widows.


Kumkum is also widely used for worshiping the Hindu goddesses, especially Shakti and Lakshmi, and a kumkum powder is thrown (along with other mixtures) into the air during Holi (the Festival of Colours), a popular Hindu spring festival.




Making aromatic paste                              16th century lady making cosmetics

The Sulltans Delight, 1411



Recipes for KumKum


Sindoor was the ancient name given to the very toxic, red, mercury oxide. As a cosmetic Kumkum's most common base is turmeric powder which becomes red when mixed with lime juice or lime powder (calcium compound), moistened in water, or with alum, iodine and camphor, or with oil and sea shell powder (calcium salts), or aguru, chandan and kasturi. It can also be made of sandalwood mixed with musk, or from a mixture of saffron ground with kusumbha flower.


Another traditional ingredient used in making kumkum was raw rice in water heated in a pan until it formed into a glue-like red carbonaceous compound which solidified on cooling. At the time of placing the kumkum, it was made into a paste by adding water.


National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) color experts say that in olden days sindoor was made with a special type of red marble stone, covered with turmeric and a little oil and left undisturbed for a few days, after which it turned into red powder. In Tamil, turmeric powder is known as manjal and the final product is called manjal kunkumam.


There are many recipes for this forhead bindi I have chosen one from a manuscript of recipes from the 15th century.(Patkar pg.19)


Original Recipe


Pound together Ghana, Shabara, Mrunal, Vari, Shaileyaka and Sweda (persperation) and dry Kusumbha (flowers) Add Laksha-rasa (lac-juice) to this mixture. Thus formed Fine Kumkuma has a beautiful colour and is made for beautiful ladies.



15th c. lady with mortar and pestle



My Recipe


As you can see from the recipe no measurements are given. As I only want a small amount I am working in tsps.


Pound Together:

Ghana (Musta root powder, Cyperus rotundus) 1tsp.

Shabara (Bark of Lodhartree, Erythrina Variegata (Coral Tree Bark) 1/2 tsp

Mrunal (Camphor) 1/2 tsp

Vari (Shatavari Root, Asparagus Racemosus) 1/2 tsp

Shaileyaka (Lichen, Usnea Barbata) 1/2 tsp

Kusumbha (Safflower) 1

Sweda (Persperation) I collected my own persperation in a small bottle  2 drops

Lac-Juice I had leftover from dyeing the sari and used several drops to make a paste.


I put all ingredients one by one into the mortar and pestle. I added the liquids last and made them into a paste, then put the finished product into the cosmetic jar.


I chose to make only one recipe as it is very difficult for a judge to try and decide if an entry is successful if they have multiple items to judge. I have only made one recipe for kumkum and no other cosmetics, although it was a tempation to do so. Should my kumkum have been successful and the kohl not so much it would be very difficult for the judges. I do hope to make more cosmetics in the future.




Middle left is Shibara                                        The tree is Mrunal

Abu Hanifa al-Dinawari (896)




Musta or Cyperus Rotundas from The Greek Herbal of

Dioscorides 1st Century.


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0                


Safflower from Bancks Herbal 15th C.                        Lac Bug



Cosmetic Jars



Lichen from The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides 1st c


I am using a vintage Indian cosmetic box to hold my KumKum. The other compartments would hold kohl, rice powder, Henna, and perfume.



Celadon porcelain three compartment cosmetic jar,

Song Dynasty 906-1279



KumKum Paste




Gunther, Robert T. The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides 1st Century AD Hafner Publishing co. New York 1959


Krishnamurthy, KH. Ayervedic Studies and Herbal Cosmetics of Ancient India. B.R. Publishing Corporation 2001


Lewin, B. The Book of Plants of Abu Hanifa al-Dinawari (896) Part of the alphabetical section Edited from the Unique MS In the library of the University of Istanbul, with an introduction, notes and indices, and a vocabulary of selected words. Uppsala Wiesbaden 1953


Nadkarni,K.M... Indian Materia Medica. Bombay Popular Prakashan1976


Patkar, Kunda B. and P.V. Bole Herbal Cosmetics in Ancient India with a Treatise on Planta Cosmetica (200BC to 500AD).

BharatiyaVidya Bhavan, Mumbai 1997


Ram, Asha.  Herbal Indian Perfumes and Cosmetics Sri Satguru Publications, 2002


Titley, Norah M. (translator) The Ni'matnama Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu The Sultans Book of Delights 15th Century. RoutledgeCurzon 2005




Gerrit Bos* and Guido Mensching A 15th Century Medico-Botanical Synonym List (Ibero-Romance-Arabic) in Hebrew Characters




The Temples of India

Social Life in Ancient India


Many thanks to Sebastian Martinez de Leon for his invaluable help in scanning some of my pictures.


Copyright 2011 by Marilee Humason <stasiwa at>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

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