Haldi Kukum

By Aarti Mulgaonkar

GOA’S Hindu women, decked up for the evening, are seen all over the village and city every mid-January, in small groups, visiting their neighbours for the traditional Haldi-Kukum. Being celebrated solely by the married women in Goa and Maharashtra, Haldi-Kukum can hardly be called a festival because not all the members of the family are involved in the traditional, annual ritual.

Social Significance

In ancient Goa, married Hindu women were expected to devote their time entirely to their household, rearing children and serving their spouses. They were neither allowed to talk to any male other than the husband nor allowed to remain present in a room where men of the household would gather for discussions.

The women thus, with their husbands in mind, needed excuses to socialise with their counterparts. Haldi-Kukum springs up from this social need. However, the socialising incorporates the good wishes by one married women to another, praying for the well being of the husband and the household. And so, the woman would even believe that her husband’s life span increases every time she receives Haldi-Kukum.

The “Festival” is celebrated between “Sankrant”, which falls in the Poush month of the lunar calendar and “Rath Saptam”, which is the 7th day of the Magh month of the same calendar. Sankrant always comes on January 14 of every year.
Haldi Kukum Thali


The Haldi-Kukum Thali consists of :

– Haldi and Kukum, which depicts the holy state of matrimony for a Hindu, Goan woman.
– Pan, Supari and Paisa – The three items considered auspicious in a Hindu household.
– Vain (pronounced as wine) — a token of wishes for the well being of the household. The vain can be anything from down-to-earth safety pins to valuable gold coins which the lady of the house exchanges with other Hindu, married women. The token exchanged often corresponds to the social and economic status of the lady of the house.
– Tilgul, a sweet made from til and sugar, are small, white sugar balls mixed with a sprinkling of a few coloured ones. These were once made at home by the women but are now available in packets in the market. Tilgul is the principal item of Haldi-Kukum and is prepared specially for this occasion.
– Tilache ladoo – Laddoo made from Til and jaggery are another item meant for the occasion. Most women still make these delicious sweets at home and these are relished by young and old alike.
– Channa – Boiled white peas or Kabuli grams.

Tilgul, tilache ladoo and channa form the basic refreshments offered to the visitors during Haldi-Kukum. These humble refreshments are such that the majority of the households living on minimum wages and with a number of mouths to feed, could easily afford.
Appling Haldi-Kukum on their foreheads

The “Festival”

The Lady of the house invites other married women. She applies the Haldi-Kukum on their foreheads and gives away a vain or token. The children of the house help in distributing tilgul and channa while the mother is busy offering the Vain.

Tradition maintained

Down the ages, the convivial tradition has retained its original flavour and vigour in many joint families. Women, in recent times, have moved out from the traditional home and are often employed. So we do not, many a times, witness nuclear families observing the “festival”. Similarly, the cuisine, has changed from the modest tilgul and channa to more elaborate buffets comprising of patties, sweets, soft drinks and the like. The cuisine, however, is still vegetarian.
The Lady of the house giving a token .

Haldi-Kukum still remains a very significant event in a married women’s life and has a pre-determined list of vain in the first six years of her married life, depicting the various items considered auspicious for a married woman.

1st year – Chidki Wati (a small earthen pot placed in one-half of a coconut)
2nd year – Kukum (vermilion powder)
3rd year – Haarshi (mirror)
4th year – Phani (comb, pronounced as “funny”)
5th year – Kaknan (glass bangles)
6th year – Naall (a full coconut)