Why Indian people paint eyes of their children

Why Indian people paint eyes of their children

Perhaps you are in shock seeing,  for the first time, a small child with intensely painted eyes.

However, it has been very common in Hindu culture for a long time. Also today, many mothers, in India, Nepal, and in the Middle East, paint their childrens eyes with kayalem – an Indian equivalent fof eye-liner – obtained from oil, herbs and soot. It is believed that it has a cooling effect on the eyes and protects them from the harsh rays of the sun.

Ayurveda also claims that kayal protects the eye against harmful smoke, from computer radiation, and also from air pollution. It is also believed that thanks to the application the eye remains moisturized.

Cultural background

To this day, it is also believed that the use of kayal around the eyes, or anywhere else on the face – children are sometimes painted dots on their cheeks – has the power to drive away glances carrying curses. In the societies of Hindu culture – and apparently also in many southern societies – there is a view that children are easily susceptible to the so-called ‘evil eye’ or ‘eyes of the devil’. Also in our culture, many people describe events when someone very much praises the child as nice or wise, and then – for unknown reasons – the child becomes tearful, disobedient or inept.

Therefore, it is believed that the use of kayal around the eye, or anywhere on the face reduces the power of the ‘evil eye’. It happens among Hindu women that they do not want to be different in the Europeanizing environment of the Brahmins as superstitious, they paint their children with a dot behind their ear so that it will not be visible.

Acquiring kayal

Until recently, each mother obtained kayal in a domestic way – combining soot from olive lamps with ghee. Nowadays, available cosmetics are bought, but natural resources are still used in many homes.

When obtaining the cosmetic using the home method, are used sandalwood and one of the types of oil, for example coconut. Both components have special cooling properties, which is important in the summer season. Other home recipes use ingredients such as powder of dried haritaki fruits, camphor, ghee (clarified butter) and sesame oil.

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