What is Solah Singaar?

Fans of vintage Hindi films are intimately familiar with the theme of female ornamentation, which is expressed beautifully through song lyrics from this period of cinema. Countless songs from the Golden Era describe the charms of a woman’s kajraa (kohl), gajraa (flower garland), jhumkaa (earring), bi.ndii (beauty spot), ka.nganaa (bangle), and so on. In addition to these words, another common term that you might encounter in this genre of songs is solaah si.ngaar, which literally means “sixteen embellishments.” 

MK
Meena Kumari is beautifully adorned as a sensitive courtesan in the classic film Pakeezah (1972).

The most famous example of this phrase occurs in a song from the eternally beautiful film PakeezahIn “ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar,” Lata Mangeshkar, on Meena Kumari, sings:

mai.n to kar aauu.n solaah si.ngaar / (I will come, adorned with the sixteen embellishments)
ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar / (Keep waiting, oh beautiful lover) 

The term solaah si.ngaar refers to sixteen ways in which brides of ancient India adorned themselves before meeting their groom. Although sources conflict over the inclusion of certain ornaments, I am presenting a list of the most commonly accepted beautification aids associated with solaah si.ngaar below. 

1. bi.ndii, a beauty spot adorning the forehead. 

2. si.nduur, a sacred mark of vermillion lining the parting of a bride’s hair. si.nduur is still applied as a sign of marriage by modern Indian women. 

3. maa.ng tiikaaa gold pendant that hangs over the bride’s forehead. 

4. a.njanaa or kaajalthe decoration of  the bride’s eyes using kohl. 

5. naath, a hoop-shaped nose ring.

6. haar, intricate necklaces made of gold and precious stones. The most auspicious necklace offered to the bride during a Hindu wedding is the mangalsutra, which symbolizes the inseparable bond between husband and wife. 

Mangalsutras often contain a gold pendant on a chain of black beads as shown here.

7. karan phuullarge earrings that cover the bride’s entire ear. 

8. maha.ndiihenna designs drawn on the bride’s hands and feet. 

9. chuuDiisets of bangles adorning the bride’s wrists. 

10. baajuba.ndarmlets adorning the bride’s upper arms. 

11. aarsii, a flat jeweled mirror worn as a ring. Supposedly, it was used by brides to check their appearance and possibly sneak a look at their grooms before the official unveiling! 

12. keshaa-pashaa-rachnaa, the styling of the bride’s hair in traditional patterns and adornment of the hair with jewelry and gajraa (flower garlands). 

13. kamarba.nda waist band made of gold and precious gems. The etymologists among our readers might notice the uncanny similarity of this word to cummerbund, the broad waist sash worn by men with tuxedos.  

14. paayala chain adorned with small bells, often made of silver, worn around the ankle. 

15. itarfragrant oils and perfumes to keep the bride smelling fresh throughout the ceremony. 

16. saarii/laha.ngaa, the bridal dress. Popular colors include red, green, and gold. 

Rekha
In Utsav (1984), Rekha is bedecked with many of the common ornaments that constitute solaah si.ngaar: maa.ng tiikaa, kaajal, maa.ng tiikaa, naath, haar, karan phuul, chuuDii, baajuba.nd, and kamarba.nd.  

As you can see, solaah si.ngaar takes make-up to a whole new level of complexity and depth! Thankfully, modern Indian brides aren’t expected to keep up most of these practices past their wedding day in order to please their husbands. We can only imagine how much time and effort brides in ancient India must have spent on perfecting their appearances through this elaborate regimen of beautification.

This post was inspired by a question about solaah si.ngaar by one of our readers paasha. If you have any more burning questions about vintage Hindi cinema, feel free to shoot us a line–we’ll do our best to solve your Bollywood mystery! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Advertisements

Teri Bindiya Re Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Amitabh Bacchan marries a village girl with a golden voice in Abhimaan (1973)

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation of an evergreen duet from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan (1975): terii bi.ndiyaa re . Starring Amitabh Bacchan and Jaya Bhaduri, Abhimaan narrates the story of an ill-fated love between two singers that eventually approaches it breaking point when a husband’s masculine ego suffers a wound from his wife’s overwhelming professional success.

Given that this film revolves around a playback singing couple, the composition of its soundtrack naturally demanded a music director par excellence. In this case, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee chose veteran composer S.D. Burman to do the job–and what a job he did! Aside from the duet presented here, the Lata solos “nadiyaa kinaare,” “ab to hai tum se,” and “piyaa binaa,” the Kishore solo “miit na milaa re man kaa,” and the Lata-Kishore duet “tere mere milan kii yah rainaa” are still cherished by fans today. S.D. Burman’s compositions in this film won him his last Filmfare Award for Best Music Director before his death in 1975.

The duet terii bindiyaa re is sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi at a point in the film where Amitabh Bacchan introduces his newly wedded wife Jaya Bhaduri at their wedding reception. In response to a request, they sing this duet for the guests at their party. Here, Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics describe the allure of a woman’s ornaments, specifically her bi.ndiyaa (beauty spot), jhumkaa (earring), and ka.nganaa (bangle).  Voiced by Lata Mangeshkar on playback, Jaya Bhaduri offers an on-screen performance that illustrates a wife’s admiration and respect for her husband. Since this song takes place before Amitabh Bacchan’s tragic descent into insecurity, he is able to reciprocate with affection and warmth.  However, after this performance, a classical musician (played by David) in the audience recognizes that Jaya is the technically superior singer and expresses concern about the couple’s future…watch the film to see how the drama unfolds!

Those of you who are more musically inclined may have noticed that this song is based in rupak taal, a 7-beat rhythmic cycle that was used far less frequently by Bollywood composers than kaharva taal (8 beats) or dadra taal  (6 beats). Interestingly, S.D. Burman has also used this unconventional rhythmic pattern skillfully in the film’s other popular duet tere mere milan kii yah rainaa

What are some of your other favorite Hindi songs that describe female ornaments? Feel free to share with us in the comments! Until next time…

– Mr. 55
Jaya Bacchan gives a Filmfare Award-winning performance as a humble and talented singer whose success in the music industry ultimately hurts her husband’s ego.

Teri Bindiya Re: Lyrics and Translation

terii bi.ndiyaa re, re aay haay!
Your beauty spot, oh!
sajan, bi.ndiyaa le legii terii ni.ndiyaa
Oh beloved, my beauty spot will steal away your sleep.
re aay haay! terii bindiyaa re
Oh, your beauty spot!

tere maathe lage hai.n yuu.n jaise chandaa taaraa
It clings to your forehead like a star to the moon.
jiyaa me.n chamke kabhii kabhii to, jaise koii a.ngaaraa
It shines in my heart from time to time, as if it were a glowing ember.
tere maathe lage hai.n yuu.n
It clings to your forehead.
sajan, nindiyaa le legii, le legii, le legii merii bi.ndiyaa
Beloved, my beauty spot will steal away your sleep.
re aay haay! teraa jhumkaa re
Oh, your earring!
chain lene na degaa sajan tum kaa
It will not let you be at peace, beloved.
re aay haay! meraa jhumkaa re
Oh, my earring!

meraa gahnaa balam tuu, tose saj ke Doluu.n
You are my jewelry, beloved.  Adorning myself with you, I will dance.
bhaTakte hai.n tere hii nainaa, mai.n to kuchh na boluu.n
Your eyes wander, yet I say nothing at all.
meraa gahnaa balam tuu
You are my jewelry, beloved.
to phir yah kyaa bole hai, bole hai, bole hai teraa ka.nganaa?
Then, what is it that your bangle says?
re aay haay! meraa kanganaa re
Oh, my bangle!
bole re ab to chhuuTe na teraa a.nganaa
It says that it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa ka.nganaa re
Oh, your bangle!

tuu aayii hai sajaniyaa, jab se merii ban ke
Beloved, since you came to me and became mine,
Thuumak-Thuumak chale hai tu, merii nas-nas khanke
your strutting has made me feel a jitter in my veins.
tuu aayii hai sajaniyaa
Beloved, since you came to me.
sajan, ab to chhuuTe na, chhuuTe na, chhuuTe na, teraa anganaa
Beloved, it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa ka.nganaa re
Oh, your bangle!
sajan, ab to chuuTe na teraa a.nganaa
Beloved, it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa a.nganaa re
Oh, your courtyard!

*Female lines in red are sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Male lines in green are sung by Mohammed Rafi. 

Glossary

bindiyaa: beauty spot; nindiyaa: sleep; jiyaa: heart; chamkaanaa: to shine, glow; angaaraa: ember; jhumkaa: earring; sajan: beloved; gahnaa: jewelry; balam: beloved; tose: from you, an archaic form of ‘tujhse‘; sajnaa: to adorn; Dolnaa: to swing, dance; bhaTaknaa: to wander; nainaa: eye; kanganaa: bangle; chhuTnaa: to leave, forsake; a.nganaa: courtyard; sajaniyaa: beloved; Thumak-Thumak chalnaa: to strutter; nas-nas: veins; khanaknaa: to jitter.

In her first major non-vamp role, Bindu plays the ‘other woman’  as  a rich socialite who fawns over Amitabh Bacchan in Abhimaan (1973).