The prettiest crop in Indian farms, by far, has to be mustard. Consider it the lavender of India, where the gorgeousness of the rolling expanses is concerned. And like lavender, mustard has its own plethora of cultural, health and beauty nuances.
The 5,000-year-old crop (called sarson or rai in hindi) is most revered in Northern and Eastern India, where it is known as the ‘plant of long life’ and figures prominently in rituals and ceremonies besides the daily cooking activities. For example, mustard oil is poured on both sides of the threshold when someone important comes home for the first time or after a long absence and is used as fuel for lighting earthen lamps (diyas) on festive occasions such as Diwali.
Did you know that Indian mustard is a member of the broccoli family?
Most importantly, however, it forms an integral element in the beauty traditions that precede a wedding. In the most popular variation, it is mixed with turmeric to create a purifying paste that’s slathered all over the bride and groom. It’s traditional purpose is to make the turmeric penetrate deeper into the skin while imparting warmth, strength and a glow to the body.
Today, however, scientists have also discovered it to be a terrific cocktail of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, transforming the drippy, pungent home-brewed ceremonies into lavish spa rituals across the world. And that’s not all – it’s warmth-generating, circulation-boosting, antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal benefits also make it a great medium for massages and hair treatments. Want to enjoy some of the goodness? All you need is a bottle of high quality mustard oil and some simple recipes:
– Smooth lips: For soft, smooth lips, put a drop of mustard oil in your belly button before sleeping (sounds strange, but it works!).
– A better body: According to Ayurveda, massaging the body with mustard oil improves the blood circulation and muscular strength while detoxifying the body. It also slows down premature ageing, improves skin texture, relieves stress and boosts skin immunity.
– Tackle dryness: Have dry skin? Mustard oil is loaded with vitamin E and hence makes a great hydrator when massaged into the skin.
– Glowing skin: If you have some time, make an ubtan: Mix equal amounts of turmeric powder, saffron, sandalwood, bengal gram and powdered mustard seeds in mustard oil to make a thick paste. Apply this all over your body and keep it on for 20-30 minutes, then scrub it off in the shower. Doing this regularly will not only keep your skin supple and glowing but also keep it safe from infections.
– Acne: To treat acne, mix turmeric powder with a few drops of mustard oil and lemon juice. Apply this paste on your pimples, leave on for 15 minutes and then scrub gently. Wash off with plain water. Do this 2-3 times a week to keep chronic spots at bay.
– Lustrous hair: Mustard oil stimulates circulation and contains fatty acids to revitalise the scalp and bring blood to the hair follicles, thereby making your locks thick and lustrous. Simply massage the oil into your scalp and hair, then cover your head with a shower cap. Blast with a hair dryer for about 10-15 minutes to help the oil penetrate your hair shafts. Wash hair and style as usual.
– Hair loss: To treat hair loss, boil mustard oil and add some henna leaves. Allow the leaves to burn in oil. Then cool the mixture and filter it with a thin cloth or fine strainer. Use this concoction to massage you hair every day.
Francois Nars and designer Thakoon Panichgul — whose fan following includes Jessica Alba and Michelle Obama — have come together to create a limited edition, six colour nail polish collection that’s inspired by the vibrant colours found in Indian spice markets. What sets this collection apart from the scores of other India-inspired makeup products is that it has none of the rustic, earthy quality that usually defines the country. Instead, what you get are bright, cheerful pops of colour, each of which is named after a spice or medicinal plant. And if some don’t exactly look like the spice they are channelling (I have never seen amchoor in such a bright yellow shade – it’s usually closer to brown) who is complaining? For those curious about the names, here are the English descriptions:
Lal Mirchi: A bright powder made from dried red chillies
Anardana: Pomegranate seed
Ratin Jot: A food colouring agent derived from the roots of the Alkanet plant, which has been used as a dye since earliest recorded history
Amchoor: A sour-tangy powder made from dried unripe green mangoes
Kutki: The Himalayan Gentian, an endangered plant of the Himalayas, which has powder blue blooms
Koliyari: The Ceylon Hydrolea, a plant whose leaves have cleansing and healing effects when beaten to a pulp and applied as a poultice.
Come summer and it’s time to shed the thick woolens that are so good at hiding away dry skin and a less-than-radiant complexion. That’s what convinced me to actually dedicate three-and-a-half hours to the Imperial spa in New Delhi. Hours later, after the sun has gone down, I emerge with what seems like brand new skin, with every pore cleansed out thoroughly and boasting a glow that has been missing for months.
Long, arched corridors infused with the scents of Neroli and frankincense, couplets from Rumi, hamaams, relaxation lounges, intricate Indian motifs, mirrored ceilings, tikri panels, an abundance of cooling marble… it’s like spa-ing within the hallowed chambers of the Taj Mahal.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s start at the beginning. At the very beginning, there was Sir Edward Lutyens, who had a vision to build “the most luxurious hotel in New Delhi.” It was the 1920s and a…
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It’s been referred to as the ‘Fabric of India’ – a perfect label for a brand that’s led the revolution of taking first Indian fashion, then the country’s extensive beauty knowledge and indigenous health recipes across the world.
And today, Fabindia – ‘India’s largest private platform for products that are made from traditional techniques, skills and hand-based processes’ (it works with over 40,000 craft-based rural producers) is on it’s way to becoming part of a global empire.
L Capital Asia – a private equity fund backed by LVMH and Groupe Arnault – has acquired an 8 per cent stake in this ethnic-wear brand, sparking a plethora of debates: What does it mean for such an intensely indigenous and sustainable practises-based brand to become a part of the LVMH empire, which is seen to be more about luxury and bottom lines? Does this acquisition of a mass-market “fast-fashion” brand (Fabindia is the country’s indigenous answer to H&M and Zara) indicate a shift in LV’s traditional uber-luxe targets? Will Fabindia show a change in direction from it’s half-a-century-old legacy of organic materials, ethnic raw materials, sustainable production and affordable pricing? In short, is this a smart move for LV? And will it corrode Fabindia’s traditional, crafts-driven base or infuse more funds into the brand, thereby increasing scope for growth?
In short, is this a step towards the growth or the end of an indigenous, rural crafts-based platform. What do you think?
- LVMH makes a commitment to India (awardz.wordpress.com)
- Spotlight on: Barnard Arnault, Chairman, LVMH (independent.co.uk)
- IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS INDIA WILL REACH ONE OF THE TOP TEN LARGEST CONSUMERS OF CHAMPAGNE ….says Daniel Lalonde of LVMH (lizpalmer.wordpress.com)
Indian women are much envied for thick, lustrous, jet black tresses, and our mums did it with yoghurt. The reason? Plain yoghurt is replete with zinc, calcium and protein, making it a terrific softening conditioner for dry brittle damaged hair when massaged in for five minutes after the shampoo. Yoghurt can also be applied directly to the scalp to sooth, rebalance and hydrate, reducing itchiness and flaking. Give it a try today!
I am not a great lover of gold jewellery – if it looks pretty, I will wear it, with no concern for whether it’s made from gold or silver or wood and whether it’s set with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires or simple bits of coloured glass. This is much to the despair of my mother-in-law, who is a firm believer in the Indian doctrine of jewels being worn not for aesthetics or vanity but because of the impact they have on the wearer – in terms of health, wealth, luck and beauty.
She is not alone in her thought process. For millions of years, Indian women (and men!) have called upon the “science of stones and metals” to chart their destiny. For example, it’s sacrosanct that a girl should wear a gold necklace at all times, almost from the time she is born. It’s said that gold is cooling, acts as a tonic, imparts vitality to the body, helps eyesight and subdues the deranged actions of kapham, vatam and pittam. When a gold ornament rests against the skin, it passes on these benefits to the body. Also, my grandmother always held that wearing a necklace right from childhood would make the neck slender and graceful – the heavier the necklace, the more slender the neck.
And then there are the stones – each of them with a special symbolism or attribute attached to them:
- Emeralds and diamonds enhance the libido (hence widows are usually not allowed to wear these stones)
- When worn at night, a diamond ensures good sleep and keeps nightmares at bay
- A good quality emerald will change colour if it comes in contact with poison. That’s why the Mughal rulers used to drink their alcohol from emerald glasses (sigh! the decadence)
- Alcohol served in emerald glasses will not leave you feeling inebriated or hungover (trying this at the next party if I can find an actual emerald glass. What are the chances?)
- Cat’s Eye reduces the blood sugar level in diabetics
- A blue sapphire can cure baldness
- A white sapphire enhances the wearer’s sex appeal
- Wearing a zircon makes your complexion flawless
- Soaking a zircon in water overnight and then drinking that water will cure infertility
However, remember that to be effective it must be a good quality stone (Indian jewellers would classify gems into ‘castes’) and be set in such a way that it is in direct contact with the skin at all times. So, which sparkling gem will you wear today?
- Colored Gems – Learning Guide – Helzberg Diamonds (helzberg.com)
- Emerald – Colored Gems – Learning Guide – Helzberg Diamonds (helzberg.com)
Long known as the very icon of Indian beauty (though I personally feel differently), Aishwarya Rai – like most of us – has had a long (and sometimes arduous) journey of evolution in matter of style and looks. However, this photo, which has recently started doing the rounds, leaves me stumped. Is this really Aishwarya Rai in her college days? Could someone actually change so much? Could those rumours of plastic surgery actually be true? Can hairstylists, makeup artists and personal stylists make so much of a difference? In short, can beauty and gorgeousness be “acquired”? Take a look and tell me what you think:
Is this the same person…
…as this one?
Personally, I hope it is her in the red sari – because it gives the rest of us hope that ugly ducklings can really metamorphosise into swans with help and hard work
Write in, I want to hear your views!
- Aishwarya Rai Plastic Surgery Shocker (celebs.gather.com)
- Aishwarya Rai Replaced At Cannes By Karisma Kapoor (celebs.gather.com)
In Rajasthan, no marriage is complete without a gift of the traditional nauratan bracelet to the new bride. “Nauratan” literally translates as “nine precious stones”, each of which symbolises one of the cosmic planets and brings good luck.
Now, Boucheron returns to its India-inspired roots with a new perfume – the Jaipur Bracelet – whose intricate jewellery-like bottle has been inspired by this Rajasthani classic. The fragrance itself is very, very feminine and perfect for those special moments when you want something truly memorable. The composition blends violet leaf, petit grain, basil, hyacinth, lily of the valley, iris and cypress for a “woody floral” feel.
Rani Padmavati (also known as Padmini), the legendary 16th century Indian beauty, was famous for her luxurious milk baths. So was Cleopatra all the way in Egypt. And every top-end spa worth its Indian roots boasts of an extensive milk menu in the 21st century.
Why? Milk is a terrific source of lactic acid, a natural alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA) that gently exfoliates the top layer of dull, dead skin cells, diminishing blemishes and revealing a softer, brighter complexion. It also helps in cellular renewal, along with stepping up collagen and elastin production. And since lactic acid already exists in our cells, protecting against injury and sun damage, the body accepts it more readily than most synthetic AHAs, resulting in minimal inflammation. Besides this, milk is also loaded with vitamins A and D, protein and calcium – all of which are easily absorbed by the skin. Hooked? You might want to try these simple concoctions:
- To replicate the famed royal baths, add six cups of full fat milk to your bathtub and soak for about 30 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. For a more intense (though not so sweet smelling variation) use fermented whole milk, which has curdled. You will emerge with the smoothest skin imaginable!
- No bathtub? Mix some honey and whole milk powder into a paste. Then use this paste in lieu of a shower gel – silky smooth skin guaranteed!
- For deep cleansing, simply apply a layer of milk to your skin, leave on for 10-15 minutes and then rinse off with warm water. Skim well works well for oily skin, while normal, dry or mature skin would show better results with whole milk.
- Blend six teaspoons of honey with five teaspoons of milk, then apply the paste on freshly cleansed face. Leave it for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Do this once a week for a fresh and glowing complexion.
- To make a potent scrub, mix 2 teaspoons of milk, two teaspoons of honey and two teaspoons of ground almonds. Smooth onto the face and neck; leave on for 5-10 minutes and then massage it off the face with gentle, circular motions. Finally, rinse off all residue with warm water.
- To add body and shine to fine or lifeless hair, mix half a cup of dry milk powder with just enough water to make a paste, then gently massage the paste into your hair. Cover hair with a hot towel for half an hour, changing the towel when it cools. Rinse, shampoo and end with your favourite conditioner for super-glossy locks.