Applying Kohl

Applying Kohl

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“The makeup is simply an extension of the personality and colors, clothing, makeup all express something.”
(Gene Simmons – singer and musician, bassist/vocalist of Kiss, b.1949)

At Sri Hanumangarhi ghat in Varanasi (Benaras), this man was applying kājal (kohl) on his son’s eyes after they both had a bath in the holy waters of the Ganges.

kājal is the Hindi and Urdu word for Kohl.
This an ancient eye cosmetic was made by grinding galena (lead sulfide) and other ingredients.
It is still used in India by women, but also some men and children, to darken the eyelids as a very good coolant and as a protection against eye ailment and from the harsh rays of the sun.

Kohl contains lead and antimony that are toxic to bacteria carried by flies and contaminated water.
Applying it around the eyes provided some relief from conjunctivitis and other bacterial eye infections and keeps the eyes bright because the irritation from having soot in one’s eyes causes tearing so the eyes are kept continuously washed clean of contaminants, grit, and bacteria.
Some more scientific details suggest that it may produce beneficial effects in eyes in three different ways (Adsorptive, astringent and anti-infective) or directions because of the primary and natural properties of it’s major constituent, galena (lead sulphide).

Mothers apply kohl to their infants’ eyes soon after birth to enlarge their eyes and grant them better vision.
Some women also add a dot of kajal on the left side of the foreheads or under the right ear of babies and children, to protect them from “buri nazar”.
“Buri nazar” literally means “bad glance” and is comparable to the “evil eye”, although it can be interpreted as ill-wishes of people or even lustful eyes.

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