The Markandeya Purana (Study)

by Chandamita Bhattacharya | 2021 | 67,501 words

This page relates ‘Use of Cosmetics, Perfumes, Incense, etc.’ of the study on the Markandeya Purana, one of the oldest of the eigtheen Mahapuranas preserving the history, civilisation, culture and traditions of ancient India. The Markandeyapurana commences with the questions raised by Rishi Jaimini (a pupil of Vyasa), who approaches the sage Markandeya with doubts related to the Mahabharata. This study examines various social topics such as the status of women, modes of worship, yoga, etc.

Use of Cosmetics, Perfumes, Incense, etc.

From the ancient times people used various types of cosmetics which can make them more beautiful. In the Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, it is noticed that to look more beautiful and attractive the white flowers are specially used as cosmetics.[1] Also the ocean gave a garland of unfaded lotuses to the devī, one for her head and the other for her breasts.[2] King Hariścandra also decked with heavenly garlands.[3] Also lord Dattatreya’s wife Lakṣmī was embellished with divine garlands.[4] It is also mentioned that the demon Vidyudrupa decorated himself with hair candana i.e. yellow sandal.[5] Applying oil to the body was prohibited after taking a bath. Also a person applies unguents before bathing.[6] In the Bhāvatapurāṇa it was found that, some women were holding a sportive lotus on their hands.[7] Such types of uses are noticed in the Meghadūta[8] and Kumārasaṃbhavam [Kumārasaṃbhava][9] of Kālidasa. In the Mahābhārata, it is noticed that Draupadī was expert in using cosmetics, weaving garlands and dressing hair also.[10] The Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa also mentions the power of spells and medicinal harbs used as cosmetic on the feet which gives a person power to trevel thousands of yojanas within half a day.[11]

In ancient times, perfumes were used for beauty purposes and rituals and incense was generally used in ritual ceremonies. In the Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, perfumes, incense were specially used for the purpose of śraddha ritual, worshiping gods, pitṛs etc.[12] For example, king kārtavirya worshipped Dattatreya with the sandal, garland, perfumes, water, fruits etc.[13] In the chapter of Sun-worship the people used Incense, perfumes, unguents, flowers etc.[14] Prajapati also did pitṛ worship with Incense, perfumes, anulepana[15], flowers etc. It is also mentioned that stealing of auspicious perfumes is considered to be a sinful act and after release from hell he gets birth as a mole (chucchundar).[16]

Footnotes and references:


Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, 31.89


Ibid., 79.28


Ibid., 8.253


divyamālyāmbaradharaḥ / Ibid., 16.111 b


Ibid., 2.16


Ibid., 31.37, 54


...... kva padmakośaḥ patitaḥ karāgrāt // Bhāvatapurāṇa, 4.25.28


Meghadūta, uttaramegha. 2


Mahābhārata, virātaparva, 8.16


Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, 58.12


Ibid., 28.43,57


Ibid., 17.2


Ibid., 106.60-61


Ibid., 93.22, 31-37; 34.15


Ibid., 15.30

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