Turmeric, known in India as haldi, is a root of the ginger family native to South Asia. The dried root is ground into a powder and most commonly used as a spice in South Asian cooking and for dying. Turmeric has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years as a remedy for various ailments. In Hinduism, turmeric is a common fixture in wedding rituals and prayer ceremonies as it has great religious and spiritual significance. During the Vedic period in India, turmeric was known as the ‘'golden spice’' or the '‘spice of life’' as it was associated with the sun. Particular significance was attributed to the bright yellow and saffron spice as the sun and sun Gods were a focal point of worship and ritual at the time. The main indigenous uses of turmeric were rites and rituals intended to produce fertility and spiritual purification.
Hindus all across India use turmeric on a daily basis. Women often apply it to their faces in the evening as an act of emulation for the Goddess Durga whose skin emits a yellow glow. Turmeric is also used to give yellow coloration to clothes as it is associated with the Lord Krishna who is depicted wearing yellow. In addition, certain special Ganesh idols are made entirely of turmeric and turmeric water is used as an offering to the Goddess Kali.
Because turmeric is associated with fertility and prosperity, it is used during the haldi ceremony at Hindu weddings. The powder is mixed with water to form a paste and family members apply it to the bride and groom’s face and body. It signifies the ritual purification of the new couple and serves as a blessing of fortune and prosperity. It is also intended to relax the bride and groom and dispel any nervousness. Before the wedding day, the turmeric is washed from the body. Traditionally turmeric was also used to dye the marriage cloth.
In Ayurveda, the Hindu medicinal system, turmeric is utilized extensively for its healing and health producing qualities. Spiritually it is used to balance the energies of the body while medicinally it is well known as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, digestive, antioxidant and diuretic agent. It is taken internally in the form of juice, tea and powder or applied topically in the form of lotions, ointments and pastes. Milk boiled with turmeric and sugar is used in India as a cold remedy and the juice of the turmeric root is often applied to help heal wounds.