I have a royal beauty ritual hangover (pun intended). You would too, once you read this most lush book I have read till date! It’s not a newly published one but rather a book that’s been around for some time. Pretty strange that I hadn’t heard of it earlier and quite accidentally stumbled upon it on Amazon. Authored by Sharada Dwivedi, an Indian native and Shalini Devi Holkar , an Indian Princess by marriage, the book gives you a peek into our gorgeous beauty heritage. Through this peek into the graceful world of princesses and queens, you step into times bygone, where self-care , in the most traditional natural ways, was a way of life, especially in our royal palaces.
It’s a luscious delight.
Sample this excerpt describing the bathing ritual of the princess of Travancore, from the gorgeously titled ‘Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet’, ” For the bath ritual we had a special silver vessel with a long silver handle.At the end of it there were three little bowls in beautifully chased silver with lovely designs on them.Each one held a different oil : one for the face,one for the body , and one for the hair.Then there was a copper vessel, which held a herbal paste that they used for our hair.That herb was called thali, it’s a leaf, which they ground fresh every day.
” After that shampoo paste was applied, were were bathed in some herbal waters, in which the bark of of forty different trees had been boiled.That was excellent tonic for the hair, skin and the body.After the bath our hair was dried with a thin muslin towel, then spread over a karandi, a sort of iron pot with a long handle.In the pot were burning coals with all sorts of herbs sprinkled on them so that the smoke became very fragrant.We would dry our hair over this smoke.It was very mild, so the scalp didn’t get hot.It also dried the hair very slowly, so the ends never became brittle and it left such a beautiful fragrance. A dry, powdered herb was rubbed in the centre of our heads when our hair was dry, only in the middle of the hair parting.That was supposed to prevent colds. The entire morning would go in this bath. We would get up at six o’ clock in the morning, bathe, and go to the temple, come back and have a hot meal which would be served immediately at ten-thirty.”
Ahhh. Now tell me you don’t crave the indulgences and luxuries of the era that wasn’t rushed. 🙂
The book weaves in various natural remedies and recipes , while taking the reader on an exotic journey of palace rituals and ways. Peppered with beautiful old photographs of royalty , paintings of traditional Indian women and ornaments and beauty tools of the past,it draws you in. With delicate nuggets like the etiquette of paan (eating or serving a betel leaf in which all manner of spices,condiments and pastes are put in) and the ts importance to the zenana women). Apart from the various digestive and breath sweetening benefits it offered, the way a paan leaf was folded and offered could convey various hidden messages such as , “He’s away , so I’am free tonight!”. Foxy, these zenana women, eh? 😉
Here’s a lovely Almond-Saffron Recipe from the book, for cleansing the skin :
‘Rub 2 or 3 almonds on a marble slab or sahan with plain water or rose water.Powder a couple of strands of saffron or dissolve them in a few drops of warm water and add to the almond paste.Apply the paste to the face and let it dry.Wet hands with water and rub the face until all the paste comes off.All dirt and dead skin will come off with this paste’.
There are photographs of herbs used in the recipes , with their English and native Indian names. Some most Indian women are familiar with – Reetha (Soap Nut), Khus (Vetiver) , Ambia Haldi (Mango Ginger) and others. Apart from recipes for natural care skin and hair, the book also shares ancient recipes for post-natal care (Atta Laddoos, Ginger Soup and more) , decoctions and brews for general health and minor ailments ( Panchamrit, Tulsi Kaadha, Adrak Pak etc).
‘Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet’ is not really a beauty book, but a compilation of some of Indian traditions and rituals related to self-care , as practiced by royalty in the past. It also lets you into the private, protected world of women from that era and how these rituals bonded them. It’s a keepsake that every Indian woman should have, to understand her beauty heritage and to pass on to her daughters.
The book has been a best seller and if interested, you can pick it at Amazon.
Meanwhile, let me go and luxuriate in my hamam..er, shower.😉 and if you have a favorite beauty recipe that has been passed down by your mom or grand mom or aunt, I would love to hear about it!Do share in the comments section below and stay lush!