In India, its use has a history that dates back nearly 4000 years. Within Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical practice, it is an integral ingredient in many remedies and preparations. In the home, it is the ‘heal all’ substance. It has a role in ritual, in the medicine cupboard, and in the kitchen. There are at least 53 different names for turmeric in Sanskrit, including Haldi (that draws attention to its bright colour), ratrimanika (as beautiful as moonlight) and vishagni (killer of poison).
In many Indian households, turmeric lends itself to mark the ritual in nearly every milestone of one’s life. Soon after birth, newborns are massaged with a turmeric and flour paste, and the day before marriage turmeric paste is applied to the skin of the bride and groom. Invitations too are marked with a dot of the powder, as its characteristic yellow hue symbolises good fortune and its connection to the sun god, Suraj. In some states, following the death of a loved one, individuals will refrain from adding turmeric to food for 10 days, to symbolise loss and grief.