It is possible that at some time or the other many of us may have had some experience of buying kumkumam which causes some allergic reactions like discolouring of the skin. A basic knowledge about the product will definitely help us in choosing it. With this aim in mind we approached Sri Vidhya Store in Mylapore, Chennai, that is very popular for the quality of its pooja products. Mr.R. Balasuramaniam, who owns Sri Vidya, says they have been involved in kumkumam manufacture since 1954. His father had once taken kumkumam from a temple and on applying it, the skin got discoloured. He took his acharya’s advice and started the manufacture of kumkumam as given in ancient texts, and ensured that he did not advertise or commercialise the venture.
Cheaper varieties of kumkumam and a number of branded products in bright colours available in most retail outlets are made from Maida flour and chemical dye, which could disagree with certain types of skin.
However, kumkumam, at Sri Vidya and other comparable outlets, is made using natural ingredients that not only do not cause such reactions, but in addition also clear scars and marks.
Kumkumam is a mixture of manjal (turmeric), vengaram (a variety of alum), padikkaram (alum), salt and lime. Well-grown turmeric is crushed coarsely, mixed with the rest of the ingredients and marinated for a day. It is then spread in sunlight to dry. Later it is ground in a mill (much like any other flour mill process), to form coarse kumkumam, which is ideal for archanai.
Good kumkumam is not fine, but a little coarse as very fine powder tends to stick to the fingers. For customers who feel coarse kumkumam does not stick easily when applied, it is suggested that butter be used as a lubricant. Using wax is again dangerous as it is a petroleum product. At Sri Vidya, some sesame oil is added to the mixture before grinding, to give it some sticking quality.
Good kumkumam has a naturally bright red colour and the fragranceof turmeric, which also acts as a disinfectant. It never gets infected/ lumpy even if stored for very long. Inferior quality kumkumam is very fine, in unnatural colours and sticks to the skin. This might not agree with many skin types. Quality kumkumam is curative in nature.
Source: Nrusimhapriya, 2004