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How Kajal became a multi-crore industry

Have you seen the popular web series ‘Syndicate’? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you must remember how Adnan (Afran Nisho) confesses his love to Jisha (Nazifa Tushi). Adnan looked at Jisha and said the line of Sadat Hossain’s poem, ‘Listen, Kajal-eyed girl spends my day, looking into your eyes in confusion.’ One of the most popular songs of the 1990s is Andrew Kishore’s ‘Pade Na Ekke Palak’ used in the 1997 movie ‘Pranan Chei Priya’. On the big screen, Riaz lip-synced to win his lover’s heart, ‘Kajal is black, those two eyes, and there’s magic in those eyes.’ Long before this, Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote in the poem ‘Borsha Biday’, ‘Ogo and Kajal-meye, the bored sky is in your eyes but you are looking at your mouth.’ From poems to songs to movies, web series – why Kajol is everywhere? Why is the lover’s dark eyes fooled by the lover? Kajol has been used as the most important accessory of Bengali women’s attire for ages. With time, the appearance of that Kajol has changed. Kajal of different colors, smokey, graphic are trending at different times. But from eyeliner to glitter—everything has succumbed to the traditional Kajol!

How did Kajol’s journey begin?

A long piece of cotton cloth is twisted and moistened with ghee. A fire is lit in the protruding part. Then a metal (usually copper) vessel is held over the beam and the ink is deposited. A small amount of oil (camphor, mustard or coconut oil) and sandalwood are mixed on that ink. A beautiful surma-kajal is made by mixing ink with oil and sandalwood. After that kajal was applied to the eyes by folding a piece of cloth or twisting a piece of cotton (like a cotton bud). Kajal was used by all men and women in this region. Because this surma applied around the eyes (above and below) kept the area around the eyes cool. As a result, it was a popular cosmetic in the hot tropics. Kajal is also widely used as a ‘najartika’. It is believed that the black kajal on the forehead protects the baby from the harmful effects of sunlight. Still, women in the region rely on Kajol’s tips to protect their children from the ‘evil eye’. Now it is said to go to the bangle-ribbon shop in the market. Different kajals are available for tipping children. It is applied on one side of the baby’s forehead with a little powder, so that the kajal ink does not spread and the kajal lasts longer. Kajal is usually given to the child after bathing. Apart from this, mothers do not forget to wear kajal with good clothes while going out of the house. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Kajal has been subjected to various investigations. In the 1930s, the ‘smokey eye’ stirred the makeup world for the first time. Earlier this method was different. Then women used to fall asleep with kajal the night before. The kajal was ‘scattered’ throughout the night and spread beautifully over and under the eyes. The next day, the woman would go to the function or to her loved ones, leaving that Kajal outfit intact. It was customary to wear thick kajal like this on the night before the wedding, so that the eyes look beautiful on the day of the wedding. It wasn’t called a ‘smokey eye’ back then though. The practice of spreading black kajal on the upper eyelids is still relevant with a slight volum change. That’s where the use of eyeshadow came from. The dramatic cat eye gained popularity in the sixties. In the 1990s, Kajol only gained popularity. Now there is trend of giving kajal in all forms including ‘simple liner’. As a result of globalization, this material of Bengali women’s own decoration has also entered the beauty box of western women.