Alta (Bengali: আলতা), alah or mahavar is a red dye that is applied to the hands and feet of women, mainly in the Indian subcontinent.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] It is applied with a cotton swab or brush to the hands and feet during marriage ceremonies and festivals.

Alta is originally produced from Alkanna tinctoria, although today it is mainly replaced with synthetic dyes.[1]

Cultural significance

Bengali culture

A bride's hand adorned with alta
A ceremony welcoming the newly wed bride to her new home, with the feet dipped in a mixture of milk and alta

Alta has great cultural significance in Bengali culture.[8][9][3] Regardless of religious beliefs, Bengali women traditionally adorn their hands and feet with alta for marriage[10][7] and cultural festivals like Pahela Baishakh, Pahela Falgun and others.[11][12][13] Wearing Alta on Durga Pooja is a common ritual for Odia and Bengali women.[14]

Odia culture

Odissi classical dancer

Alta is also significant in Odisha. It can be commonly seen worn by Odissi classical dancers on hands and feet while performing. It is especially prevalent during Raja or Mithun Sanakranti, which is a three-day festival celebrating womanhood (menstruation).[15] During this festival, as a part of the ritual, women apply alta on their feet symbolising fertility and auspiciousness. Alta and turmeric is also applied during marriages in Odia culture.

See also


  1. ^ a b আলতা. Kaler Kantho (in Bengali). 6 November 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  2. ^ আলতা রাঙা পা. Daily Bangladesh (in Bengali). Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b প্রামাণিক, কল্লোল. "পায়ে আলতা পরিয়ে শুভলগ্ন রাঙিয়ে তোলেন তিনি". (in Bengali). Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Bengali Hindu Wedding - Rituals, Customs, Dress, Food". Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Newari girls participate in mass Bel Bibaha [with photos]". Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  6. ^ Shrestha, Shreeya (November 2017). "An Elaborate Ritual called Marriage". ECS NEPAL. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Learn How Bengali Mehndi Blends Simplicity, Authenticity and Ethnicity on the Wedding Day". Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  8. ^ ଅଳତା আলতা. Kaler Kantho (in Bengali). 6 November 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  9. ^ আলতা রাঙা পা. Daily Bangladesh (in Bengali). Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ "দাও গায়ে হলুদ, পায়ে আলতা". (in Bengali).
  11. ^ আলতা রাঙা বৈশাখ. The Daily Ittefaq (in Bengali). Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  12. ^ "আলতা পরা পায়ে". (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 26 July 2021. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  13. ^ "বৈশাখী উন্মাদনার ঢেউ শাবিতে". (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 17 October 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Alta Dye: Bright Red Liquid Color Used to Adorn Palms and Feet". Utsavpedia. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Odisha Tourism : Raja, A Festival Of Fun, Frolic and Mouthwatering Delicacies". Retrieved 25 May 2021.