Updated: May 11
Traditional Kohl, known as kajal or Surma, is an ancient cosmetic substance used worldwide for thousands of years. Its use can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was a beauty product and protection against the harsh desert sun. Over time, the use of traditional Kohl spread to other parts of the world, including modern-day Pakistan, where it continues to be used today. The history of kohl in Pakistan dates back to ancient times when people in the Indus Valley Civilization used it. People from several ancient civilizations in the East believed that kohl had healing properties. Over time, the use of kohl in Pakistan evolved to include not only its practical applications but also its use as a cosmetic product.
It is usually made by burning certain materials, such as almonds or olive pits, to create a fine black powder. This powder is mixed with other ingredients, such as ghee, coconut oil, or other natural oils, to create a paste that can be applied to the eyes with a thin brush or stick. Today, kohl is used by both men and women in Pakistan as a form of eye makeup. It is applied to the eye's waterline to make the eyes appear larger and more beautiful. Poetry and musical references often hint at how applying the traditional kajal beautifies the eyes. The use of kohl is particularly common in rural areas of Pakistan, where people still hold traditional beliefs about its supposed magical properties. In some parts of Pakistan, local superstitions and beliefs are associated with the use of kohl. Some people believe wearing traditional kohl can protect them from evil spirits and ward off the evil eye. Others believe that kohl can bring good luck and prosperity. It is also believed that using surma helps with eyesight. Traditional kohl is also used for tattooing in some parts of Pakistan. This practice is particularly common among the Pashtun people living in the country's northwestern part. Pashtun women often have intricate tattoos made with kohl on their hands, arms, and feet. These tattoos symbolize beauty and femininity and are often made on special occasions such as weddings and religious festivals. Moreover, women from several Baloch tribes and some ethnicities native to South Punjab and Sindh use kohl for similar purposes.