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Srimad Bhagavatam, while describing the consorts of Lord Krishna, such as Srimati Rukmini and others, and the close associates of Lord Krishna such as the gopikas and the women in Mathura, frequently uses the motif of Kucha Kumkuma, i.e. kumkum or saffron powder smeared on the women's breasts.

Some instances are as follows:

In Bhagavatam 10.47, in Bhramara Gita, when Srimati Radharani addresses the Bee and indirectly talks to Uddhava, she mentions,

"O honeybee, O friend of a cheater, don’t touch My feet with your whiskers, which are smeared with the kuṅkuma that rubbed onto Kṛṣṇa’s garland when it was crushed by the breasts of a rival lover! Let Kṛṣṇa satisfy the women of Mathurā. One who sends a messenger like you will certainly be ridiculed in the Yadus’ assembly." SB 10.47.12

When describing Srimati Rukmini and Krishna's lovers' quarrel in 10.60, Shukabrahmam describes

With her tender foot, effulgent with the reddish glow of her nails, she scratched the ground, and tears darkened by her eye makeup sprinkled her kuṅkuma-reddened breasts. There she stood, face downward, her voice choked up by extreme sorrow. SB 10.60.23

Even the Mahabharata contains a similar motif in the Vana Parva, Chapter 12. When Draupadi laments about her plight to Krishna, Vaishampayana describes,

'Saying this the mild-speeched Krishna hid her face with her soft hands like the buds of lotus, and began to weep. And the tears of Panchali begot of grief washed her deep, plump and graceful breasts crowned with auspicious marks. Vana Parva 12

Though while not mentioning Kumkuma, he mentions auspicious marks.

Therefore, the question is, what exactly is the significance of this motif of Kumkuma smeared breasts, and was it a widespread practice in ancient Indian society?

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First of all you need to know that woman at that time didn't covered their breasts. As we can see woman are wearing kumkum or sandal paste on their breasts they don't cover it. Now this can be due to health benefits of kumkum maybe it made breasts more beautiful

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    Welcome to HSE! Answers posted here must be backed up by authentic sources. Please visit how-to-answer section to learn more. – TheLittleNaruto Apr 27 at 5:18
  • Hi, thanks for your answer, but as our Mod @TheLittleNaruto said you need to quote sources for the answer. And yes, I get the idea that women might have drawn patterns on their breasts for beautification but I don't understand the point or reason if that is the case, hence my question. – Surya May 10 at 17:05
  • I hope that you got your answer – Ayush Mishra May 13 at 11:19

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