Kumkuma/Vermillion Powder: Sacred Across the Ancient World

Note: I wrote this back in July 2009 after listening to a discussion by some prominent Archeologists. They were speaking on the ancient world’s use of Red Ochre, (Vermillion Cinnabar powder) in relation to Sacred Burials across the ancient world. Yet they admitted being clueless as to the cultural significance of Vermillion Powder. A brief scan of the role of Vermillion throughout history reveals that it has been considered sacred by all who use it. Was this merely based upon it’s obvious beauty? The evidence suggests something more. It is another clue highlighting an Ancient and Divine connectivity at work.

Skeleton of the Red Queen, coated in cinnabar, via Past Horizons. In the Tomb of the Red Queen in Palenque (600–700 AD), the remains of a noblewoman were covered with bright Vermilion. The walls of the tombs of Maya rulers were often painted with Vermillion Cinnabar

There is another fascinating link between India, Egypt, China and the Ancient Americans. It is Kum Kum or vermilion powder.

Archeologists are puzzled as to why many ancient tombs are drenched with Vermillion Powder. Whether it is in China, Peru, Mexico or Egypt, Vermilion/Kum Kum Powder was used.

The question asked is, “What significance did the red vermilion powder have to the ancient cultures around the world?”

Of course the western scholars have a lot of speculation to offer, but to my knowledge not once have any of these so-called experts publicly considered the fact that nearly a billion people are still using vermilion powder on a daily basis.

The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii was a showcase for the expensive vermilion pigment made from ground cinnabar. This was a Sacred place for the initiation of young women into a Greco-Roman mystery cult.  Vermillion has a sacred connotation everywhere it is used in the ancient world.

Just perhaps these billion people might have some information as to the significance of Kum Kum Powder in the current era and by tracing its use we may come to the obvious conclusion that India’s Modern Hindu Civilization is the only civilization that has maintained an unbroken link with the ancient world.

This fact, once accepted, will allow the world’s academia to begin to come up with accurate theories that actually make sense and can be easily verified by the ongoing practical and applicable realities of everyday life. In other words, an ancient potters wheel has the same use as a modern one, and it is easy to deduce its applicable usefulness even thousands of years later. The same method can be applied to Kum Kum.

Archeologists are puzzled as to why many ancient tombs are drenched with Vermillion Powder. Whether its in China, Chile, Mexico, Rome or Egypt Vermilion/Kum Kum is used. If the archeologists truly want to know why the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Europeans and Americans used vermilion powder, perhaps they can ask the Modern Hindus of India. Its only logical to learn from the people who have used it for thousands of years and continue to use it to this very day.
Funerary Mask A.D. 900–1100. Peru. Gold, silver-copper overlays with cinnabar. The Met Museum of Art, NYC

I am truly amazed at the value given to the many ignorant theories about India that have been created without any input of those living the culture. Prejudiced theories can surely have no more value than the holistic theories that take into account the traditional versions of a culture along with modern scientific research techniques. Only when these two are united can we ever cross over the tyranny of of politicized academia.

  • In the Bible vermilion is listed as a pigment that was in use for painting buildings during the reign of Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah and is named in the book of the prophet Ezekiel as a pigment used in art that portrayed Chaldean men. (Jeremiah 22:11–14, Ezekiel 23:14–17)
  • The Vermilion rose is a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Research shows it has been used at various times and places to denote blood, victory, success, the duality of life and death, and immortality. For example, the pigment was used during triumphal processions by Romans. It was also applied to skulls and bones as part of burial rituals in neolithic cultures in Anatolia, China, Galilee, Spain, and Syria, and in many cultures of the ancient Americas.” The Story of Cinnabar and Vermilion (HgS) at The Met Typically India and Hinduism are not mentioned once despite being the only living culture that actually still uses Vermillion Powder.

Vermilion columns in the throne room in the Palace of Heavenly Purity in the Forbidden City of Beijing

The main gate of the Shaolin Monastery in Dengfeng, Henan is painted vermilion or Chinese red.

Mask & Skeleton of the Red Queen, coated in Vermillion

Two female mummies dated A.D. 1399 to 1475 found in Cerro Esmeralda in Chile in 1976 had clothes colored with cinnabar. Researchers still do not know the source of the cinnabar. Yet it was so valued that it was imported to Chile for the ceremony. Source

The first documented use of cinnabar or vermilion pigment was found at the neolithic village of Çatalhöyük in modern-day Turkey. This mural, from 7000–8000 BC, shows aurochs, a deer and humans. (Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara)