By Niala Mohammad & Shoaib Zada
Adorning the eyes and marking the chin with ranjeh or kohl are an essential part of the beautification process for Pashtun women. Ranjeh is a staple beauty product that almost every Pashtun women has in her possession.
Many poets have written about their beloved’s kohl filled “intoxicating” eyes. Hence many traditional Pashto songs are dedicated to ranjeh. Songs such as “Zi che pa thoro stirgo thor ranjeh kam poreh morey, Zwani mey ghoreh morey, judaa la yaarah” or “Sta thorey stirgeh zama yaadegi” come to mind quickly.
Ranjeh-The Family Business
Dildar Garai village in Charsada is popularly known for its production of ranjeh or galena. Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulfide; it is grinded into a powder and used to adorn the eyes. Masaood Khan and his family have very modestly been living off of the production and sale of ranjeh for generations. It is a family business that has been passed down to him from his father and before that his grandfather.
The History Behind “Ranjeh” or Kohl
It was said that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use this in order to reduce the glare of the desert sun and to repel flies, which were a potential source of disease at the time.Similar myths still hold true in Afghanistan and Pakistan where Pashtuns believe “ranjeh” is used to lubricate the eyes. There is also the added religious notion that wearing kohl is “sunnah” of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Hence many women, men and children decorate their eyes with eyeliner as it is widely believed to improve eyesight and strengthen eyelashes.
Ranjeh Becomes Popular in the West
The fad reached the west a few years back and now many top brand cosmetic companies such as Guerlain, MAC, and L’Oreal Paris are using galena in its powder form claiming that it provides “deep, dark, light weight and fully opaque coverage”. Other brand name make-up companies such as Dior, Smashbox, Laura Mercier, and Make Up Forever use kohl in its hardened stick or pencil form. Walking into Sephora, you will find Guerlin sells their loose powder kohl product for $38 a bottle (approximately 3,751 PKR).
Profit Margins Worlds Apart
Unfortunately, the immense profit of this product isn’t known to those who produce it in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Young men in Dildar Garai, like Masaood Khan whose family business is ranjeh production have no clue that the same product is sold by cosmetic companies like Guerlain for $38.Masaood Khan’s family sells their ranjeh for 10 rupees (or 10 cents) per packet or a dozen for 60 rupees (60 cents).
For a little extra, you can purchase a quilted mini satchel to place the power in or if you prefer something more fancy, you can purchase a traditional silver ampule.
Contribution by Arshad Mohmand (Pakistan)