© 2008 Jhinuk Chowdhury
Vermilion, sometimes spelled vermillion, when found naturally-occurring, is an opaque orangish red pigment, used since antiquity, originally derived from the powdered mineral cinnabar.
There is evidence of the use of cinnabar pigment in India and China since prehistory. It was known to the Romans as minium and was their most valuable pigment, being used to color the faces of triumphant generals in imitation of the vermilion visage of the image of Jupiter Capitolinus in the Temple on the Capitoline Hill where the triumphant processions would conclude.
The Hindus among the Bengalis celebrate the of the multiday autumnal festivities associated with the worship of the Goddess Durga
with many colorful rituals, one of which includes the soft smearing of vermilion powder by women on the each others' faces.
[Information, in part, from from Wikipedia