Bindi (decoration)

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Hindu woman wearing a bindi

A bindi (Hindi: बिंदी, from Sanskrit bindu, meaning "a drop, small particle, dot"; see below for alternative designations) is a forehead decoration worn in South Asia (particularly India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mauritius)[1] and Southeast Asia. Traditionally it is a bright dot of red colour applied in the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of other colours with a sign or piece of jewelry worn at this location.

Religious significance[edit]

Bride with decorated forehead.

Traditionally, the area between the eyebrows (where the bindi is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of "concealed wisdom". The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration.[1] The bindi also represents the third eye.[2] The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda, the earliest known Sanskrit text, mentions the word vindu/bindu.[3]

In modern times, the bindi is worn by women of many religious dispositions in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and is not restricted to one religion or region. However, the Islamic Research Foundation, located in India, says "wearing a bindi or mangalsutra is a sign of Hindu women. The traditional bindi still represents and preserves the symbolic significance that is integrated into Indian mythology in many parts of India."

Red represents honour, love and prosperity, hence it was worn traditionally by women to symbolise this day.

The red bindi has multiple meanings which are all valid at the same time. It is also a spiritual symbol.

  • By one simple interpretation it is a cosmetic mark used to enhance beauty.
  • From Vedic times, the bindi was created as a means to worship one's intellect. Therefore, it was used by both men and women. The worship of intellect was in order to use it to ensure our thoughts, speech, actions, habits and ultimately our character becomes pure. A strong intellect can help one to make noble decisions in life, be able to stand up to challenges in life with courage, and recognise and welcome good thoughts in life. The belief was that on this a strong individual, a strong family and strong society can be formed.
  • In meditation, this very spot between the eyebrows (Bhrumadhya) is where one focuses his/her sight, so that it helps concentration. Most images of Buddha or Hindu divinities in meditative pose with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between eyebrows (other spot being the tip of the nose – naasikagra).
  • Swami Muktanand writes 'auspicious Kumkum or sandal wood paste is applied (between the eyebrows) out of respect for inner Guru. It is the Guru's seat. There is a chakra (centre of spiritual energy within human body) here called Ajna (Aadnyaa) chakra meaning 'Command centre'. Here you receive the Guru's command to go higher in Sadhana (spiritual practice) to the 'Sahasraar' (seventh and final chakra) which leads to Self-realisation. The flame seen at the eyebrow is called 'Guru Jyoti'. (From Finite to Infinite, by Swami Muktananda, SYDA Foundation, S. Fallsburg, New York, 1989, pp. 88–89)
  • The encyclopedic dictionary of Yoga informs that this 'Ajna Chakra' is also called the 'Third eye'. This centre is connected with the sacred syllable 'Om' and presiding it is 'ParaaShiva'. After activation of this centre, the aspirant overcomes 'Ahamkar' (ego or sense of individuality), the last hoe on the path of spirituality. (Encyclopedic dictionary of Yoga, by Georg Fuerstein, Paragon House Publ, New York, 1990, p. 15).

Traditional application method[edit]

A traditional bindi is red or maroon in colour. A pinch of vermilion powder applied skilfully with a practised fingertip makes a perfect red dot. It takes considerable practice to achieve the perfect round shape by hand. A small annular disc (perhaps a coin) aids application for beginners. First they apply a sticky wax paste through the empty centre of the disc. This is then covered with kumkum or vermilion and then the disc is removed to get a perfect round bindi. Various materials such as sandal, 'aguru', 'kasturi', 'kumkum' (made of red turmeric) and 'sindoor' (made of zinc oxide and dye) colour the dot. Saffron ground together with 'kusumba' flower can also work.[4]

Related customs[edit]

Hindu woman with both bindi and vermilion signifying her marital status

In addition to the bindi, in India, a vermilion mark in the parting of the hair just above the forehead is worn by married women as commitment to long-life and well-being of their husbands. During all Hindu marriage ceremonies, the groom applies sindoor on the parting in the bride's hair.[5] The bride must wipe off her red bindi once she becomes a widow. This can be seen as symbolic and shows her status in society. Widows can continue to wear the black bindi but with a white sari.[citation needed]

Pottu is the application of a black dot kept on the forehead. Pottu can be a form of holistic medicine, in Indian traditions such as Siddha or Ayurveda, wherein herbs are heated until they turn black then made into a paste and applied to the forehead.[6]

Many Kurdish women wear tattoo motifs on their forehead to ward off evil spirits and show their ethnic group. In Morocco women used to tattoo their foreheads for good luck. This tradition is now almost extinct. Within North Africa many tribes have used tattoo motifs to symbolise fertility especially on their forehead. Some tribes in Afghanistan still tattoo and decorate women's foreheads for cultural and traditional purposes.[citation needed]

Ancient Chinese women wore similar marks (for purely decorative purposes) since the second century, which became popular during the Tang Dynasty.[7][8] As depicted in the films House of Flying Daggers and Mulan.

Many Christian churches use ash to mark the forehead on Ash Wednesday.

Modern use[edit]

A bindi as decoration

Bindis are worn throughout South Asia, specifically India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, by women, men, girls and boys and no longer signify age, marital status, religious background or ethnic affiliation.[9] The bindi has become a decorative item and is no longer restricted in colour or shape.[10] Self-adhesive bindis (also known as sticker bindis) are available, usually made of felt or thin metal and adhesive on the other side. These are simple to apply, disposable substitutes for older tilak bindis. Sticker bindis come in many colors, designs, materials, and sizes. Some are decorated with sequins, glass beads, or rhinestones. Bindis are not usually worn by women in Pakistan, or typically by Indian Muslim women. However they are worn by Bangladeshi women regardless of religious affiliation.

In India there are different regional variations of the bindi. In Maharastra a large crescent shape bindi is worn with a smaller black dot underneath. In Bengal a large round red bindi is worn. In southern India a smaller red bindi is worn with a white tilak on top. In Rajastan the bindi is worn longer and with a teardrop shape.

Bindis are now popular outside South Asia as well.[11][12] Sometimes they are worn as a style statement. International celebrities such as Gwen Stefani, Julia Roberts,[13] Madonna,[14] Selena Gomez and many others have been seen wearing bindis.[15][16][17]

In the United States the bindi is one of several features of Indian culture that have become popular for people both of and not of the culture. This usage by people not part of bindi-sporting cultures has sometimes been criticized as cultural appropriation.[18][19]

Alternative terms[edit]

A bindi can be called:[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Das, Subhamoy. "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  2. ^ "Couples Fuel India's Vibrant Art Scene". The New York Times. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  3. ^ "nasadiya-suktha-and-purusha-suktha". 
  4. ^ "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 2012-01-09. 
  5. ^ Gwynne, Paul (2009). World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 
  6. ^ "Vasambu". 1 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Legends about "Xiehong"". 24 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Make-up tips of the women in the Tang Dynasty". 24 June 2013. 
  9. ^ Parvesh Handa, "Home Beauty Clinic", Pustak Mahal, ISBN 81-223-0099-5
  10. ^ Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Government of India
  11. ^ Khu phố Little India ở Artesia, Nguoi Viet Online, November 11, 2011, Retrieved November 22, 2011
  12. ^ Juventud organiza un mercadillo solidario a beneficio de la Fundación Vicente Ferrer,, November 17, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011
  13. ^ "'Pretty Woman' in temple upset". BBC News. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  14. ^ "Try a bindi now with Western wear". Punjab Newsline. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  15. ^ "Tony & Cherie Blair it well". The Sun. 7 Jan 2002. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Cherie’s sari starry night". The Sun. 21 May 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Bollywood dreams: Uma Thurman and Debra Messing sparkle in Indian dress as they film scenes for Smash". Daily Mail. February 2, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ Aisling Maki. Cultural Connection, The Memphis News, Vol. 126, No. 217, Monday, November 7, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  19. ^ Sadhna Shanker (October 6, 2005). "Bindi morphs into hip accessory". New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  20. ^ "Dazzling bindis". MSN India. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

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