Bindi (decoration)

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For other meanings, see Bindi.
Hindu woman wearing a bindi

A bindi (Hindi: बिंदी, from Sanskrit bindu, meaning "point or dot"). Bindu is considered the point at which creation begins and may become unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state.[1][2] Bindi is a bright dot of red colour applied in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrow worn in South Asia (particularly India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mauritius)[3] and Southeast Asia among Bali and Javanese Hindus. Bindi in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism is associated with Ajna Chakra and Bindu[4] is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning.[5] Bindu is the point or dot around which the mandala is created, representing the universe.[6][7]

Religious significance[edit]

See also: Ajna, Chakra and Bindu
Ajna chakra has two lotus petals dedicated to the sun, the other to the moon (e.g. light and dark, or male and female) merged at the center.
Bindi and traditional head ornament with sun and moon pendents.

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.[8] The bindi also represents the third eye.[9] The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda, the earliest known Sanskrit text, mentions the word Bindu.[10]

The Ajna is symbolised by a sacred lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colours violet, indigo or deep blue, though it is traditionally described as white. It is at this point that the two side nadi Ida (yoga) and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Sushumna, signifying the end of duality, the characteristic of being dual (e.g. light and dark, or male and female). The seed syllable for this chakra is the syllable OM, and the presiding deity is Ardhanarishvara, who is a half male, half female Shiva/Shakti. The Shakti goddess of Ajna is called Hakini. In metaphysics, Bindu is considered the dot or point at which creation begins and may become unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state."[11][12] Bindu is the point around which the mandala is created, representing the universe.[13] Ajna (along with Bindu), is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up, and is also postulated to be the production site of the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine, the only known hallucinogen endogenous to the human body. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level.[14]

Buddha depicted with Ajna Bhrumadhya Bindu known as inner gaze. Bhrumadhya is the point in the center of the forehead commonly referred to as the third eye, or center of consciousness.[15]

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism bindi is associated with Ajna Chakra and Bindu.[16] Divinities in these religions are typically depicted with Bhrumadhya Bindu, in meditative pose with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between eyebrows, other spot being the tip of the nose – Naasikagra. The very spot between the eyebrows known as Bhrumadhya is where one focuses his/her sight, so that it helps concentration.[17] In South Asia, bindi is worn by women of all religious dispositions and is not restricted to 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."

Relief from Stupa, 2nd century B.C. As decoration only female figures were marked with sacred lotus during this period.

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. Red represents honor, love and prosperity, hence it was worn to symbolism these aspects.
  • 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 is received 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]

Bride with ornamental bindis and maang tikka or adoration of maang where married women apply sindoor.
Ornamental bindis were made and sold by Lac workers known as Lakhera.[18]

A traditional bindi is red or maroon in colour. A pinch of vermilion powder applied skilfully with a ring-finger to make a perfect red dot. It takes considerable practice to achieve the perfect round shape by hand. A small annular disc 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.[19] The bindi is no longer restricted in colour or shape.[20][21]

Historically, the ornamental bindi spangle consists of a small piece of lac over which is smeared vermilion, while above it a piece of mica or thin glass is fixed for ornament. Women wore large spangles set in gold with a border of jewels if they can afford it. The bindi was made and sold by lac workers known as Lakhera.[22] In Hinduism it's part of the Suhāg or lucky trousseau at marriages and is affixed to the girl’s forehead on her wedding and thereafter always worn as a rule.[21] Unmarried girls also wore small ornamental spangles on their foreheads. But before marriage it is optional and afterwards marriage it's compulsory. A widow was not allowed to wear bindi or any ornamentation associated with married women.[21] In modern times, self-adhesive bindis are available in various materials, usually made of felt or thin metal and adhesive on the other side. These are simple to apply, disposable substitutes for older lac tikli bindis. Sticker bindis come in many colors, designs, materials, and sizes.

Courtesan Bani Thani as Radha with ornamental bindi spangle, ca. 1750

There are different regional variations of the bindi. In Maharastra a large crescent shape bindi is worn with a smaller black dot underneath or above, associated with Bindu Chakra. In Bengal a large round red bindi is worn. In southern India a smaller red bindi is worn with a white tilak at the bottom and another common type is a long lotus petal shaped bindi. In Rajastan the bindi is worn round bindi and long lotus petal shaped bindi. Decorative bindis have become popular among women in South Asia, regardless of religious background. Bindis have become a staple and symbolic for South Asian women. Apart from their cosmetic use, bindis have found a medical application too. Iodine patch bindis are being used among tribal women in north-west Maharashtra, India to battle iodine deficiency.[23]

Balinese Hindu girls with bindi.

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.[24]

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.[25]

In Bengal region, bride is decorated with Alpana design on forehead and cheeks, along with bindi.

Related customs within asian religions[edit]

In Southeast Asia Bindis are worn by Balinese and Javanese Hindus of Indonesia. Historically, it was worn by many Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Ancient Chinese women wore similar marks (for purely decorative purposes) since the second century, which became popular during the Tang Dynasty.[26][27] Common decorative design was of sacred lotus, most likely symbolizing Ajna.

Modern use[edit]

See also: Iskcon
Bindis and other religious affiliated markings are worn by recent Hindu converts like Hare Krishnas [28]

Bindis are popular outside South Asia and Southeast Asia as well. They are worn purely for decorative purpose or style statement without any religious or cultural affiliation.[29] Settlement of South Asian immigrants in other parts of the world introduced decorative bindis.[30] International celebrities such as Gwen Stefani, Julia Roberts,[31] Madonna,[32] Selena Gomez and many others have been seen wearing bindis.[33][34][35] The appropriateness of such uses has been disputed. Reacting to Gomez's appearance, Hindu leader Rajan Zed said that the bindi has religious significance and should not be used as a fashion accessory,[36] but Indian actress Priyanka Chopra praised Gomez's choice as "an embrace of Indian culture".[37]

Alternative terms[edit]

A bindi can be called:[38]

  • Phot (literally meaning a small pressing mark) in Assamese
  • Tip (literally meaning "a pressing") in Bengali
  • Tikuli (literally meaning "a small tika") in Madhyadeshi areas
  • Chandlo in Gujarati meaning moon shape
  • Tilak in Hindi
  • Tilaka in Kannada
  • Kunkuma or Bottu or Tilaka in Kannada
  • Tilakaya in Sinhala
  • Tilo in Konkani
  • Kunkoo कुंकू or Tikali टिकली in Marathi
  • Tikili in Odia
  • Bindi in Punjabi meaning long red mark
  • Pottu in Tamil and Malayalam
  • Chukka or Bottu or Tilakam in Telugu
  • Gopi dots are the small dots over the eyebrows used in marriage or festivals.
  • Nande is a term erroneously used to describe a bindi in Malaysia. It may contain pejorative connotations although not in most cases.
  • Tika in Nepali


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khanna 1979: p.171
  2. ^ Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0791406792. 
  3. ^ Khanna 1979: p.171
  4. ^ Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  5. ^ Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  6. ^ Shakya, p. 82-83
  7. ^ Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0791406792. 
  8. ^ Das, Subhamoy. "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  9. ^ "Couples Fuel India's Vibrant Art Scene". The New York Times. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  10. ^ "nasadiya-suktha-and-purusha-suktha". 
  11. ^ Khanna 1979: p.171
  12. ^ Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0791406792. 
  13. ^ Shakya, p. 82-83
  14. ^ Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  15. ^ Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  16. ^ Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  17. ^ Shakya, p. 82-83
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 2012-01-09. 
  20. ^ Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Government of India
  21. ^ a b c Parvesh Handa, "Home Beauty Clinic", Pustak Mahal, ISBN 81-223-0099-5
  22. ^
  23. ^ Dhar, Shobha (11 April 2015). "Iodine bindis for tribal women to fight deficiency". TNN. The Times of India. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  24. ^ Gwynne, Paul (2009). World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 
  25. ^ "Vasambu". 1 April 2013. 
  26. ^ "Legends about "Xiehong"". 24 June 2013. 
  27. ^ "Make-up tips of the women in the Tang Dynasty". 24 June 2013. 
  28. ^ "Svami Sadananda Dasa: Disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Guru of Vamandas (Walther Eidlitz)". 
  29. ^ Khu phố Little India ở Artesia, Nguoi Viet Online, November 11, 2011, Retrieved November 22, 2011
  30. ^ Juventud organiza un mercadillo solidario a beneficio de la Fundación Vicente Ferrer,, November 17, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011
  31. ^ "'Pretty Woman' in temple upset". BBC News. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  32. ^ "Try a bindi now with Western wear". Punjab Newsline. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  33. ^ "Tony & Cherie Blair it well". The Sun. 7 Jan 2002. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Cherie’s sari starry night". The Sun. 21 May 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  35. ^ "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. 
  36. ^ Sieczkowski, Cavan (April 16, 2013). "Selena Gomez Bindi: Hindu Leaders Demand Apology For MTV Movie Awards Costume". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-09-25. 
  37. ^ DelliCarpini Jr., Gregory (May 22, 2013). "Selena Gomez's Bindi Styling: Offensive? Bollywood Star Priyanka Chopra Talks About the Star's Usage". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-09-25. 
  38. ^ "Dazzling bindis". MSN India. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

External links[edit]