Bindi (decoration)

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Bride with Bindi decorated forehead

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, Pakistan and Mauritius) [1] and Southeast Asia. Traditionally it is a bright dot of red color applied in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of other colors 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] It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. The bindi also represents the third eye.[2] It is also used in festivals such as Holi.[3]

In modern times, 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 Islamic dress code does not permit a Muslim to wear any sign, symbol or mark which is specially significant of a non-Muslim."[4] The traditional bindi still represents and preserves the symbolic significance that is integrated into Indian mythology in many parts of India.

Red represents honor, love and prosperity, hence it was worn traditionally by women to symbolize this.

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

Traditional way to apply a bindi[edit]

A traditional bindi is red or maroon in color. A pinch of vermilion powder applied skillfully with a practiced 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 center 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) color the dot. Saffron ground together with 'kusumba' flower can also work.[5]

Related customs[edit]

Collection of modern bindis
Modern stick-on bindis

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.[6] 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.[7]

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 symbolize 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.[8][9] As depicted in the films House of Flying Daggers and Mulan.

In traditional Korean weddings, the bride also wears a decorative mark on the forehead and cheeks, with origins from Mongolia, but whether this practice has roots from India is not known.[citation needed]

Catholic churches use ash to mark the forehead on Ash Wednesday.

Modern use[edit]

A bindi as decoration

Bindis are worn throughout South Asia, specifically variously by women and girls and no longer signify age, marital status, religious background or ethnic affiliation.[10] The bindi has become a decorative item and is no longer restricted in colour or shape.[11] 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 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.[12][13] Sometimes they are worn as a style statement. International celebrities such as Julia Roberts,[14] Madonna,[15] Selena Gomez and many others have been seen wearing bindis.[16][17][18]

Bindis were a trend for teenage girls in the U.S. during the mid-1990s, a trend which continues among some. Gwen Stefani, of the band No Doubt, popularized bindis as well as mehndi on the hands.[19] The Indian influence in the U.S. is seen in packed yoga studios, Bollywood-style exercise classes, as well as in American women’s fashion adaptation of bindi (forehead decoration), mehndi (henna body art) and colorful Indian-style garments.[20][21] Even though the bindi is not only worn as a religious symbol nowadays, the appropriation of traditional adornments and dresses by westerners is not unproblematic and has been criticized by activists. [22]

Alternative terms[edit]

A bindi can be called:[23]

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. ^ "Prince Charles dances in India at Holi celebration". BBC News. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 2012-01-09. 
  6. ^ Gwynne, Paul (2009). World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 
  7. ^ "Vasambu". 1 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Legends about "Xiehong"". 24 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Make-up tips of the women in the Tang Dynasty". 24 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Parvesh Handa, "Home Beauty Clinic", Pustak Mahal, ISBN 81-223-0099-5
  11. ^ Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Government of India
  12. ^ Khu phố Little India ở Artesia, Nguoi Viet Online, November 11, 2011, Retrieved November 22, 2011
  13. ^ Juventud organiza un mercadillo solidario a beneficio de la Fundación Vicente Ferrer,, November 17, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011
  14. ^ "'Pretty Woman' in temple upset". BBC News. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  15. ^ "Try a bindi now with Western wear". Punjab Newsline. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  16. ^ "Tony & Cherie Blair it well". Sun (UK). 7 Jan 2002. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Cherie’s sari starry night". Sun (UK). 21 May 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ "Bindi's are back!". April 13, 2012. 
  20. ^ Aisling Maki. Cultural Connection, The Memphis News, Vol. 126, No. 217, Monday, November 7, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  21. ^ Sadhna Shanker (October 6, 2005). "Bindi morphs into hip accessory". New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  22. ^ "Selena Gomez Bindi: Hindu Leaders Demand Apology For MTV Movie Awards Costume". March 8, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Dazzling bindis". MSN India. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

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