The red dot worn on the forehead by women in India has always intrigued the western world. What does it mean and why is it worn? The bindi dates back to the vedic age (5000 years back) and is a hindu tradition followed by both men and women. Although today, millions of south Asian women wear the bindi as an adornment and a way to decorate the spot between the eyebrows, this red dot has a lot of cultural significance and spiritual meaning. It is rather contradictory to note that the bindi (the traditional red dot) often reminds us of the blood sacrifices offered as part of age old traditions, although it symbolizes purity and sanctity.
The bindi helps preserve energy
As some of you might be aware, meditation techniques from ancient India focus on the flow of energy in the body through seven “chakras”. In this regard the sixth chakra, “Ajna” that is situated between the eyebrows is said to be the base of hidden wisdom and consciousness. Many ancient cults believed that the energy that is generated from the base of the spine during meditation can rise towards the head and be lost through the “Ajna”. The bindi is supposed to block the loss of this energy and help preserve it in the body.
In addition, according to Hinduism our two physical eyes are used to observe the external world, while the spiritual third eye (located between the eyebrows) focuses on the “inside” or one´s self (remember that Hinduism believes that God resides within one´s self). Therefore the bindi is also a reminder to keep God at the epicenter of one’s thoughts. This is indeed true because the forehead is always adorned with a red powder called “Kum kum or kumkumam” when one goes to a hindu temple or after attending a ritual or festive occasion.
Although both men and women can wear a mark on the forehead (like the “Tilak” for men), the bindi has been always tied to the marital status of women. As the bride dresses up for her wedding with her elaborate sari and numerous ornaments, the Bindi forms a significant part of her facial makeup. It signifies the purity and sacredness of marriage and indicates the important role of a woman as a symbol of prosperity for the husband´s family and its welfare (sometimes considered as the embodiment of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wellbeing).
In today´s world, the bindi is more of a decorative piece or beauty accessory and comes in various forms, designs and colours, some with glitter and encrusted stones, often designed and made to stick to the skin with glue (making it easy to wear).
Use of the bindi in the modern age
In modern Indian , bindis are only worn when women wear traditional attire or during special occasions and not when they wear western wear. On the other hand, owing to how exotic and pretty Bindis are, they have been used as a fashion accessory by models, singers, actors and various other celebrities of the western world.
Possibly the biggest challenge in the modern world is to be able to perfect the red dot with red ink/powder or paint the designs directly on skin. Accept the challenge? If you want to try doing it and want to know more about the bindi and adorn your forehead while you dance to a Bollywood number.