Why Do Indian Women Wear a Jewel on Their Foreheads?

Traditionally, some Indian women of the Hindu faith wear a red jewel or mark called a bindi on their foreheads to indicate they are married. However, in recent years, the bindi has also become a fashion accessory among unmarried women.

The bindi is placed on a spot between the eyebrows that, according to Vedic lore, marks the agna chakra, an important site of concealed wisdom and intuition also called the third eye. The bindi is said to draw this power forward and concentrate it. Among married wearers of the bindi, the mark is believed to offer a protective effect to women and their husbands. Indian bridegrooms may also wear a red mark between their eyebrows.

The word “bindi” comes from the Sanskrit “bindu,” meaning drop. Bindis were originally painted-on dots of turmeric or zinc oxide powder. In modern times, many are reusable gems or stickers, and not all are red. Some are made of luxury materials such as diamonds, pearls and gold, and shapes other than the simple circle have grown popular as well. According to the New York Times, the glamorous, traditionally dressed women of Indian soap operas have provided much of the impetus for the contemporary use of bindis as a fashion accessory.