What Is a Bindi?

What Is a Bindi?

Why do some Indian women wear a dot on their foreheads? This dot, also known as a bindi, often has cultural or spiritual meaning but it's also worn as simple decoration.

The bindi is a traditional nonpermanent mark worn by some women of Hindu or Jain faith. This symbol is commonly associated with Southeast Asian cultures, particularly those in the nation of India. In nearly all cases, the bindi is worn centered on the lower forehead directly between or just above the eyebrows Ì¢‰â‰۝ this, more than anything else, distinguishes a mark as a bindi. The mark can have greatly different meaning depending on the wearer and his or her beliefs. Women are most commonly seen wearing these marks on a regular basis, although some men may wear them for some ceremonial purposes.

Bindi Uses Varied
Because the use of the bindi varies so greatly, it's difficult to pinpoint an exact reason or meaning why they're worn, and the fact that there's so much variety associated with this mark can lead to some misconceptions. It may be useful to think of the bindi as a piece of jewelry or makeup. A woman with a ring on her left ring finger in American culture may be signifying that she's married or she may simply be wearing something that she finds pretty and likes to wear. Bindis can be seen similarly Ì¢‰â‰۝ sometimes, they mean something specific and, sometimes, they may be just for decoration.

In order to avoid stereotyping or painting with too broad a brush, it is important to understand the many different circumstances in which bindis are worn. For example, some people wear a bindi to signify their marital status while others wear it as a sort of acupressure healing or spiritually significant adornment because the area of application is believed to be a major nerve center that governs both intuition and brain activity. This region is also called the third eye, which signifies supreme wisdom in certain spiritual and religious traditions. Bindis can also be an element of traditional Indian dress for some, with significance coming more from a sense of accuracy than precise symbolic meaning.

Different Types of Bindis
Although the red dot is perhaps the best-known form the bindi mark takes, it can come in different forms, including gemstone or rhinestone stickers. One common thread among different types of bindi is that they are all removable. These aren't blood, tattoos or piercings but rather a paint mark or temporary sticker. Traditional bindi marks may have been made from natural materials, such as red lead powder or sandalwood paste, which the wearer would dot on with a fingertip. Today, red circular bindis are typically made with vermilion and red turmeric, zinc oxide and a red dye. Wearers may apply using their fingers or a stencil, such as a small circular disc or hollow pie coin.

Understanding the numerous ways bindis can have significance is a facet of cultural sensitivity toward Southeast Asian religions and cultures. Bindis have entered the popular fashion realm in Western cultures at several points in history, and this may create some discussion about whether it's culturally sensitive for those who aren't a member of a culture traditionally associated with bindis to wear them.