The bindi, which has been representing wisdom and concentration for centuries, is something we simply distinguish as the dot on the forehead of Indian women. That said, what does it really mean? Is the famous Indian red dot still mandatory in 2021? Let’s take a closer look at the bindi origin and its meaning below.
What’s the origin of the Bindi?
The bindi comes in different names: the Third Eye, the tikli, or sometimes in the western world, the red dot. However, it’s important to note that the bindi comes in many colors, shapes, and forms. The latter is not always red.
The word bindi comes from ancient Sanskrit texts on face decoration and has been worn by Hindu women since the 3rd and 4th centuries. This mark on the forehead was traditionally used for 2 main reasons:
- For religion purposes
- To indicate that she is married
Nowadays, however, the bindi has become for many women of all ages a way to decorate the forehead, without necessarily meaning that they are married and whatnot. Moreover, even some Hollywood celebrities have worn the bindi such as Miley Cyrus and Madonna.
What’s the Bindi meaning?
The bindi has always been primarily used for the marital status of a woman. A red dot on the forehead signifies that the woman is married, but if a woman is widowed, she would replace the red dot with a black one.
Furthermore, the bindi has many other meanings and can represent wisdom, honor, love, and even in some cases, wealth. Some women coming from wealthy families would wear fancier bindis to represent their wealth.
Is it mandatory to wear the Bindi for Indian women?
This depends on the cultural background of the family, as some women need to wear the bindi, while many others don’t. For example, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, or Punjab, women can choose from their free will if they want to wear the bindi or not. However, in Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, married women are obligated to wear the bindi. Finally, please note that even if they are obligated to do so, many unmarried women also wear the famous mark.
How to wear the Bindi?
First and foremost, the material used for the bindi can vary depending on the culture, but the main options remain as follows:
- Red turmeric
- Ground with safflower
While some of these only need one to draw the dot on the forehead, others need to be applied on the latter with the help of wax-like material such as vaseline for example. Several other products can be used to stick the bindi dot on the forehead, such as eyelash glue, skin glue, or bindi kit glue. As an extra note, know that you can buy ready to use bindis and that if you do, they come with their own sticky surfaces. However, you have to be careful to not miss your shot the first time, because the stickiness will wear out if you try to stick it more than once.
Who can wear the Bindi?
Some people might think that only Hindus can wear the bindi, but actually, the bindi is strongly associated with Ajna Chakra and Bindu in not only Hinduism but also in Buddhism and Jainism. Nowadays, some men will also wear the bindi during a celebration, but it is still very much a woman tradition. That said, more and more people decide to wear the bindi as a decoration that fits with their clothes, as it has fewer restrictions than before.
Do Indians put a Bindi on their forehead for health reasons?
A few years ago, The Life Saving Dot organization created a bindi dot that provides nutrients to the body. By using an iodine solution, the Life Saving Dot provides micronutrients that are very useful, especially for pregnant women who need a balanced amount of thyroid hormone, which is created with iodine. A lack of the latter can cause serious issues for the fetus, such as mental problems or other deficiencies. Talk about a new life meaning!
Who still wears the Bindi in 2021?
We are not going to lie, since the bindi is not as mandatory as before, fewer women wear it these days. That is not to say that the bindi is obsolete, but its religious and marital status purposes are not as prominent as before. It doesn’t help also that many westerners are wearing it as a fashion thing, which can be seen as inappropriate or even offensive for some people.
Cultural approbation has been a long-debated topic for the bindi, so if you are not Indian, it’s better that you don’t wear it just for the novelty factor or for impressing your friends. Not that it is entirely forbidden but as with many other important cultural traditions, wearing the red dot could confuse the people around you and create some problematic situations.
Is it bad if an Indian married woman doesn’t wear the bindi?
In most countries that still hold the tradition, yes, it is considered bad and almost a sin to not wear the bindi when and after getting married. Nevertheless, most people are open-minded at the idea of not forcing the bindi on women, and rather let them choose from their free will if they want or not to wear the forehead dot.
What’s the difference between the tilaka and the bindi?
The bindi and tilaka (or tilak) are often confused one for another, so it’s important to know their differences to better understand what they each represent. The tilaka is mainly used for religious or spiritual purposes. Additionally, it is also worn to honor someone important.
The bindi, as described earlier, is mainly worn by married women to show that they are with someone or for decorative purposes. Furthermore, the tilak is worn by both men and women, whereas the bindi is generally worn by women only. Finally, the tilak will often represent which Hindu religious group the wearer is part of.
That concludes our complete guide on bindis and what they represent. Now that you are a pro in bindis and tilakas, you will be able to comfortably distinguish them.