Culture Hinduism

BINDI – Meaning and Significance of the “Dot” on forehead

Meaning and Significance of Bindi

A bindi is an auspicious mark worn by young girls and women in India. The name is derived from “Bindu”, a Sanskrit word for “point” or “dot” and is usually red in color made with vermillion powder which is worn by women between their eyebrows on the forehead.

The origin of the bindi can be found in ancient times but has lost this significance in modern life and is mostly worn all over the world as an accessory. However, bindis have a special significance even today in the Indian tradition. There are different colors worn for different occasions and stages in life, although most women these days don’t follow these rules of color anymore. Men also wear a Tilak during pujas (prayers) or religious ceremonies in India. There are many reasons as to why this practice started.

SIGNIFICANCE OF A BINDI FOR A MARRIED WOMAN: 
If a woman wears a red bindi it shows that she is married and signifies true love and prosperity. Widows in India do not wear bindi normally, but they are allowed to wear a black coloured one in Southern India, showing their loss. However, young girls are free to wear bindi of any color.

USE OF THE BINDI IN A SPIRITUAL WAY:
In a spiritual view, bindi plays the most important role in Hindu culture. Every morning a Hindu takes a bath and sits in prayer just to seek the absolute truth through every prayer. However, it is true that one cannot sit in prayer the whole day. So when you leave the prayer room, you are expected to put some mark on your forehead, to remind you throughout the day about all the activities and the purpose of life. It is obvious you cannot see the mark on your own forehead every time so whenever you see it on another face, you will get a chance to recall the purpose of your life. The idea is to remember that all the things you are doing are dedicated towards the achievement of this supreme goal of self realization.

USE OF BINDI IN THE SOCIETY:
Society has always wanted to categorize or tag people in groups and the bindi performed a similar function in the ‘Social’ realm. The social purpose was to ward of the evil eye of the young unmarried girl by making her wear a ‘black’ Bindi. The married women wore a red Bindi. The 4 castes wore different coloured tilak though this is not followed except in very conservative families in the villages.

1. The Brahmins who were priests or academicians wore a tilak of white sandal wood signifying purity.

2. The Khatriyas (Kings, Warriors and Administrators) wore red tilak to signify valor.

3. The Vaishyas (Business men) wore a yellow tilak signifying prosperity.

4. The Sudra (service class) wore black tilak to signify service to the other classes.

USE OF WEARING BINDI FROM A HEALTHY VIEWPOINT: 
From a health point of view, the bindi is worn between the eyebrows where the pineal gland lies. This is an important nerve center and applying sandalwood or ash keeps the nerves cool and so keeps one cool and conserves energy. In the past the bindi was made from the yellow and red sandalwood, red and yellow turmeric, saffron, various flowers, ash, zinc oxide. All these had cooling properties in nature. Today people wear bindis made with glue or glass and doesn’t benefit in any way but is more of an accessory.

SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF A BINDI: 
The Ajna Chakra is considered to be the place of the “Third Eye” where one applies the Bindi. The Ajna Chakra is the site where one finally loses Ahamkara (ego or sense of individuality) when one achieves self-realization or reaches a higher level of spirituality. It is a way to remind one another in the society to see through the mind’s eye and see the bigger picture of the “Universe as One”.

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  • There are seven chakras and Ajna is the place of self realization. When we place the bindhi there, it prevents any negative energy from affecting us, and in fact repels it. It is not true that widows put black bindis in the south. They can wear Vibhoothi(sacred ash), Chandan, or red tilak(tamil brahmins). They do not wear as sindhoor on their heads, but can and must wear on their forehead, as it is a protection. In our custom, the Lord is the ultimate and only purush and a widow considers Him as her Lord(as a result of self realization). When that is the case, even kumkum is put on the forehead as it is his prasad, and a sign of His auspiciousness, and also acceptance of the fact that He resides in us and that we respect Him.

  • The 3rd eye is the source of the inner guru. Our higher self that is always guiding us. The bindi is a reminder of our higher self every instance. That is the only purpose. To remember our higher self all the time in all our mundane activities

  • This site is wonderful, I’ve subscribed it in FB and every day I get to know new things. I do share ur links to my friends in WhatsApp. Thanks for sharing our history.

  • hi am jayasutha here… actually i was doing an assignment about WHY INDIAN WIDOW WAS AVOID USING POTTU…????
    REPLY IS NEEDED…..
    THANK YOU…

  • Just wondering, but if a woman not part of your culture wears a bindi, would you consider it offensive and call it “cultural appropriation” since women not from India are using it just for fashion with no significance behind it?

      • I am a Hindu woman and I would not consider it inappropriate just because a non-Hindu wore a bindi. I would consider it an opportunity to educate that woman and myself about the significance of wearing a bindi. The important take-away here is that the ultimate goal of every human being, hindu and non-hindu is self-realization – the bindi is one tool to help us on our path. The ancient rishis who instituted such customs were indeed very wise and their words have been relevant in all ages – even in today’s modern world.

        • Thank you for sharing this. I would like to wear a bindi, for the very reason you state: as a tool to help me on the path to satchidananda (existence, knowledge, bliss). But I was not born Hindu. I believe there are many paths towards this goal. I would also like the extra help, through a bindi, to help me better keep inner eye gaze, focus towards Truth. But I was thinking along the lines of getting a piercing, so I can feel it and remember. Or I was thinking of a small tattoo. Thoughts? I would never wish to offend. This is a very personal journey for me, as it is for anyone.

  • I was wondering if one wanted to convert to Hinduism how would they go about that? What steps would I have to take? and is there a special ceremony to have a bindi placed?

    • Hindus do not convert.

      Hinduism is an open source faith. We believe that God is ONE, there are many paths to reach him/her, all paths have equal rights to exist, and there is no contradiction amongst paths. You can follow any path to reach the GOD.

      You can follow any path (religion, faith, sect) and be a Hindu, or even not believe in GOD, and still be a Hindu.

      Some good (and simple) discussions on Hinduism : http://www.quora.com/Can-you-be-atheist-while-being-Hindu


  • This question is typical of the problems one faces when one looks at Hinduism through a conscious or a sub-conscious filter of Judeo-Christian theologies. So before I answer the question, I’d like to remind people of the important differences between Indian Dharmic traditions and Abrahamic religions:

    Hinduism has no official authority to “decide” anything for Hindus. No church like institution exists that can dictate any rigid, frozen dogma on the masses. People were never persecuted for not “believing” in something.

    Unlike Christianity/Islam, no concept of non-believer or infidel exists in Hinduism. There is no baptism/conversion into Hinduism, nor can one be expelled from it! The impossibility of Hinduism to be mapped onto western/non-Dharmic religion/vocabulary does create a lot of misunderstanding (often for Hindus and non-Hindus alike, in this age).

    The different schools of thought in India didn’t have strict boundaries with irreconcilable differences, but were flexible and dynamic. Rivalries were philosophical and open to discussion, debate and even borrowing from one another. No need was felt to claim one’s views as the only truth or reject others through violence.

  • I just received my red kumkum powder for the bindi but no instruction on how to apply and with what? I want to do it the right way using the right liquid. I am a very spiritual person but of no religion for God is in our hearts. I pray everyday after or near the end of meditating with the Chakra music. I’ve been studying on the 7 Chakra’s their representation, the Pineal Gland and so forth. There is more reason why I wanted to get the red kumkum powder bindi but it’s personal. If someone here can help me I be in grateful.
    Peace, Sophia

  • I am a Protestant Christian (closest label i can use to describe my beliefs) and have always enjoyed the concept of a marking on your forehead to represent your “third eye”. From what knowledge (possibly very little) i have of Hindu I believe I in fact might BE a Hindu. Loosely put I believe all earnest paths to enlightenment, to seek a higher truth, spirituality, etc. leads to to God.
    So 2 questions. Am i Hindu? lol… And is there a marking for my forehead/body that’s alright to use? If it makes a difference I am a 33 year old American man, unmarried/divorced and have 2 children 4 and 7 years old.

  • I had just been thinking how hard it is to find new things to learn at my age. I just learned a great deal here in five minutes that will keep me contacting for quite a while. Thank you!

  • […] Bindis have very specific cultural and spiritual meanings in South Asian culture and are worn throughout various countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. In regards to married women, a simple red dot on the forehead symbolizes marriage, love and prosperity while a black one signifies the death of the partner. The bindi is placed between the eyebrows, the place of the sixth chakra (the seat of concealed wisdom). It also represents the third (inner) eye and functions as a reminder to Hindus of their religious obligations. […]

  • […] Bindis have very specific cultural and spiritual meanings in South Asian culture and are worn throughout various countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. In regards to married women, a simple red dot on the forehead symbolizes marriage, love and prosperity while a black one signifies the death of the partner. The bindi is placed between the eyebrows, the place of the sixth chakra (the seat of concealed wisdom). It also represents the third (inner) eye and functions as a reminder to Hindus of their religious obligations. […]

  • Are the Harijans allowed to have a bindi or tilak on their foreheads ? And what suitable colour should they be using if they are allowed ?

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