Traditionally worn as a red dot on the forehead, the bindi has Hindu beginnings. It was originally worn for religious purposes, often also meaning marriage.
If you are not familiar with the term “bindi,” I’m certain you’ve at least seen it before.
Bindi is a dot on the forehead between the brows that holds importance to South Asians. Sometimes people will wear this as “makeup” to a festival, but there is a rich cultural history behind the bindi, originating from India. The bindi is a symbol that holds significant meaning, more than a fashion statement as many people make it out to be.
“Bindi” comes from the Sanskrit word “bindu,” meaning a point or dot. Traditionally worn as a red dot on the forehead, the bindi has Hindu beginnings often associated with religious purposes or a woman’s marital status. Red bindis symbolize marriage, so when women were widowed, they would often change their bindi color to black.
The bindi is also seen as a “third-eye” on the forehead between the brows, warding off bad luck. The third-eye in Hinduism is not seeing the world as the other two are, but rather forging a connection with God. It keeps God in the forefront of our minds and thoughts. Hindus believe there are seven chakras, energy points in the body that should be aligned, and the bindi is placed right where the sixth one should be.
Though the bindi used to only be a red dot, often made of turmeric, many South Asians today prefer to wear a gemstone or something similar. Generally women wear bindis, however, men can wear them as well if they wish to especially to religious practices or celebrations. People usually wear bindis that match their outfits nowadays, whereas in the past, it used to be a much narrower selection typically exclusively the red dot. There are also a variety of designs, including: swirls, jewels and different shapes instead of the perfect circle. These are growing trends in South Asia and among Indians residing all over the world.
It’s important to understand and question the prevalence of bindis in Western culture. Many people wear bindis without understanding the cultural significance behind them, and claim them as fashion statements. Since bindis carry a very strong history in India along with cultural and religious implication to millions of people, this should not be disregarded in favor of fashionable trends. Celebrities who have worn bindis, for instance, have been praised for being “exotic” or “unique” as well as being accused of cultural appropriation. This leaves us to wonder whether non-South Asian celebrities should be allowed to profit off of a religious symbol originated from the Indian culture. Regardless, bindis should always be worn with an appreciation for India’s colorful and spiritual culture.