November 22, 2011

Bindi-The Forehead Dot

The Bindi is either a small dot on the woman's forehead, or a large, eye-arresting blazing round; it is sometimes shaped like a drop or a long, straight vertical line, or sometimes it is laid horizontal. At times, it is spread like a miniature alpana (rangoli) with a fine-tipped stick in squiggles and triangles and circles to work out a complicated artistic design.

Bindi shapes

Simply, it is called the bindi or bindiya or tilak or bottu. It is a symbol of auspiciousness, good fortune and festivity. We take it for granted as part of our daily makeup but the uninitiated foreigner is intrigued by the painted dot on the woman's forehead.Ash wearing red bindi

An amusing incident comes to mind at this point. A friend who likes to make a circular red bindi on her forehead, as large as a marble, was standing at an intersection on a New York Road, when a small boy tugged at her hand and said to her in horrified tones, "Lady... there's blood on your forehead!" Apparently, the boy had thought she had been wounded, or perhaps even shot in the head!

Now  that also reminds me of an unpleasant event that occurred 2 decades ago. In 1987 a hate group  based in New York &  New Jersey who called themselves "Dot Busters," were up in arms against Indian immigrants. These people mostly comprising of teenagers targeted people from the subcontinent and terrorized the Hindus & their women who wore dots on the forehead. They  burgled their houses, threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at them, broke their windows, cars, property & other equipments, disrupted their parties and weddings, harassed women and also targeted their business establishments. They even physically assaulted some people from the Indian community which also resulted in the death of a person called Navroze Mody. Ultimately peace did prevailed in Jersey City but the Indian community over there had the most harrowing experience of their lifetime.
mystic third eye of Shiva
               Mystic third eye

As for the literal meaning of the word bindi, it is derived from sanskrit *bindu* or a drop. The bindi is supposed to signify the mystic third eye of the person, and is therefore, when properly marked, in the centre of the 2 eyebrows. The bindi is the central point of the base of creation itself; Tantriks associate the bindu as the primordial point of the beginning of being.

The red bindi or bindiya denotes the woman's married status in most North Indian communities and is worn only by the married woman. It is a symbol of her suhaag. But in South India, it is the prerogative of all girls to have the bindi. Even a newborn baby girl has one dabbed on her forehead!

The decked North Indian bride steps over the threshold of her married home, resplendent with the red bindi on her forehead. The red colour is supposed to augur prosperity for the home she is entering. the mark, which traditionally stands in the space of the agyachakra (ajnachakra), makes her the preserver of the family's welfare and progeny.
South Indian bride wearing Bindinorth Indian bride wearing bindi
South Indian and North Indian brides respectively wearing bindi or the red dot.

Today, there is a wide variety of bindis for the fashion-conscious girl to choose from. Bindis are no longer the backseats in the ethnic avant-garde movement. Pavement hawkers have trays and trays of attractive displays. There are bindis of various colours and designs, sequined, dusted with gold powder, studded with beads and glittering stones and in different sizes. There are exclusive bindi shops in cities with designer bindis. Even some boutiques stock up on bindis to enable their customers to pick up a few to match with their apparel. I've heard that there is a wonderful bindi shop named Tanvi in Mangaldas market, somewhere near Crawford Market in VT(Mumbai) that not only has designer Bindis but all types to suit every pocket. They introduce new designs and motifs on a regular basis and their innovative designs are very popular with people. I've also heard that they also take orders to make special bindis to match bride's wedding apparel. However, you can also buy Bindis online; check some of these cool Bindi sites and also these Bindis over at Amazon.

   bindi1 bindi2
     Pavement hawkers have trays and trays of attractive displays of Bindi packets

One of my friends, an avid Bindi collector states that she likes "experimenting with the bindis to create a different look". Salwar Kameez, Churidars and saris when worn by women with matching bindis complete this ethnic picture.Liquid Kumkum Bindi

Bindis usually come in three varieties, viz., adhesive, powder, and liquid. The adhesive bindis are mostly made of velvet, kundan, stone while pearls and minakari work enhance this beauty symbol on the forehead. Special moulds of different shapes are used by women to apply powder bindi on their foreheads. Compared to yesteryears, wearing a bindi today is a hassle-free job. Stick-on ready-made bindis have adhesive at the back to stick to the forehead.widow with chandan bindi

Conservative women use kumkum or sindoor for making their bindi. In the olden days, to execute a perfect round, the help of a small circular disc with a hole in the center - or even the hollow pie coin was placed on the forehead. A sticky wax or a vaseline-like paste was applied on the empty space in the disc. This was then covered with kumkum and the disc carefully removed... and presto! The perfectly circular bindi.

The auspicious colours for the bindi are are usually red, vermilion and green.  Widows wear Chandan (sandalwood paste) Bindis.
Bengali bride adorned with small bindis
In Bengal and certain northern communities, the bride's forehead is decked with an array of small bindis, circling her eyebrows. These minute bindis are of alternating red and white colour and made of chandan paste and geru (red stone paste).

In the South, even the men wear the kumkum mark on their forehead, especially for traditional ceremonies. The bridegroom's makeup is incomplete without the tilak; in auspicious ceremonies like Bhai Dooj, the sister applies Vermillion to her brother's forehead and in temples the priest dabs sindoor paste on the devotees's foreheads.
crescent shaped bindi worn by Maharashtrian bride In traditional Saraswat marriages, the bride enters the wedding mandap, wearing a crescent shaped bindi. After the kanya daan, her mother-in-law completes the circle on the girl's forehead in a symbolic gesture of making her a complete married woman.

Care should be taken to purchase stick-on bindis of good brands. Sub-standard adhesive can cause skin ailments like fungus and rash. Earlier kumkum was prepared using herbal ingredients (turmeric, powder extracted from kumkum flower, alum etc.) that was soothing to the forehead skin. But nowadays kumkum contain toxic ingredients & chemicals such as mercury oxide, lead and industrial dyes which can prove to be harmful. Even for stick-on-bindis, if you experience any irritation, itching or burning, consult a doctor for an ointment. Delay can cause skin infection and ugly patches on the forehead.

Avoid wearing the stick-on bindi continuously. Discard them after a couple of days' use. Wash your forehead clean every time to remove all traces of the white adhesive. Also keep your forehead bare while sleeping; do not wear any kind of Bindi.

The shining bindi on the beloved's forehead is supposed to mesmerise her lover. Poets, through the ages, have composed couplets on the beautiful bindiya of the damsel. Legend has it that some enterprising loverlorn swain even trained parrots to swoop down to pluck off the bindi from the maiden to take it back to the man!

See also: The hair parting in beauty culture

(Guest Post by Priya)


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17 comments:

  1. Vrinda11:22 AM

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Urmila11:34 AM

    Thanks for your information….

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kousalya11:41 AM

    Aapne bahut achcha likha hai......................I like it very much.....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous11:43 AM

    HINDU MEN APNE THIRD EYE YANI AGYA CHAKER PAR KUMKUM YA KESAR KA TILAK LAGATE HAI.
    ACTUALY, ACCORDING TO HINDU METHODOLOGY, KUMKUM AND KESAR "SURYA" KE PADARTH HAI.
    AUR SURYA HAMARE JEEVAN MAE YASH KA KARAK HAI. ISS LIYE SURYE KO FAVORABLE KARNE KE LIYE AUR JEEVAN MAE YASH PAANE KE LIYE HINDI PURUSH BHI MASTAK PAR KESAR(SAFFRON) YA KUMKUM KA TILAK LAGATE HAI.

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  5. Bindi is arguably the most visually fascinating in all form of body decoration. More than a beauty spot, the manga tika (bindi) indicates good omen and purity.

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  6. Bindi has actually become a fashion statement with some women....not only Indian but western women too....

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  7. Jyothi11:48 AM

    Some say a traditional Indian dress seems incomplete without a bindi.

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  8. Chaitra11:50 AM

    With changing fashion, women try out many shapes and designs.

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  9. Expert11:52 AM

    The red 'kumkum' between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration. It is also the central point of the base of the creation itself — symbolizing auspiciousness and good fortune.

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  10. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Traditionally a symbol of marriage, it has now become a decorative item and is worn today by unmarried girls and women of other religions as well. No longer restricted in color or shape, bindis today are seen in many colors and designs and are manufactured with self-adhesives and felt.

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  11. Khetal9:20 AM

    Traditional bindi is red or maroon in color!

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  12. Shejal9:21 AM

    Bindi is the central point of the base of the creation itself — symbolizing auspiciousness and good fortune.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Rajalakshmi9:23 AM

    Bindi--a spot considered a major nerve point in human body since ancient times. It is also known as 'tika', 'pottu', 'sindoor', 'tilak', 'tilakam', and 'kumkum'.

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  14. Indumati9:27 AM

    there are varied kinds of Tilak, each having its distinctive importance. Regarded as the sign of good luck and prosperity, Tilak is applied on the forehead. The forehead mark Tilak can be made by using sandal paste, turmeric, holy ashes (Vibhuti) or kumkum.

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  15. Gouri9:28 AM

    Often decorative marks or stick-ons are worn by young women just for fashion. You can buy these little stick-on bindis in shops to accessorise your look.

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  16. Jalaja9:30 AM

    That part of the forehead is very sensitive and receptive to good and bad thoughts/energies. The dot also prevents from these 'bad' (sounds corny) energies from entering one's body.

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  17. Thanks for the explanation. I always wondered what it was called and its significance.

    ReplyDelete

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