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A bindi (from Sanskrit bindu, meaning "a drop, small particle, dot") is a forehead decoration worn in South Asia (particularly India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mauritius). and Southeast Asia. Traditionally it is a dot of red color applied in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of a sign or piece of jewelry worn at this location.Contents [hide]
Bride with decorated forehead
Traditionally, the area between the eyebrows (where the bindi is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of "concealed wisdom". According to followers of Hinduism, this chakra is the exit point for kundalini energy. The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. The bindi also represents the third eye.
A misconception, urban legend, or myth about the bindi in the western world is that only married Hindu women wear red bindis as a symbol of wedlock.
In modern times, bindis are worn by women of many religious dispositions in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and is not restricted to Hindus. Many Muslim women in Bangladesh and Pakistan wear the bindi as part of makeup. It is also used in festivals such as Holi.
Red represents honor, love and prosperity hence was worn traditionally by women to symbolize this.
The red bindi has multiple meanings which are all valid at the same time. This is also a spiritual symbol.
By one simple interpretation it is a cosmetic mark used to enhance beauty.
From Vedic times, the Bindi was created as a means to worship ones intellect. Therefore it was used by both men and women. The worship of intellect was in order to use it to ensure our thoughts, speech, actions, habits and ultimately our character becomes pure. A strong intellect can help one to make noble decisions in life, be able to stand up to challenges in life with courage, and recognize and welcome good thoughts in life. The belief was that on this a strong individual, a strong family and strong society can be formed.
In meditation, this very spot between the eyebrows (Bhrumadhya) is where one focuses his/her sight, so that it helps concentration. Most images of Buddha or Hindu divinities in meditative pose with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between eyebrows (other spot being the tip of the nose - naasikagra).
Swami Muktanand writes 'auspicious Kumkum or sandal wood paste is applied (between the eyebrows) out of respect for inner Guru. It is the Guru's seat. There is a chakra (center of spiritual energy within human body) here called Ajna (Aadnyaa) chakra meaning 'Command center'. Here you receive the Guru's command to go higher in Sadhana (spiritual practice) to the 'Sahasraar' (seventh and final chakra) which leads to Self realization. The flame seen at the eyebrow is called 'Guru Jyoti'. (From Finite to Infinite, by Swami Muktananda, SYDA Foundation, S.Fallsburg, NY, 1989, pp. 88-89)
The encyclopedic dictionary of Yoga informs that this 'Ajna Chakra' is also called as the 'Third eye'. This center is connected with the sacred syllable 'Om' and presiding it is 'ParaaShiva'. After activation of this center, the aspirant overcomes 'Ahamkar' (ego or sense of individuality), the last hurdle on the path of spirituality. (Encyclopedic dictionary of Yoga, by Georg Fuerstein, Paragon House Publ, NY, 1990,p.15).
Traditional way to apply a Bindi
A traditional bindi is red or maroon in color. A pinch of vermilion powder applied skillfully with a practiced fingertip makes a perfect red dot. It takes considerable practice to achieve the perfect round shape by hand. A small annular disc (perhaps a coin) aids application for beginners. First they apply a sticky wax paste through the empty center of the disc. This is then covered with kumkum or vermilion and then the disc is removed to get a perfect round bindi. Various materials such as sandal, 'aguru', 'kasturi', 'kumkum' (made of red turmeric) and 'sindoor' (made of zinc oxide and dye) color the dot. Saffron ground together with 'kusumba' flower can also work.
Collection of modern bindis.
Modern stick-on bindis
In addition to the bindi, in India, a vermilion mark in the parting of the hair just above the forehead is worn by married women as commitment to long-life and well-being of their husbands. During all Hindu marriage ceremonies, the groom applies sindoor on the parting in the bride's hair. The bride must wipe off her red bindi once she becomes a widow. This can be seen as symbolic and shows her status in society. Widows can continue to wear the black bindi but with a white sari.
Many Kurdish women wear tattoo motifs on their forehead to ward off evil spirits and show their ethnic group. In Morocco women used to tattoo their foreheads for good luck. This tradition is now almost extinct. Within North Africa many tribes have used tattoo motifs to symbolize fertility especially on their forehead. Some tribes in Afghanistan still tattoo and decorate women's foreheads for cultural and traditional purposes.
Ancient Chinese women wore similar marks (for purely decorative purposes) since the second century, which became popular during the Tang Dynasty.
In traditional Korean weddings, the bride also wears a decorative mark on the forehead, similar to the Bindi, though whether this practice came originally from India is not known.
Bride with decorated forehead
A bindi as decoration
A man in Bangalore wearing a bindi
Use of bindi outside South Asia
Bindis are worn throughout South Asia, specifically India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, by women, men, girls and boys, and no longer signify age, marital status, religious background or ethnic affiliation. The bindi has become a decorative item and is no longer restricted in colour or shape.  Self-adhesive bindis (also known as sticker bindis) are available, usually made of felt or thin metal and adhesive on the other side. These are simple to apply, disposable substitutes for older tilak bindis. Sticker bindis come in many colors, designs, materials, and sizes. Some are decorated with sequins, glass beads, or rhinestones.
Bindis are not always red, nor always a dot, nor always worn by women. They are called kumkum or bindi, or tilak ("mark") when worn by men. Usually Hindu women, priests, monks and worshipers wear it. Men wear it on auspicious occasions such as Puja (ritual worship), or marriage, or Aarti (waving of lights), on festive occasions such as on Raksha-bandhan, Bhaai-duj, Karvaa Chauth or Paadwaa or Dasshera, or while embarking on, or upon return from a voyage or a campaign. It is also worn by Jains and Buddhists (even in China).
Bindis are now popular outside South Asia as well. Sometimes they are worn as a style statement. International celebrities such as Julia Roberts,, Madonna and many others have been seen wearing bindis.
Bindis were a trend for teenage girls in the U.S. during the mid-1990s. Gwen Stefani, of the band No Doubt, popularized bindis as well as mehndi on the hands. The Indian influence in the U.S. is seen in packed yoga studios, Bollywood-style exercise classes, as well as in American women’s fashion adaptation of bindi (forehead decoration), mendhi (henna body art) and colorful Indian-style garments.
Bindis are not as fashionable to the younger generation and are often worn on formal and traditional occasions now. The popularity of bindis varies with the latest fashion trends of South Asia.
There was a time when bindis were solely used to beautify the space between eyebrows; however, this notion has largely changed over time. Today bindis are worn even in place like the corner of one's eyes. The white-stone bindis are widely used by young women to adorn their eyes. In India, bindis are used by young girls to decorate nails, nose and even the belly button. Jasmine Chanchani, who has been specialising in this form of bindi art commented,"If you are daring enough and have a body to show off, a bindi tattoo near the navel can be a very hot style statement.Wear a simple, short top with your skirt or denim, make the belly button bindi design the focal point and watch ’em gape."
Alternative names of bindi
A bindi can be called:
Teep (literally meaning "a pressing") in Bengali
Tikuli (literally meaning "a small Tika") in Madhyadeshi Areas
Chandlo in Gujarati meaning moon shape.
Tilak in Hindi
Kunkuma or Bottu or Tilaka in Kannada
Tilo in Konkani
Kunkoo or Tikli in Marathi
Bindi in Punjabi meaning long red mark.
Pottu in Malayalam and Tamil
Bottu or Tilakam in Telugu
Gopi dots are the small dots over the eyebrows used in marriage or festivals.
Nande is a term erroneously used to describe a bindi in Malaysia. It may contain pejorative connotations although not in most cases