Bindi (decoration)

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Hindu woman in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh wearing a Bindi
Kalash girl in the Chitral District wearing a bindi

A bindi (Hindi: बिंदी, from Sanskrit बिन्दु bindú meaning "point, drop, dot or small particle") or pottu (Tamil: பொட்டு)[1][2] is a coloured dot or, in modern times, a sticker worn on the center of the forehead, originally by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains from the Indian subcontinent.

A bindi is a bright dot of some colour applied in the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows or in the middle of the forehead, worn in the Indian subcontinent (particularly amongst Hindus in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka)[3] and Southeast Asia among Balinese, Filipino, Javanese, Sundanese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Vietnamese and Burmese Hindus. A similar marking is also worn by babies and children in China and, as in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, represents the opening of the third eye.[4] Bindi in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism is associated with ajna chakra, and Bindu[5] is known as the third eye chakra. Bindu is the point or dot around which the mandala is created, representing the universe.[6][7] The bindi has a historical and cultural presence in the region of Greater India.[8][9]

Religious significance[edit]

Ajna chakra has two lotus petals dedicated to the sun, the other to the moon (e.g. light and dark, or male and female) merged at the center.
Bindi and traditional head ornament with sun and moon pendants on an Indian classical dancer.

Traditionally, the area between the eyebrows (where the bindi is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of "concealed wisdom". The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration.[10] The bindi also represents the third eye.[11] The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda, the earliest known Sanskrit text, mentions the word Bindu.[12]

The Ajna is symbolised by a sacred lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colours violet, indigo or deep blue, though it is traditionally described as white. It is at this point that the two sides Nadi Ida (yoga) and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Sushumna, signifying the end of duality, the characteristic of being dual (e.g. light and dark, or male and female). The seed syllable for this chakra is the syllable OM, and the presiding deity is Ardhanarishvara, who is a half male, half female Shiva/Shakti. The Shakti goddess of Ajna is called Hakini. In metaphysics, Bindu is considered the dot or point at which creation begins and may become unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state".[3][6] Bindu is the point around which the mandala is created, representing the universe.[7] Ajna (along with Bindu), is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland[clarification needed] which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up, and is also postulated to be the production site of the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine, the only known hallucinogen endogenous to the human body. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level.[5]

Goddess Tara depicted with Ajna Bhrumadhya Bindu known as inner gaze. Bhrumadhya is the point in the center of the forehead commonly referred to as the third eye, or center of consciousness.[5]

In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, bindi is associated with Ajna Chakra and Bindu.[5] Divinities in these religions are typically depicted with Bhrumadhya Bindu, in meditative pose with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between eyebrows, other spot being the tip of the nose—Naasikagra. The very spot between the eyebrows known as Bhrumadhya is where one focuses one's sight, so that it helps concentration.[7] In South Asia, bindi is worn by women of all religious dispositions and is not restricted to religion or region. However, the Islamic Research Foundation, located in India, says "wearing a bindi or mangalsutra is a sign of Hindu women. The traditional bindi still represents and preserves the symbolic significance that is integrated into Indian mythology in many parts of India."

Relief from stupa, 2nd century B.C. Only female figures were marked with the sacred lotus during this period.

The red bindi has multiple meanings:

  • One simple interpretation is that it is a cosmetic mark used to enhance beauty.
  • Archaeology has yielded clay female figurines from the Indus Valley with red pigment on the forehead and hair parting. It is unclear whether this held any religious or cultural significance.[13]
  • In Hinduism, the colour red represents honour, love, and prosperity, hence it was worn to symbolise these aspects.[14]
  • In meditation, the point between the eyebrows (Bhrumadhya) is where one focuses one's sight, to help concentration. Most images of Hindu, Jain or Buddhist divinities in meditative poses with their eyes nearly closed show the gaze focused between the eyebrows (another spot being the tip of the nose—naasikagra).
  • Swami Muktananda writes that "auspicious Kumkuma or sandalwood paste is applied (between the eyebrows) out of respect for the inner Guru. It is the Guru's seat. There is a chakra (center of spiritual energy within the human body) here called Ajna (Aadnyaa) chakra, meaning 'Command center'. Here is received the Guru's command to go higher in Sadhana (spiritual practice) to the 'Sahasraar' (seventh and final chakra) which leads to Self-realisation. The flame seen at the eyebrow is called 'Guru Jyoti'."[15]
  • The encyclopaedic Dictionary of Yoga reports that this 'Ajna Chakra' is also called the 'Third eye'. This center is connected with the sacred syllable 'Om' and presiding, is 'Parashiva'. On activating this center, the aspirant overcomes 'Ahankāra' (the ego or sense of individuality), the last stop on the path of spirituality.[16]

Traditional application method[edit]

Bride with decorative bindis and maang tika between hair parting where married women apply sindoor.

A traditional bindi is red or maroon in colour. A pinch of vermilion powder is applied with a ring-finger to make a dot. A small annular disc aids application for beginners. First, a sticky wax paste is applied through the empty centre of the disc. This is then covered with kumkum or vermilion and then the disc is removed to get a round bindi. Various materials such as lac, sandal, 'aguru', mica, 'kasturi', kumkum (made of red turmeric) and sindoor color the dot. Saffron ground together with 'kusumba' flower can also work.[17] Traditionally they are green in color with a red dot in the middle.[18] The bindi is no longer restricted in color or shape.[19][20]

Ornamental bindis were made and sold by lac workers known as Lakhera.

Historically, the ornamental bindi spangle consists of a small piece of lac over which is smeared vermilion, while above it a piece of mica or thin glass is fixed for ornament. Women wore large spangles set in gold with a border of jewels if they could afford it. The bindi was made and sold by lac workers known as Lakhera.[21] In Hinduism, it's part of the Suhāg or lucky trousseau at marriages and is affixed to the girl's forehead on her wedding and thereafter always worn.[20] Unmarried girls optionally wore small ornamental spangles on their foreheads. A widow was not allowed to wear bindi or any ornamentation associated with married women.[20] In modern times, self-adhesive bindis are available in various materials, usually made of felt or thin metal and adhesive on the other side. These are simple to apply, disposable substitutes for older lac tikli bindis. Sticker bindis come in many colours, designs, materials, and sizes.

Courtesan Bani Thani as Radha with ornamental bindi spangle, c. 1750

There are different regional variations of the bindi. In Maharashtra a large crescent moon shaped bindi is worn with a smaller black dot underneath or above, associated with Chandrabindu and Bindu chakra represented by crescent moon, they are commonly known as Chandrakor in this region, outside Maharashtra they are popularly known as Marathi bindi. In Bengal region a large round red bindi is worn, brides in this region are often decorated with Alpana design on forehead and cheeks, along with bindi. In southern India a smaller red bindi is worn with a white tilak at the bottom, another common type is a red tilak shaped bindi. In Rajasthan the bindi is often worn round, long tilak shaped bindi are also common, as well as the crescent moon on some occasions. Decorative bindis have become popular among women in South Asia, regardless of religious background. Bindis are a staple and symbolic for women in the Indian subcontinent.[22]

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 in the part in the bride's hair.[23]

Apart from their cosmetic use, bindis have found a modern medical application in India. Iodine patch bindis have often been used among women in north-west Maharashtra to battle iodine deficiency.[24]

Related customs in other Asian regions[edit]

A Balinese dancer with a white bindi

In Southeast Asia, bindis are worn by Balinese, Javanese, and Sundanese of Indonesia. Historically, it was worn by many Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Bindis are also decorated on wedding brides and grooms of Java and other parts of Indonesia, even worn by non-Hindus. It is worn for cultural purposes because Indonesia was once ruled by Indianized Hindu kingdoms, thus the culture still preserves until today. Bindis in Indonesia are usually white or green, rather than red or black as in India.

Modern use[edit]

Bindis and other religious affiliated markings are worn by recent Hindu converts like Hare Krishnas.[25]

Bindis are popular outside the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia as well. They are sometimes worn purely for decorative purpose or style statement without any religious or cultural affiliation.[26] Decorative and ornamental bindis were introduced to other parts of the world by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent.[27] International celebrities such as Gwen Stefani, Julia Roberts,[28] Madonna,[29] Selena Gomez and many others have been seen wearing bindis.[30] The appropriateness of such uses has been disputed. Reacting to Gomez wearing a bindi while singing her song "Come and Get It", Hindu leader Rajan Zed said that the bindi has religious significance and should not be used as a fashion accessory,[31] but Indian actress Priyanka Chopra praised Gomez's choice as "an embrace of Indian culture".[32] Additionally, several rappers have adopted jewelled bindis, most notably Lil Uzi Vert, who debuted a $24 million pink diamond bindi in February 2021. He was inspired by Lil B who wore a diamond bindi in 2012.[33]

Bindis are part of Bangladeshi culture and women in Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion, adorn themselves with bindis as an ethnic practice.[34][35][36] In Pakistan, bindis are worn by some Muslim girls during Eid, though they are ordinarily worn by Hindu women in the Punjab and Sindh.[37]

Alternative terms[edit]

A bindi can be called:[38]

See also[edit]


  1. "History and Etymology for bindi". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 16 January 2022. borrowed from Hindi bindī, literally, "dot, mark" (or a cognate Indo-Aryan word), going back to the Middle Indo-Aryan and Sanskrit stem bindu- "drop, spot," it's worn by Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Hindus
  2. "Bindi etymology". Etymologeek. Retrieved 16 January 2022. English word bindi comes from Hindi बिंदी
  3. 3.0 3.1 Khanna 1979: p. 171
  4. Xiaoou, Yu (10 September 2014). "Guidelines for school entrance in ancient China". Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Mercier (2007). p. 267.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0791406792.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Shakya, pp. 82–83
  8. Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, by Keat Gin Ooi p. 642
  9. Hindu-Buddhist Architecture in Southeast Asia by Daigorō Chihara p. 226
  10. Das, Subhamoy. "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  11. "Couples Fuel India's Vibrant Art Scene". The New York Times. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  12. "nasadiya-suktha-and-purusha-suktha". 21 September 2012.
  13. M. Kenoyer, Jonathan (1998). Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 0195779401.
  14. Pintchman, Tracy (2007). Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition. Oxford. pp. 90–97. ISBN 978-0195177060.
  15. From Finite to Infinite, by Swami Muktananda, SYDA Foundation, S. Fallsburg, New York, 1989, pp. 88–89
  16. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga, by Georg Fuerstein, Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1990, p. 15
  17. "Bindi: The Great Indian Forehead Art". Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  18. Bahadur, Om Lata (1996). The book of Hindu festivals and ceremonies (3rd ed.). New Delhi: UBS Publishers Distributors ltd. p. 168. ISBN 81-86112-23-5.
  19. Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Government of India
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Parvesh Handa, "Home Beauty Clinic", Pustak Mahal, ISBN 81-223-0099-5
  21. "The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India—Volume IV".
  22. Priyabala Shah (April 1986) "Tilaka: Hindu marks on the forehead", p.88
  23. Gwynne, Paul (2009). World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 9781444360059.
  24. Dhar, Shobha (11 April 2015). "Iodine bindis for tribal women to fight deficiency". TNN. The Times of India. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  25. "Svami Sadananda Dasa: Disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Guru of Vamandas (Walther Eidlitz)".
  26. Khu phố Little India ở Artesia, Nguoi Viet Online, 11 November 2011, Retrieved 22 November 2011
  27. Juventud organiza un mercadillo solidario a beneficio de la Fundación Vicente Ferrer,, 17 November 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2011
  28. "'Pretty Woman' in temple upset". BBC News. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  29. "Try a bindi now with Western wear". Punjab Newsline. 6 October 2011. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  30. "Should Selena Gomez apologize for wearing a bindi at the MTV Movie".
  31. Sieczkowski, Cavan (16 April 2013). "Selena Gomez Bindi: Hindu Leaders Demand Apology For MTV Movie Awards Costume". Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  32. DelliCarpini Jr., Gregory (22 May 2013). "Selena Gomez's Bindi Styling: Offensive? Bollywood Star Priyanka Chopra Talks About the Star's Usage". Billboard. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  33. "Lil Uzi Vert's $24 Million Forehead Diamond Was Inspired by Lil B". Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  34. p.k.balachandran. "Bangladesh Asserts its Bengali Identity in Mass Celebration of Pohela Boishak". The Citizen. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  35. প্রতিবেদক, নিজস্ব. "টিপ দেই কপালে". Prothomalo (in Bengali). Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  36. "টিপটপ টিপ | কালের কণ্ঠ". Kalerkantho (in Bengali). 22 March 2020. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  37. "Are bindis available in Pakistan? Twitter responds with a resounding yes". Dawn. 13 July 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  38. "Dazzling bindis". MSN India. 10 October 2011. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2011.

External links[edit]


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