The Beauty of Bindi

BindiAncient Sanskrit texts describe 16 ways a woman can beautify herself. One of these is bindi, the red dot Indian women wear on their foreheads. (Funny to me: bhindi is Hindi for okra.)

The red mark originally signified that a woman was married, but over time it became fashion, more a mark that you were Hindu. Now everyone wears them, regardless of age or marital status. (In some regions, men wear them, too.)

Size, shape, and placement on the forehead might once have conveyed geographic or socio-economic information, but now it’s a matter of taste. My great-grandmother-in-law drew hers as a horizontal line. People from south India might use a vertical line. The dot is common, but the possibilities are endless.  Bindi should generally be red, but they come in all colors and levels of decoration, to match your sari/salwar/lengha and the formality of your event.
The bindi itself has also evolved over time. For thousands of years, people used turmeric powder, which turns bright red in an alkaline environment. In the 60s, red liquid was in vogue. Nowadays, everyone uses stickers.

If you’re in India, a packet of plain bindi costs between 5 rupees (about 10 cents); a really fancy one might cost you as much as a dollar.

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4 Responses to “The Beauty of Bindi”

  • amy says:

    Karla–I absolutely love these posts!! More more more!!

  • Mika_chan says:

    I used to wear bindi’s when I was (MUCH) younger. I loooooved them, and I always think that Indian women are some of the most beautiful women on the planet. Keep educating us about India!

  • Pkb says:

    Karla! As an East Indian girl, I’m loving these posts! Keep’em comin :)

  • Heather says:

    I currently live in Israel (from US though) and our nanny is from Goa, India. She’s Catholic and says that if she sees bindi, she classifies that woman as a married Hindu – unmarried women and Catholics don’t wear bindi. (Not to say they can’t, just that some Indians still do view it as a classifier.)

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