Friday, 18 October 2013

A brief look at the history and meaning of the Bindi in different cultures

There has been some controversy over the years regarding the wearing of bindi by non South Asian people. In general it is felt that the celebrities, models and the fashion industry don’t understand the cultural significance of the bindi. In this blog I’ll explore what the bindi means and why this beautiful accessory is important not just as decoration but also in expressing our identities.


The bindi is historically most strongly associated with Hinduism. In India the bindi has religious connotations, marking the wearer out as a Hindu and although we normally think of women wearing bindi they can actually be worn by both men and women. Marking the head or wearing a bindi is used in several different ceremonies and to signify various things relating to family and the Hindu faith.

The position of the bindi between the eyebrows is significant. This area is understood to be one of the chakras (centres of energy) which is central to Hinduism and Buddhism. The chakra in the forehead is responsible for wisdom and concentration so it’s thought that by placing a bindi there you can focus that energy.

When men wear a bindi or a red smear on their head it is usually because they’ve attended a puja, an offering ceremony. A red bindi accompanied by a smear of red paste called a Tilak is applied by a priest.


Hindu wedding ceremonies involve the groom applying a red powder (sindoor) in the parting of his bride’s hair. The wife will then wear red powder or a red bindi throughout her married life as a sign of her commitment to her husband and her faith.


Red holds different significances within different cultures. As we’ve seen red powder is used within Hindu weddings but red bindis are also worn throughout South and South East Asia for various other reasons.

The red colour could mean be interpreted be a symbol of love, representative of the groom’s blood being applied to the bride’s head or a sign of strength or Shakti as it’s known in Hindi. Shakti is also a Hindu goddess for whom blood sacrifices may have been made at puja in ancient times.


Apart from the Hindu puja ceremonies, bindi are worn for superstitious reasons in other cultures too.

Tattoos or marks on the forehead were historically worn by Kurdish women to ward off evil spirits and by Moroccan women for good luck. Both of these traditions are very little seen nowadays. In China bindi are still worn to invoke or represent good fortune.


Many South and South East Asian girls wear bindis for decoration. The religious symbolism is not present here although many girls and ladies feel that wearing a bindi is a nice way to honour their culture. Lots of girls match the colour of their bindi to their outfit and as fashion bindis have grown in popularity bright gems and diamond embellishments are now available.

Every now and then a celebrity like Madonna, Perry from Little Mix or Miley Cyrus will be pictured wearing a bindi and spark a ferocious debate in the media. Whatever your thoughts though bindi as fashion is here to stay. Innovative brand Jazzy Bindi have teamed up with Swarovski to design beautiful statement pieces that look great for weddings and special occasions whether you wear them for symbolic reasons or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment