A bindi is a mark on the forehead, traditionally worn by Hindu women, although women of all religions and nationalities wear them as decorations. In the Hindu religion, the bindi is an important symbolic mark, and it is considered to be highly auspicious. Men may also bear such markings, typically known as tilaks or tikas. There are a number of different variations on the classic bindi worn around the world.
Among Hindus, a tilak is an important religious symbol. It may take the form of a dot, an elongated pear shape, or a series of lines on or around the forehead. These marks may be used to indicate traditional affiliations, and they are worn on special occasions, special ceremonies, and sometimes daily as well, depending on the individual. Among women, the bindi is worn after marriage, and an additional auspicious mark may be made further up the forehead, close to the hairline.
According to the Hindu religion, the bindi marks the sixth chakra, an important source of power and balance. A mark on the site facilitates the flow of energy, and also helps to keep demons away. Women may make bindis from ash and colored paste, or they may wear decorative jewelery on the site. Commonly, a bindi takes the form of a red dot, reflecting the origin of the word, bindu in Sanskrit, meaning “drop.”
People who are not Hindu may wear a bindi as well, usually as a purely decorative item or beauty mark. Many women in the West like to wear bindis on festive and formal occasions, usually preferring jeweled bindis which can be pasted on the forehead. The mark may also be used as a religious symbol among some smaller sects around the world, appearing in a variety of shapes and colors. Many yogis and yoginis in the West also wear bindis to symbolize their affiliation with the Hindu religion, even if they are not practicing Hindus.
There are a number of different names for the sacred mark, including pottu, agna, and teep. A true bindi should be a circular mark, although the widespread use of the term for different shapes has corrupted the meaning slightly. In nations which protect religious freedom for their citizens, it is not uncommon to see a bindi on the forehead of a Hindu at work or school, making him or her more readily identifiable to other Hindu members of the community.