The progression of a 500 year old custom decoded.
The conception of life on this earth initiates from a dot. The universe is built around stars, which appear like dots in the midnight sky and the beautiful little dot on my mother’s forehead is called a bindi.
The term ‘bindi’ is derived from ‘bindu’ (i.e. Sanskrit for a dot or point). Popularly, it indicates the numeral zero. This unassuming, diminutive body art is also suggestive of the third eye of the wearer, that which provides perception beyond ordinary eyesight.
The paraphernalia is made of legends, which has been around since Vedic times where the bindi was created as a means to worship one’s intellect. It was used by both men and women and considered a blessed symbol of ”Parvati’ (the wife of Lord Shiva), The cultural roots of a bindi signified female energy and was believed to protect women and their husbands.
In my native land, the the bindi is above the protocols of fashion imposition and enjoys cult status. Its history goes back to the old Hindu tradition of wearing a large vermilion pigment as a social symbol and sign of protection for married women. A quintessential Indian bride is incomplete without her bindi bejeweled forehead. Typically this is one long bindi in the center with small round bindis forming a lovely pattern around the eyebrow, marking her resemblance to a goddess.
Since then the vermillion has been replaced with envelopes of bindi stickers that come in multifarious shapes and sizes. A lot of them are decorated with sequins, stones and gems. The humble bindi crossed oceans to find revelers in international shores. Madonna popularized the trend and bought it to the forefront. Soon the bindi reached the make-up boxes of the rich and famous Eastern wisdom seeking ‘Westerner” and the out of the box renegade trendsetters. All bowed down to the bindi glory.
What is it about this 500 year old body adornment ritual that is relevant and appropriate to us even today? What is the vindication behind its ever increasing mass and global appeal?
Generically speaking, it’s for anyone looking to add some color and sparkle to the mundane without making a big style commitment.
Scientifically speaking, the very positioning of the bindi between the brows (Bhrumadya) is significant. Swami Muktanand calls it the “Guru’s Seat.” This is the spot where one focuses his gaze during meditative practice. Applying the bindi in this location is out of respect for the inner guru residing in all of us. The inner guru helps overcome the limiting traits of human nature and allows us to have a broader vision concerning ourselves and the cosmos.
Traditionally, Bhrumadya (where bindi is placed) is the seat of latent wisdom and is knows as the sixth chakra ‘Ajna,’ also knows as the third eye implying command. A round bindi dot thus become a visual and vivid manifestation of this third eye.
The Ajna chakra is the seat of concealed wisdom wherein all experience is gathered in total concentration. During meditation, the Kundalini or latent energy at the base of the spine rises to the point of ‘Sahsrara’—the seventh chakra situated in the head. According to Hinduism, the Ajna chakra is the exit point for Kundalini energy. The bindi is said to keep possession of this potential energy and strengthen it.
So many symbolic and cultural ramifications makes the bindi more than just an old and existing form of body art and adornment. It allows you to embrace your feminine side, yet makes you feel powerful and formidable instantly. Putting a bindi on puts me in control of myself and the world around me, as it grounds and transforms at the same time.
It is transcendental—a vivid reminder of my ‘Inner Guru’ and its relentless potential. The power lies in your hand, and in the tiny dot on your head.
The dot on my mothers forehead is a ceaseless source of inspiration that whispers to me:
”You are and can be all that you want to be, as all the power in the universe lies within you. You can aim to reach for the stars. And they shall be yours…”
Jasmine Seera Nanda hails from the birthplace of yoga and alternate medicine. She holds a graduate degree in sociology and works as a freelance painter. She calls herself on a self confessed sabbatical where she quit her cushioned banking job to discover the glee and rapture of daily life,away from corporate ethos. As someone who couldn’t even touch her toes before she began her practice,she believes yoga has brought her on the path to self discovery and acceptance. She aims to strengthen her practice this year. Her plan is to reverse the trend of fitness in her country which is becoming increasingly ‘Health club’ centered. She hopes to be able to achieve that and more through her Yoga.
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Assistant Editor: Lacy Ramunno
Ed: Brianna Bemel
(photo sources: KellyS | Flicker & Jasmine Nanda)