I remember the time I took a tiny mirror box from my amma’s dressing table full of red powder, which she used to wear on her forehead by mixing melted wax in it. That red powder was called kum kum which is worn as a bindi on the center of the forehead in between the eyebrows.
The term Bindi was derived from the Sanskrit word Bindu meaning “dot, point or a small particle”, which is also recognized as tilak. In India, wearing a bindi among men and women is a symbol of India’s culture and also has a historical aspect. One may identify bindi as a crimson mark on the forehead of people while going to mandir or any cultural celebration like a wedding ceremony. However, nowadays there can be many variations to the traditional bindi.
Now the question is why is it only worn on the forehead? It is believed that the creation of human beings has originated from the centre of the forehead where bindi is worn and it's a sacred symbol of the cosmos. Asians have a strong belief that bindi is the dot around which mandla is created which signifies the whole universe and represents the third eye. It also helps in concentrating well and contracting energy.
The third eye chakra also known as Ajna chakra in Hinduism and Jainism has a deep connection to mythological history. Ideals of buddhist goddess Tara can be seen with a Ajna Bharumadhy Bindu on her forehead. Bhrumadhya is a place where bindi is worn which is referred to as a third eye and centre of consciousness.
Every state of India has its own style and substance of which bindi is made. You can see people from south India wearing bindi of white colour, it is made up of sandalwood (chandan). Brides of Bengal wear red and white bindi, that white bindi is also made up of sandalwood. Application of chandan ( sandalwood paste ) bindi is believed to bring good fortune and helps one to stay calm and composed.
Apart from beautiful jewelry, clothes, and makeup, bindi is the element that adds charm. Different colours of bindi have different reasons, red colour and represent honour, love and prosperity. It is worn for the representation of the third eye and concentration, generally made up of sindoor and kum kum .
The black colour bindi is worn as a holistic medicine which is made up from herbs . People wear bindi with different basic materials like charcoal, turmeric, cow dung , clay and ashes ( vibhuti ). Vibhuti is worn on the forehead as well as on the area around the neck which is believed to keep oneself free from any type of disease (rog-mukt).
In earlier times, tilak was considered to be a ceremony among upper caste people, the kings used to wear it before any specific event to ward off bad luck. Bindi, an element of mythological and cultural significance also has many health benefits like the area on which bindi is worn is considered a center of awakening, which can further lead to bring balance in life. Acupressure from bindis is said to release headache strengthens face muscles and reduces wrinkles.
Over time, wearing bindi for religious or cultural reasons has changed into fashion. Earlier people used to wear bindi made up of paste and powders but now you can see the beauty industry taking over with the glue bindi. The reason behind the evolution of glue bindi was durability. In the present, the bindi has emerged as a style statement with young women sporting it on indo-western outfits.