Monday, February 13, 2012

Bindi-The Forehead Art


Bindi (Hindi) or Bottu(Telugu) is the first thing you notice about an Indian Woman. It is one of the forms of make up of Indian women. This is a very ancient custom or tradition carried over the years.


It is the  dot worn by the Hindu women on their forehead which is one of the things that sets them apart from all the other women in the world. Bindi is derived from the sanskrit word Bindu meaning dot.

It is also known as Sindhoor (Hindi) Sindhooram(Telugu), Kumkuma Bottu(Telugu), Tilakam or Tilakam Bottu (Telugu).  Sindhoor means vermilion an orange coloured Mercuric sulphide. Word Sindhoor is derived from "Sindhu". Sindhu actually means an Ocean, is the famous River Sindhu Or Indus on the banks of which the ancient Indus Valley civilisation was born. It is the largest ancient civilization in the world. India got its name from that. You can read about it here:

This is one of the 16 items of make up Indian women adorn themselves with since ancient times. What are these 16 items I will deal with in a separate post. In the above picture you can see the traditional makeup of Indian women.

Who wears Bindi?

Both Women and men wear it. 

Women wear it since their birth, but it gains more significance when she gets married. A married woman whose husband is alive must wear Bindi on the forehead. They have to wear red powder (kumkum) in the partition of their hair. This is know as Mang ka tika or Sindhoor and indicates that the woman is married. When a woman gets married, her husband fills the partition of her hair with red coloured powder(kumkum) as part of the ceremony and she has to wear it for the rest of her life as long as her husband is alive. See it here:

Widows don't wear the red coloured dot. But there is lot of controversy on this aspect. Some say it is no where written in our customs that widows are forbidden to wear Bindi. But the general practice in olden days was they did not wear the red or other coloured bindis. Now no one is following this. It is a personal choice.

Shape of Bindi:

It is generally round in shape but other shapes like oval, long line etc are also worn by women. Men also wear round dot or long lined ones. Women wear the bindis in different shapes. We will talk about this in detail later.

Colour of Bindi:

Mostly in scarlet, red, maroon various shades of red or orange colour. Black, yellow and white are also used for bindi but for different reasons and occassions.

Material used: 

Sindhoor or vermillion, an orange coloured mercuric suphide was used. 

Traditionally Kumkum-the red coloured powder was obtained by mixing Turmeric with lime. This gives a red coloured powder. This was mixed with various herbs for the health of the body or the skin. Royalty used to mix musk with these powders for fragrance as well as for health reasons. Similarly, ground lotus stamens or other dried fragrant flowers like roses jasmine etc is also used.

Sacred Ash known as Vibhooti which is white or ash in colour is also used.  Generally the ash is obtained from the Yagya kund or the place where the herbs, certain types of wood like sandal wood and other ingredients along with ghee are offered to Gods by burning them in the holy fire.

Sandal wood paste is used for cooling affect and other health reasons. Widows specially use the sandal wood paste as Bindi.

The Kumkum is in powder form and used as it is. But it is mixed with water or other liquids  for painting it on various shapes. Till a few years back liquid Tilakam was sold in markets in red and various other colours which was chemical dye in liquid form. 

Now this has been replaced by stick ons.

How is it applied:

The powder form is applied with fingers. As per the tradition one should apply with middle finger. Match sticks or thin sticks were used for putting Bindis. I remember  the bunch of nails with different shaped heads(strung on to a key ring) for making different shaped bindis, my aunts had. This was first dipped in the gum and pasted on the forehead and then dipped in kumkum powder and carefully placed on the gum. other wise the liquid form of Tilkam was used. I bought a bunch for my sis some time back in Haridwar. I don't know whether she still has it.

Those who are not used to applying the powder, had a sort of gum, which was applied first on which the powder was applied. This helped in holding the powder in shape and also from spreading or smearing.

Watch out for more in my next posts...........

Pin It

No comments: