One of the most frequently asked questions is “Why Hindus wear dot on the forehead?”. It is one custom which has been part of tradition that can be traced back to remote antiquity. Anytime a curious non-Indian meets an Indian, this is a question they have always genuinely wanted to know the answer for. It is so common that it has to be on Google suggestions list:
But Indians, understandably, take the “dot on forehead” for granted, don’t think much about it, therefore don’t have a good answer. Also, many Indians are disconnected & distanced from their heritage, thanks to the stranglehold of Colonial & Marxist ideologies on society. No wonder then, when my employer graciously offered a forum to enhance cultural awareness among the diverse groups of employees, it is these ill-informed Indians who showed up to represent India and answer some of these questions. It will be preferable if only we will just admit our ignorance instead of infecting others with it. With some extra effort googling, they could have come up with a decent response, like the one below. After skipping a few pages of tripe in Google search results, found this one to be closer to my understanding:
The third-eye “ajna” chakra is represented using the dot between the eyebrows (slightly above). This is the original intent and purpose. … Overtime people generally forgot the original meaning and just maintained the tradition as an aesthetic, beauty mark. In the meantime they also developed various decorative marks to indicate activity, affiliations and social situation. It became just a fashion with an amazing variety available mainly for women now. This practice also spread to other parts of Asia mainly just as a fashion. With the proliferation of new styles and meanings, the original meaning became less important and almost forgotten. … it represents the ajna chakra and applying the mark is supposed to make you aware of your inner potential which you need to explore – that is the intent. [Edited. See full response at Religious Forums.]
Ajna [ājňā] chakra is situated between the eyebrows and slightly above the eyebrow level, as mentioned in the quote above. This is also known as the third-eye chakra, which is the ‘inner’ eye that enables us to ‘look’ within. Ajna means command, power, authority (see more). More details about the chakra-s in a future post.
Let us see what we can learn from the word ‘bindi’ (alternate spelling: ‘bindhi’). Bindi comes from the word Bindu which means point, among other possible meanings. Bindu, in this instance, is the point, the source from where Universe is manifested and later rolls back into, cyclically. This bindu is represented in the middle of yantra-s by a dot, as seen in the Sri Yantra image here. Applying bindi symbolizes bindu, the point from which everything originates and goes back to. At the end of every cycle, when there is no material manifestation in the cosmos, only ‘thing’ that still exists by itself, with bindu, is AUM or OM. OM is not a word, but it is the primordial sound vibration, called nAdha brahman, also known as pranava. So, this connects together ajna, bindu & OM. Ajna chakra’s beeja mantra is OM, for that reason, appropriately. More about OM in a future post. Hence, applying bindi is our daily ritual that reminds us of our divinity and relation with The Source. It is also recommended that we use the right-hand ring finger for applying bindi, as that finger is connected to ajna chakra.
ॐकारं बिन्दु संयुक्तं नित्यं ध्यायन्ति योगिनः ।
कामदं मोक्षदं चैव ॐकाराय नमो नमः ॥
OMkAraM bindu saMyuktaM nityaM dhyAyanti yoginaH |
kAmadaM mokShadaM chaiva OMkArAya namo namaH ||
OM that is together with The Source point, on which the yogis meditate,
provides wish-fulfillment, liberates from the cycle of birth & death, etc
salutations to OM
By the practice of applying bindi we are encouraged to focus on the ajna chakra and chant OM beeja mantra, for liberation.
Hindus tend to ascribe divinity to everything, everywhere. Just as we realize our own divinity and recognize the same in other people, we also see all manifested forms imbued with the same divine principle. Because of this, bindi is applied not just on humans, but on everything from pets, cattle, elephants, books, door frames all the way to computers, monitors, automobiles, and so on. In case you missed while watching the movie, check out the nAmam on na’vi!
Is it OK if I wear bindi?
This is a question often asked by those who want to wear bindi occasionally as a fashion accessory. Some Indians have opined that it is cultural appropriation if White people wear bindi. My opinion is, it is not OK if worn with the intention of mocking, as a racist insult or just as a joke – in these cases it is indeed cultural appropriation. This is pretty much in the same category as wearing Native American costume – seriously insulting. When bindi is worn with no foul intent, it should be fine. Just be aware of what bindi represents: you are divine, not a born sinner. If that contradicts with your ideas of god & religion, it is better to avoid bindi. Let wearing bindi represent that you are ready for a profound change in your worldview which begins by acknowledging your inherent divinity. Also be aware that wearing bindi might make you a target of persecution and violence by racial & religious supremacists, including even in certain parts of India – see Dotbusters, persecution & terrorism.