What is the significance behind a bindi? Is it okay to wear for fashion or costume purposes. Do we need a Bindi Ban?! Or is it okay for non Indians to wear this? What is Cultural Appropriation?
“Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. … This view distinguishes outright theft of cultural artifacts or exotic stereotyping from more benign borrowing or appreciation.”
Is all this criticism really necessary? Or do we simply need to raise awareness on how to RESPECTFULLY adopt things into fashion trends?
Call me old but i’d never really heard of this Coachella thing, but im just not really into festivals and all that, but a few comments i’ve heard here and there about culture and Coachella has got me wanting to know you guys opinions…And if you really know what the bindi/chandlo is all about?
I mean how many of you readers know the significance of the Bindi?
Typically you think of a Bindi as a glittery diamonte sparkly thing to adorn or go with your saree. But theres actually a lot more to it!
I don’t consider myself particularly religious per say but I do like to feel that I am spiritually connected to something supreme.
The Bindi or tilak chandlo or kumkum really does have a spiritual part in a Hindu’s everyday life.
Be that applying it for your morning pooja or for temple darshan/festivals.
This is placed in the place of the third eye chakra (Ajna Chakra). This is the Bhrumadya Bindu / Drishthi. In Sanskrit Bhru means Brows and Madhya means centre. Hence Bhrumadya. And Bindu means point.
This is the site where one can lose their ego (Ahamkara) or individuality and achieve self realization(Atma Jnana). Reaching the highest level of spirituality and becoming one with the supreme.
This is the site which releases the Kundalini Energy.
For only with self realization and detachment from this world of maya (illusions) can one truly achieve Moksha or liberation from the cycle of rebirth (samsar). It is also believed that this is the entry and exist site of our jivaatma or soul.
Woooahhhh im going in too deep…. it’s all that A-level Sanatan Dharma studies kicking back in from years ago.
But there really is a deep significance to the bindi!
Its not just a fashion accessory, so I can totally understand why many Indians get touchy about this.
Traditionally married women wear the red dot to signify their bond, fertility and devotion towards their husband. This is said to derive from the ancient Aryan traditions. Where a groom would apply a drop of his own blood onto his brides forehead.
Unmarried women also wear Bindis for similar prosperity reasons. But widows however do not wear a Bindi.
It also has a symbolism in society or in ancient social realms. There are four main categories in this Varna system. This simply defines that all people are different, and different people will fit well into different aspects of society. We all need each other to work! So don’t get all stupid on me and start thinking of it as a hierarchy or caste system per say. And all though it isn’t followed in rural or modern areas of India there is some deeper meaning behind this but that’s another story and back to the Bindis…
Brahmins generally would have worn a tilak of sandalwood/chandan to signify purity.
The Kshatriyas or warrior sects would wear red to signify valor.
The Vaishyas or business men would wear a yellow sandalwood or turmeric tilaks to signify prosperity.
And the Shudras or service class would wear a black tilak to signify their service to the society.
According to Vedic texts there are also four kinds of shapes they would commonly do.
Brahmins tilak – Urdhapundra – now it is more of a U-shaped tilak
Kshatriya tilak – Ardhachandra – half moon tilak, with a bindi or circular mark in middle of the half arc.
Vaishya tilak – Tripundra – three arc-like vertical lines on the forehead with a circular mark on top of it
Shudra tilak – Partal – large circular mark on forehead.
But now we typically do our tilaks according to our religious group.
Shaivates or Lord Shiva devotees commonly use vibhuti or ash in three horizontal lines.
Vaishnavas Lord Vishnu and Shree Krishna devotees apply clay commonly from the rivers such as Yamuna or vrindavan mixed with sandalwood forming a u shape.
Raj tilaks or honouring, invitations to prominent leaders or personalities is often done with a vertical line of kumkum. Grooms on their wedding days are also seen with this.
Swaminaryan tilak is a U shapd with the Red dot on the Ajna chakra point.
And so forth…
Or nowadays a simple colored dot to match our saree or traditional attire. (Yes thats me!)
What do we use to make these tilaks?
Kumkum is a mixture made from turmeric and Lime. The Lime changes the color of the Orange Turmeric to a deep Red. This mixture relaxes the muscles of the forehead and provides instant relief. Turmeric itself has soo many great benefits when applied topically. This mixture itself has the ability to absorb water and therefore removes any impurities and mucous logged in the sinuses.
The deep red color is known to retain positive energy and symbolize prosperity and luck.
Chandan is known for its cooling properties. This point on our forehead has the highest convergence of nerves and therefore makes it a very sensitive place. Cooling this region helps keep the mind calm and focused.
Ash also has the similar effects of the above two and the material that is burnt to make the ash has further more positive effects on the body. Applying vibhuti or bhasma is said to keep negativity and evil thoughts away.
The sticker versions that we commonly called bindis are pretty much a convenience (no need for powders and pastes to be made) and fashionable thing (to match your outfit). But I guess in general it defines your religious background.
Why this particular spot on the forehead?
Apart from its spiritual and chakra reasoning there are many health benefits to this particular point.
It is a known acupressure point as its has a convergence of blood and nerve vessels directly here. And when massaged this can instantly relive a headache or migraine. This point on the forehead also helps clear up sinuses.
This point can also help stimulate the muscles of the face and increase blood flow to the area. The supratrochlear artery and veins underlines to all this. And it’s the place of the supratrochlear nerve.
This massage point is commonly used in Ayurvedic treatments like the panchakarma or shirodhara. (This is my absolute favorite Ayurvedic treatment, it just gives such an immense feeling of calm to the body its in explainable book yourself in for this!!!)
Massaging this point on a daily basis helps relieve tension in the muscles and nerves in this area leaving you with a calming and more focused mindset. Making it great for meditation and promoting general peace.
Has someone ever given you a kiss right on this spot and you get that warm fuzzy feeling? Yeap theres also a vedic reasoning behind that too. Known as the third eye kiss, this spot activates the pineal and piturity glands. and brings a sense of security and well-being to the receiver.
Back to the western world, comparing it to the symbolism behind the Bindi, even us Indians have started to use the Bindi as a fashion accessory. We end up choosing the snazzy glittery diamonds to match our saree piece rather than a traditional dot.
As a British Indian born in the UK I have been always been taught to wear a Bindi when wearing traditional attire or simply when going to the temple. I have always known to respect that there is a significance behind the Bindi but the true reality is that the Bindi is really just a decorative thing nowadays. Howeve the TILAK CHANDLO is very much a religious an spiritual thing! I would be highly offended if someone decided to wear this to a bar or club! So really its all about the context of the wearer.
So I was reading up about #ReclaimtheBindi hash tag which arose a good few years back about the religious and cultural appropriation of the use of Bindis.
Now not just the bindi or sari but whats your opinion on the native American headdress, geisha outfits, but even henna tattoos have cultural significance.
Personally if something is worn in a respectful manner I don’t think it really matters. I guess they should try to understand the symbolism behind it before they flaunt it off fashionably. YES THE BINDI SHOULDNT BE WORN SEDUCTIVELY BUT WHATS GOING ON HERE THEN EY….
I mean you see it in bollywood everyday. Do you not. These semi naked women in item songs with a Bindi, is that not ruining the purity of it? Or is that okay cos shes brown or of Asian descent?
Have we not ruined the sanctity of this ourselves?
Can u hardly blame the westerners wanting a glimpse of bollywood glamour when we flaunt it this way ourselves???
Conflict is two sided and if you are going to respectfully use cultural things then you should have knowledge yourself to be able to explain to those who do not understand your reasons behind so.
I think RESPECT is the key word here. Indian culture is beautiful, and to share it with the world is something even more beautiful. We have shy-ied away our whole lives and now when were actually being able to spread the beauty of Hinduism why do people shunt back? Like the coldplay music video, a lot of people disagreed with this, but all they did was show the beauty of India!? What is the big deal?! I felt that it showed India as vibrant, diverse and breathtakingly beautiful.
TRENDS & FASHION
Come to think of it though Henna, Head Pieces, Bindis and Coconut Oil may have been the very reasons to be bullied in school. Ironically this in present day is pretty trendy. These exact things defined us as “INDIAN”. I guess what people find offensive is ….”They want the flavor but not the smell. They want the culture but not you,” -Forest Penguin.
Another person Murqhy wrote “It got to the point where I hated myself and my heritage. I started to hate the things that I once loved about myself. I began to distance myself from the things that made me Indian”
I’m sorry, then your a pretty pathetic excuse of an Indian. If you shy away from your culture purely because others don’t seem to accept the way you are. Fair play I didn’t and still don’t go around wearing a Bindi with my western clothes, purely because I don’t find that it defines me as a person. But I know many people which do wear a small kumkum dot on a daily life, despite being born and brought up in the UK. I say each to their OWN and I rate these people for not shying away from their personality!
I think its great that our culture and knowledge is being spread around the western world.
I find it more offensive when people call themselves “YOGIS or YOGINI’S” on instagram just cos they’re able to do a few Asanas and in a scenic view. There is alot more to being a YOGI, than just practising yoga!!!!!
Or stick Ganesh to practically anything from bracelets to underwear and think this is acceptable! IT IS NOT! This is religious not a fashion tool or print to stick anywhere! It is not okay for you to wear this to full moon party’s and have alcohol drenching your tops with Ganesh or Shiva on! So please be respectful!
I love Perez Hiltons post this year http://perezhilton.com/cocoperez/2017-04-10-how-not-to-be-offensive-at-coachella#.WPieG0htnIU
But isn’t this a bit extreme. Indian culture is beautiful! And why should it not be shared with the rest of the world! If its done respectfully and with no ill intent I think its absolutely fine.
Would it be okay if I wore a Bindi to a festival? simply because i’m brown its okay?
We live in a multicultural world nowadays. Were all mixed from different backgrounds here and there. I’m sure you have something in your wardrobe which has a lot more hidden depth to it than you think, maybe that silk kimono robe? (“The kimono is always used in important festival or formal moments, it is the representative of polite and a very formal clothing”) Whereas you may wear this to lounge around in with skimpy lingerie? Is that not disrespectful?
I think its fab that people and bloggers are creating awareness for appreciation of cultures. I don’t agree with Bindis being worn anywhere else apart from the forehead. But is a sparkly dazzly thing even considered a true spiritual significance Bindi anymore?
If celebs or people are sporting cultural or religious apparel as long as its done respectfully and not shared in a demeaning, derogatory or racist manner, I don’t see what the big issue is? They are obviously drawn to find it beautiful. And it is beautiful!
This is my opinion and what I primarily think. Everyone’s open to their own mindset. But please share your opinions on the whole thing.
PS Im loving how Jeremy Scott the Fashion designer is sporting a Kutchi Ethnic jacket at this years Coachella 2017. He looks fab and hopefully people will love this embroidery as much I do. Im of Kutch descent and I don’t find this offensive at all.
Sometimes you need a celebrity to make trends viral and if people want to buy these beautifully hand embroidery Kutch handicrafts in the western world what’s wrong with that? Culture & religions should be respected regardless of if they belong in that particular culture themselves. There both very different and both require RESPECT whether your Indian or not!
I’m not saying I know everything and extremely knowledgeable in culture and religion and I may have said some things that you might find wrong in this blog post, let me know your opinions…