“What does the bindi mean? 

I can no longer count how many women have asked me this question.  It’s a tricky question because the answer that follows never fails to disappoint.

“It doesn’t signify anything,  It’s just jewelry.”  I say, waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

 “but only married women wear it right?”

“Everyone wears them.  It’s just decoration, like make up or jewelry.”

Her face falls in disappointment.

I always thought the bindi was a symbol for marriage. I remember feeling rather let down when I learned there was no real significance to the bindi.  I loved the idea of a stronger visual symbol of marriage, and a bindi would be perfect for that.  You can’t get much clearer than a dot in the center of your forehead.  It certainly would come in handy for that overly rambunctious boy across the street, planning the world next greatest pickup line.

My  non-Indian friends and I are left hoping.  While bindis have a history of more symbolism and were once a mark made from a colorful powder called vermilion, these days you can buy envelopes of adhesive bindi stickers that come in all sorts of styles, from a simple red or black felt circle, to more elabrate designs and gems. How do you know what style to wear? By whatever matches your outfit of course.

Indian women wear bindis low on their forehead, almost between the eyebrows. Although there is no set rule for placement, putting it closer to the center of your forehead will look odd.

Hindu women do have a symbol of marriage very similar to the bindi. Many of them wear a bright red powder called vermillion in their hair, along the part line.  Hindu men also wear vermilion on their forehead after attending temple or during religious ceremonies.  Vermilion is also placed on the forehead of loved ones upon welcoming them back home.

I have a box full of bindis.  I’ve sorted them between plain felt bindis and bejeweled bindis.  They’ll last three or four uses and I’ll remove them and stick them to my mirror for future use.  My dressing table mirror is bordered with once or twice used bindis awaiting their next go around.

I’ve kept the bindis I wore during my Indian wedding.  Though I haven’t worn them again as I’m afraid of them falling off and being lost forever.  Wedding style bindi is much more decorative, often having one center bindi, then lining the eyebrows with smaller decorative ones.  Mine was a design of stone adhesive bindis alternating with small dots of vermilion.

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