Twenty years ago, I was born on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami. Amma insisted that the first sound that reached my ears was the Gayathri mantra and Appa was given strict instructions to do the honours the minute I reached his hands. After the initial oohing, aahing and commentary about which of my facial features resembled my parents, I was dressed up in clothes that amma had specially picked out for the occasion. But when you are of Indian heritage, dressing up is never complete without that dot, rotund and prominently placed between the brows. So it was placed on my forehead with much ado and that is when I first started wearing a bindi.
Fast forward ten years, my family moved to Australia. My extended family members looked at me with bemusement when they realised that I was planning to attend the first day of my new, Australian school with a bindi and a huge swipe of vibhuti on my forehead. ” Don’t you want to wipe all this stuff of your head before going to school, Divya?” they asked. I responded in the negative and explained that I didn’t see why I should! I was only ten, but even then, the idea that moving across a sea should change any part of my identity or dressing up routine seemed absurd. Of course when I went to school, many of my classmates wanted to know what the black dot on my forehead was and why I had white-out/liquid paper on my forehead! They asked very respectfully, of course and that is when I realised that I did not really have a proper answer to give them apart from a vague, “it’s part of my culture” response.
So why do we wear bindis? The place between the brows, where the bindi is placed is said to be the third eye, or spiritual eye as it is the site of the Ajna chakra. This chakra is responsible for the time in which one finally loses their Ahamkara ( ego and sense of individuality) and becomes self-realised. Daily application of the bindi serves as a reminder of our higher purpose in life and to see everything in the world as one. From a scientific perspective, the site of the bindi is where the pineal gland lies and during the times when pastes like sandalwood, turmeric etc were applied, cooling effects on the body were observed. The composition of the pastes also helped conserve energy lost by the body.
Of the thousands of cultures I could have been born into, Indian culture was the one conferred onto me. For that reason, wearing a bindi is my birthright and I wear it with no shame. It is not a huge part of my identity, but it makes me, me. Not wearing it for the sake of conformity does not really make sense to me. In any case, individuality is a celebrated part of Western culture. And honestly, it is not that big a deal. Most people I’ve met usually don’t even notice it, or think it’s a mole. Choosing to wear a bindi everywhere in a Western society just means that every time you make new friends or expand your social circle, you will have to give a brief 30 second explanation on what it symbolises and you’re good to go. It actually makes for really good conversation when you meet someone new and they ask you about it with curiosity! Saves me from having to have mundane conversations about the weather, or even worse, about sporting teams that I have no clue about:)
Have any of you had interesting experiences with wearing a bindi? Leave a comment down below!
Vijayadashami- the last day of a ten day festival in which the goddess is worshipped and the triumph of good over evil is celebrated, Amma: mother, Appa: father
I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I was born in Malaysia, brought up in Australia and have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading!