What is a Bindi?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A bindi is a mark on the forehead, traditionally worn by Hindu women, although women of all religions and nationalities wear them as decorations. In the Hindu religion, the bindi is an important symbolic mark, and it is considered to be highly auspicious. Men may also bear such markings, typically known as tilaks or tikas. There are a number of different variations on the classic bindi worn around the world.

Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

Among Hindus, a tilak is an important religious symbol. It may take the form of a dot, an elongated pear shape, or a series of lines on or around the forehead. These marks may be used to indicate traditional affiliations, and they are worn on special occasions, special ceremonies, and sometimes daily as well, depending on the individual. Among women, the bindi is worn after marriage, and an additional auspicious mark may be made further up the forehead, close to the hairline.

According to the Hindu religion, the bindi marks the sixth chakra, an important source of power and balance. A mark on the site facilitates the flow of energy, and also helps to keep demons away. Women may make bindis from ash and colored paste, or they may wear decorative jewelery on the site. Commonly, a bindi takes the form of a red dot, reflecting the origin of the word, bindu in Sanskrit, meaning “drop.”

People who are not Hindu may wear a bindi as well, usually as a purely decorative item or beauty mark. Many women in the West like to wear bindis on festive and formal occasions, usually preferring jeweled bindis which can be pasted on the forehead. The mark may also be used as a religious symbol among some smaller sects around the world, appearing in a variety of shapes and colors. Many yogis and yoginis in the West also wear bindis to symbolize their affiliation with the Hindu religion, even if they are not practicing Hindus.

There are a number of different names for the sacred mark, including pottu, agna, and teep. A true bindi should be a circular mark, although the widespread use of the term for different shapes has corrupted the meaning slightly. In nations which protect religious freedom for their citizens, it is not uncommon to see a bindi on the forehead of a Hindu at work or school, making him or her more readily identifiable to other Hindu members of the community.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


You should not wear a bindi just because it is pretty. It does have a religious importance that you are ignoring. The article does not approve of that; it merely states that some do it. This is called cultural appropriation and is offensive.


I don't know about elsewhere, but I think that in India, the bindi has been an item of identity. I saw a film about Indian partition and the violence that took place during and after.

This is just one example but, in the film, a Muslim woman was wearing a bindi when she had to leave the house so that she would be identified as a Hindu and no one would bother her.

I don't think people want the bindi to have a religious connotation, but I think it clearly does.


My Indian friend is a Catholic. She doesn't wear a bindi regularly, but she wears a decorative bindi on Indian holidays. I go to the Diwali festival with her every year and we both wear bindis that match with our outfit.

I think bindi is a very beautiful decoration. It looks very feminine and brings attention to the eyes. As the articles mentioned, people don't need to be affiliated with the Hindu religion to wear it. You can wear it just because you think it's pretty.


It took me such a long time to figure out what the difference between bindi and sindoor is. But I've finally figured it out! All Hindu women can wear a bindi, regardless of whether they are married or not. It is applied between the two eyebrows.

Sindoor is a red marking in the hair parting and only married women can do this. Hindu women generally part their hair in the middle and a little bit of the red sindoor powder is applied with the thumb.

I used to think that all women who wear a bindi are married, but that's not the case. Married women can have both bindi and sindoor on though.

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