Hindu women are acquainted with the words ‘sindoor’ and ‘bindi’ and the relative importance of these markings in their lives. This article explores what these two terms are and familiarises readers with their significance and application. An important section of Hindu marriage rituals is the ‘sindoor dana’ ceremony, the moment when the bridegroom applies sindoor at the parting of the bride’s hair, also known as the bride’s maang.

This red/orange red powder is first applied at this moment and thereafter the bride is expected to apply it daily. However, this tradition is not followed strictly by all Hindu brides today. For many Hindu brides, this is just a symbolic wedding ritual that is not repeated. The sindoor is safely stored, however.

Symbolism of Sindoor

The bright red colour of the sindoor symbolizes the energy and passion of married life. It is also believed that its application in the parting of the hair symbolizes the red river of life. In India, in the state of Bihar, the colour of sindoor is more orange than red. The application of sindoor is a tradition that goes back to thousands of years. Even female figurines excavated from the Harappan caves are seen with traces of sindoor.

There are different ways in which sindoor is applied by married women. While some apply it all along the parting of their hair, others apply only a tiny dot at the point where the parting of their hair meets the forehead. Some even use a sindoor paste instead of powder. It is believed that with the application of sindoor, women hope for the longevity of their husband’s life.

Consequently, when a woman is widowed her sindoor is removed. This is usually done by her mother-in-law or her sister-in-law. Along with this, the woman has to remove other symbols of her marital status such as her bangles, nose ring, toe ring and so on.

Symbolism of Bindi (Dot)

Another item of dressing that was originally worn only by married women is the bindi or dot. The word bindi comes from the Sanskrit word ‘bindu’, meaning dot. While sindoor is worn by married ladies alone, bindis are worn by both married and unmarried women today.

Traditionally, bindis were made of vermillion and were a deep red or maroon in colour. It took considerable expertise to create the perfect round dot on the forehead. However, over the years, bindis have become great decorative ornaments and nowadays they are available in various colours, shapes, sizes and with shiny stones in them. The most popular bindis today are the sticker/adhesive bindis made of felt. These are disposable and can be stuck to the forehead.

In recent years, sporting a bindi is akin to a fashion statement and nowadays it is worn by people belonging to different religions, residing in different regions of the world. The placement of the bindi is of some importance. It is placed on the forehead between the two eyebrows and this unique positioning of the bindi is believed to be at the sixth chakra or the ajna, an area of concealed wisdom. This gives energy and promotes the concentration powers of the wearer. It is also believed that the bindi acts as a protector of the wearer.

Last updated on 13 August 2012