Reclaim the Bindi

All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved

I close my eyes and lower my head as she lightly taps the tip of her reddened ring finger in between my eyebrows. It feels cold – but only for a second – and quickly adjusts to my body heat. I open my eyes, smile and walk away with the sensation of her fingertip lightly pulsing on my forehead.

When I was a child, I used to rub it off with my sleeve in case anyone would ask why I wore a “Paki dot.” I felt ashamed. I wanted to hide the red dot and everything that it tied me to. Little Indian women in chiffon saris who had long hair down to their toes, who smelt of cooking and didn’t speak good English. Faceless Indian women who were kept under the thumb by their husbands and families.

Tilak. Kunkuma. Bindi. In different regions it goes by many names and comes in different sizes, pastes and colours. It’s amazing how something as small as a bindi has survived centuries and holds feminine power, energy and intellect but also enhances South Asian beauty.

Despite its deeply beautiful and spiritual meaning that roots us to a vibrant heritage, we choose to shun it and silence that part of us. We smudge it with our sleeves, ask for a teeny tiny bindi that no one will notice because we want to show that we’ve integrated and have settled in. After all: we’re not one of those God-awful brown people who smell of curry and probably came here for a passport!

There are many bloggers and individuals (of all ethnic backgrounds) who naively say: “Oh it’s not culture appropriation! I’m appreciating it!” – I hate to burst your bubble but you’re not. It’s an unequal exchange where a dominant Western culture presses itself onto cultures and taking away symbols which are deemed precious to that minority culture.

It’s an imbalance of power that still remains between cultures that have been colonised and the ex-colonisers.

While many think that Selena Gomez and wide-eyed festival goers who wear bindis is a sign of South Asian culture being “mainstreamed” and “accepted” in Western culture please consider this. Do they even know what a bindi means? Have you ever stopped think why they can wear it without any issues but Indian women can’t? It’s not a mainstream fashion accessory to wear on your forehead and say: “Oh my God Becky! We’re so exotic and trendy!”

To those who think that I’m overreacting: non-Hindu women and popstars who choose to wear the bindi do so because they are universally accepted and idolised. They don’t get weird stares in the street or given side long dirty looks or get asked: “Are you wearing that dot because it’s a special festival?” How many Indian women – including myself – feel confident enough to go out into the City or to parties wearing a bindi or their traditional dress? Is it something that we would even dream of doing? Probably not which is a shame because we have so much to be proud of.

It’s also quite shameful at how many South Asian women don’t know the symbolism of a bindi but buy multi-pack diamonté bindis  from Green Street for weddings. So how we can get angry and feel offended when we see pop stars and non-Hindu women wearing a bindi when we ourselves don’t know what the bindi means? Have we really moved so far away from our heritage that we ourselves have forgotten why we say/do/believe certain things?

So whilst I think that South Asians have bigger fish to fry (femicide, acid attacks, forced marriage, honour killings and educating our girls) I will not sit back and allow a piece of my heritage, which I hold close to my heart, be mainstreamed by the majority who won’t accept the minority groups who created it. I will stand my ground and let my voice be heard before that gets turned into a fashion accessory.




6 thoughts on “Reclaim the Bindi

  1. Sadly the Bindi is fast fading. Even in the good old Bollywood days you could see the bindi being worn by actresses alike…Sri Devi, Jaya Prada, Maduri Dixit..but to name a few. Now you will be lucky if today’s actresses wear barely enough clothes.
    I love the Bindi, for me it’s sophisticated.
    So tell tell, what is the story behind the bindi?


    • It is fading quickly, purely because so many of us don’t even know what symbolises.
      In my family we don’t wear the costume bindis and usually just have a tilak done. Nevertheless, it’s a massive part of my heritage that I so proud of because it has survived centuries and is quintessentially South Asian (especially amongst Hindu women).

      It doesn’t bother me if today’s actresses cover up or not; that’s their bodies and their decisions to wear such clothing.
      However, I do feel that both in the motherland the Diaspora, we are starting to forget – and not really care about – the beauty and details of what is a vibrant, varied and rare heritage.
      This is what concerns me.


  2. I can certainly relate to your thoughts but in relation to South Asian clothing. I remember getting the odd searing comment flung my way every now and then when I wore Shalwaar Kameez on non-uniform day during my Primary/Secondary school years. And then people like Iggy Azalea come along donning South Asian attire and suddenly it’s cool to dress like a brown person.


    • Thanks for the comment and I agree! When I saw Iggy wearing South Asian clothes I was gobsmacked (and not in a good way).
      It just felt like a slap in the face; the same people who mock South Asians and abuse them for not “fitting in” and being different are the same ones wearing our clothing and modifying it.

      Go you for wearing the shalwar kameez – I used to go dressed in a lengha and/ or a salwar kameez on non-uniform day too (no effs given) xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Would it be considered disrespectful if I wear bindi for a meditative/Chakra opening/ayurvedic reasons. I respect Hinduism greatly but I don’t actually identify fully with any religion.


    • Hi thanks for asking this question. As someone who also practises meditation (transmission and Chakra opening) I’ve never worn a bindi – there’s no requirement to wear a bindi from what I know. However, I personally feel that if wearing a bindi helps with your meditation – as a focal point of energy – and is only worn during your meditation sessions, I wouldn’t view it as disrespectful.
      It only becomes disrespectful if a bindi is worn as a fashion accessory without very little to no thought behind its significance.
      Thank you for asking me this question 🙂 always happy to help and learn of others also practising similar forms of meditation.
      Chayya x


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