Kumkum - the great indian bindi

A lot of foreigners think its style and a lot of Indian women don't know why they wear this Bindi. It is an age old tradition prevalent among Indian women to wear a red dot between their eyebrows. Of course with the passing of time, this has taken various forms and shapes and somewhere in this evolution, it has lost its original meaning or function.

Well I myself have experimented a lot, painting tiny stick figures on my forehead, occasionally of a mythological story representing Shiva Nataraja or Tripurantaka for that matter. Its interesting how much that little sketch on my forehead can convey. Yes all this with a backdrop of red smeared on my forehead.

This is kumkum, the original red powder made from turmeric, religiously everytime and taken to temples to dress the Goddess within its walls. It is first offered to the Mother Goddess, covering her sacred feet with mantras, it also dresses her forehead before it is given out to us, who take every particle of dust on her feet as sacred (Soundarya Lahari).

But what is this kumkum all about. Its not about the color red alone. Well infact the sticker bindis have gone way off the mark. Its not for beauty and vanity either. It was meant to ward off any evil intending soul who could hypnotise the woman, that is if she was all that vulnerable. The red dot made of kumkum, worn by both men and women, is powerful and keeps maleficent forces at bay.

But there is more to this. The purity of women could be seen in their eyes, pure love for the Gods they worshiped and the power of their worship glistened in their eyes. Very few got to really see the power in these eyes, and those who did experienced something totally different. This was when they looked up to her face without a kumkum. When she wore it, it brought power between her eyes, to ward off all evil lookers so that they would just bow to her in humility.

This power does not let any man stare her in the eyes for too long with wrong intentions in his mind. That is the power in her eyes, enhanced by the presence of vermillion between her brow. It doesn't let a man stare at her too long for she radiates the Goddess herself in all purity.

So much in so less, a red dot can carry such power and now it has been reduced to a mere sticker. Such is the power of kumkum, that needs to be understood by every woman and not be reduced to mere convenience.


JC Joshi said...

As I had indicated elsewhere also, ‘Sahasrara chakra or bandh’ or the house of Moon (Parvati, the second wife of Shiva) had been realized by the Yogis (with Krishna, meaning Black, as the King of the Yogis) at the highest position in the head of the human form. And, the ‘Ajna chakra’ or bandh, i.e., ‘lock’ , as the house of the 'commander', Shiva or Earth, with green colour as its essence at the location where forehead joins the nose, a very important ‘lock’ that alone, when opened, after crossing all other intervening locks allows Siddhi or ‘enlightenment’ to be achieved by the seeker. Also, the inner core of earth, Kali, also meaning black, the original consort of Shiva, is shown with her tongue painted as red as its essence, with its location between the tip of the tail-end (Mooladhar chakra or bandh) and navel (Swadhistahan chakra or bandh) in the human form.

With the above background, Yogis attempted three-in-one exercises - to cover physical, mental and spiritual axes around which the human form evolves - to make energy in lower locks to reach the Ajna chakra, i.e., the meeting of Kali with Shiva or union of red with green to result in Krishna, just as the red hot lava flow, when cooled on contact with surface of earth, turns black, as a practical example in ‘Nature’. Thus the red coloured dot or bindi was used by married females as a physical aid to help energy to be raised up to the desired level. The other basic need was to reach for some time at least each and every day a thoughtless or zero stage, the ‘Truth’ of real time as being zero, also called ‘surrender in Krishna’ or ‘meditation’.

Of course, even today bindi is generally used ritually, with the necessary basic exercise wanting due to lack of knowledge, as also faith.

JC Joshi said...

Having seen the importance of a dot in red colour, a sign of fertility for the Ardhangini or the wife, with the parallel in ‘Nature’ of the lava flows increasing the fertility of the soil, other colours in clothings or gemstones/ metal rings/ parts of vegetation, and so on, were also suggested by Astrologers as knowledge advanced with time for any interested male/ female individual, based on one’s particulars of birth, to reach at the likely hurdle creating colours that needed reinforcement - one each for all the three axes of the anticipated development, i.e., ‘Shiva’s Trishool’.

In view of the above, with advancement in knowledge of creation, it would be seen that ‘tilak’ or lines or dots on foreheads are used ritually, drawn with finger-tips even today regularly or on certain auspicious occasions - mostly in white, yellow and/ or red by some. Black dots are generally put near one of the temples on the foreheads of infants to keep the ‘evil’ souls away. In Manipur I saw some Vaishnavite girls having a long white line from the tip of the nose to the top of the forehead. It is noticed that in Bhagwadgita also Krishna advised Arjuna to listen to Him with eyes concentrated at the tip of the nose, perhaps indicating it as the centre of the face, thus stressing on the need to ever remain conscious of the centre of the universe or Naadbindu. Thus nose finds special attention in Hindu society as a sign of respect. The expression, ‘Getting one’s nose cut’, as also used in Ramayana for Ravan’s sister, Surpanakha, indicates a person who loses respect in the society. Yogis concentrated at the Ajna Chakra with eyes closed, starting from the tip of the nose, thus indicating the shift in Earth’s location when solar system was created.

abhilash warrier said...


we still are ignorant about the mysterious ways of the ancients. We still have a long, long way to go.

But, I have never seen a more lovable yet powerful face than that of the goddess with a red kumkum on her forehead!

Right now, I am only interested in experiencing it. The answers, if any, will come.

Anonymous said...

It is for your information that Moon reflects both creative and destructive aspects, called by the ancients as the forces of Gauri and Kali respectively.

Destructive, or the absolute blackness of space, or the ‘Truth’, gets ‘reflected’ when we have a New Moon (also reflecting the birth-death cycle of an individual from one New Moon to another). And, the fully lighted side when its entire surface reflects the sunlight on the Full Moon day. However, the waxing and waning nature of Moon - generally compared with frivolous nature of females - is seen during the rest of the month, expressed to the effect, “Dark night follows only four days of moonlight.”
A ‘Hindu’ - the word perhaps evolved from the Sanskrit word ‘Indu’ meaning Moon - should know that the word ‘Purnima’ means Full Moon, a circle or a symbol of completeness or perfection achieved step by step starting from New Moon every month while Guru means the superior one among a particular group – the solar system in this example. Each and every component of ‘Nature’ is serving at one time or the other the function of a Teacher or Guru, which generally implies a senior in knowledge.

Even today, despite downfall of the ancient Indus (Sindhu) Valley Civilization, towards the end of 6th century B.C., the Hindus ritually or mechanically follow the lunar cycle for determination of auspicious days, a calendar developed originally during the ‘Vedic Era’. For, the ‘wise’ ancients had come to know in the long lost past that each man is only a model of the Heavenly Bodies, an instrument designed for serving some useful purpose to the formless Creator - for a limited duration of use - with Moon as the Superior most body among the group of select planets that govern human behaviour. Thus man was realized as a puppet in the hands of the Guru, Ashtbhujadhari or eight handed mother (ma Durga and her ‘tiger’, i.e., planet Earth and some other selected members of the solar system or Mahashiva). The Hindus therefore said that without His will even a leaf cannot flutter!

JC Joshi said...

The above comment, although inadvertantly it appears in the name of Mr Anon, is in reality from me! Sory!

kavitha said...

no problem mr. joshi. i wondered since when did mr.vimanonym start sounding like you, especially when he didnt take to your discussions too well.


JC Joshi said...


Maybe I was unconsciously missing him and wish him all the best. After all God's ways are incomprehensible - as said by Abhi also. And, therefore, one needs to constantly remind oneself that God resides in each and every 'living being', as well as in each 'non living object' - thus categorised by man 'due to lack of knowledge', the reported main cause of wrong actions by humans. I must try to correct myself even if it is a bit late. It is said, "Better late than never."

Best wishes to all!

Anonymous said...

Why can't you speak in 10,000 year old language ...

some people can, some can't and some won't speak.

as it is for language, It is same for bindi too.

I suggest you can find some better word than mass ignorance.

Padmasani said...

Good job Kavitha. Somebody from your generation brings awareness all over again.

Joshiji, apparently you dont have a blog. Can you give me your email ID? Your erudition is interesting.

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