At first the bindi was a spot of kum kum powder, which is a red powder made out of a mix of curcuma or saffron and lime. Indians applied it on a glue dot they had previously put between their eyebrows and on the parting of their hair.
Nowadays, bindis are mostly round and red stickers, sometimes shaped as a drop or more sophisticated. Women only wear them to look pretty. But what does it mean?
Similar and different bindis
The spot is not always the same from one forehead to the other.
When it is red or burgundy, it means the woman is married. Otherwise the dot is black. It can be noted that widowed women do not wear it.
When the mark is put on the parting of the hair, it emphasizes the husband's "blood". When men put the dot on their forehead, it is called tika and it symbolizes their religious belonging. The red line circled by a white U mark, called tirunama, refers to Vishnu; the three horizontal lines fronting a red circle are a symbol for Shiva, the God who brings luck.
Behind the dot, a meaning
More generally, the person who wears the bindi is the one who brings luck: it is a welcoming sign. This is why it used to appear only on married women's foreheads, for they were those who brought happiness and well being at home.
In today's South Indian however, it is mostly a detail that beautifies the Indian face, keeping a symbolic lucky-charm value.
The bindi is worn on the 6th chakra, the "third eye": this connecting spot is a centre of energy, it deals with the mind of the person and it affects his or her feelings. This chakra is named Ajna and it is the source of knowledge and wisdom.