Hindu Woman Praying

The fabulous Sarah and Lexie

Hindu Attire

A woman wearing a traditional Indian "Kathakali" dress lights a "diya" or clay lamp during the Shani Jayanthi festival at a Hindu temple in Nerul, on the outskirts of Mumbai, June 1, 2011. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Shani, one of the nine planets in Hindu mythology. The festival was celebrated at the temple by the lighting of 100,000 clay lamps by devotees, a temple official said. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (INDIA - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY

What is a Bindi?

One of the most recognizable items in Hinduism is the bindi, a dot worn on women's foreheads. It is a form of thetilak, a symbolic mark worn by many Hindu men and women, but has less religious connotations than other tilaks.

An Indian woman with a shy smile and bindi.
Photo: Paula Rey.

Bindis on a mother and daughter. Photo: digitaura.

Young woman with decorative bindi.
Photo: Faraz Usmani.

Young woman with bindi. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage.

Traditionally, the bindi is worn on the forehead of married Hindu women. It symbolizes female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands. Bindis are traditionally a simple mark made with the paste of colored sandalwood, sindoor or turmeric. The bindi is most commonly a red dot made with vermilion.

In addition, the bindi is a way of accentuating the third eye, the area between the eyebrows where attention is focused during meditation. Men and women often apply a tilak after a puja ritual or on other religious occasions as a way of invoking religious feelings, concentration and focus. Sometimes a woman's bindi represents sectarian affiliation, like the men's tilak, but this is less common.

More recently, the bindihas become primarily a decorative accessory and is worn by unmarried girls and non-Hindu women. It is also no longer restricted in color or shape, and self-adhesive bindis made from felt in various designs and colors are common. Bindi styles often vary by the area of India in which they are worn