India has always been portrayed as a melting pot of diversity. A land full of color, traditions, religions, and languages, its culture is attempted to be represented all around the world. But often, its culture is mistakenly mixed with its religion – cultural traditions and religious traditions used interchangeably. As an outsider, it is not wrong to desire to experience some of the India’s colorful culture and the traditional lifestyle they enjoy, but it is important to know the origins of the cultural symbols to know where culture ends, and religion begins and so that we do not unknowingly promote something we do not support. Yet, the widespread trend is for people to adopt symbols without fully realizing the implication of their actions. One such example of Indian culture appropriation, that people are increasingly adorning, is the ‘Bindi’, a forehead decoration or dot(s), that only a few know the religious significance of.
The bindi, originated in the Hindu religion and signifies the abode of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Hindu’s, mostly women, wear it as the third eye of Shiva to ward off bad luck. It it commonly red after a woman gets married, and black if she is a widow. Bindi’s are also often used to identify the different castes and sub sects in Hinduism, within the religious men. For centuries, it has been used by Hindus as a symbol of loyalty, obedience and reverence to their gods.
Even though bindi’s are being used as accessories in this modernistic culture, it still has a lot of significance for the people in cultural India. It is important to understand and be aware of these when wearing embellishments from other cultures. In this case, the bindi denotes reverence to their gods and by adorning it, we too could partake in its representation. It could also be considered offensive, when the cultural and religious significance is not known or respected, and worn as trend, especially when if the minority culture wears it, they are mocked and ridiculed for it. Many times the culture is loved more than the people, which results in exclusivity of the majority and bitterness harbored within the minority. Being aware of the importance of cultural symbols shows love and respect for the people it belongs to. It opens the world to be more inclusive and receptive for communication and relationship development. So, know what you wear.