Jan 8, 2010
It all started with the ‘infamous’ black dot.
At a ‘pretty’ age called 13, the last thing on my mind was to place that offending dot between my eyebrows, when I was sporting my jeans and t-shirt, not to mention my cool red short skirt that made things so ‘uncool’, if I were to step out of home with that dot.
Hailing from a very orthodox, conservative, Brahmin family from the south of India, my mum insisted my sister and I have a bath every morning and never mind what we wore, or didn’t wear, this dot was a must. Mum was clear that she didn't want her young daughters to look like widows, (who were the only ones who got away with no colour between their eyebrows), so she forgave us for not wearing bangles, she forgave us for not sporting a chain round the neck; there was no forgiveness however for wanting to look like widows !
Many moons went by, with this tug-of-war, the silent spectator being my father with a rather beatific smile, who would watch this spectacle and casually throw in a comment in the passing that said his girls would look pretty with those dots on. I think deep down he was being the typical father. Only too happy that the dot would stave off those young things called ‘boys’ who would avoid looking at his girls for wearing the uncool dot, which in other words meant, no boys to yell at. Smart, he sure was !
It didn’t take a long time to reach the age of 17 and figure that if I wanted to survive this fight that had no solution in sight, I would have to slightly mould the rules to my advantage. The dot, as per my mother, was the least I was expected to do. Would anyone notice if the black moon got any larger? I truly hoped no one was going to complain or would they? It started with two circular, single, slightly larger than dots, placed one on top of the other, one in black, the other in red, which not just looked better in my eyes, but kept mum at bay and the relatives were left with no say in this matter.
I occasionally would draw a long line in black and end the line at my eyebrows with a red dot. My advancements in this precious area between the eyebrows purely went by the reactions I saw in the eyes of my mum and dad.
Along came the wisdom which urged me to dig deep into this tradition, which was upheld in the eyes (or should I say forehead) of my mum and her mum and their sisters and their female offspring. I soon discovered that there was a perfect science in place, and the demand that my mum and her mum before that had been making, was indeed very legitimate, after all.
Enlightenment soon followed !
One of the most precious areas of the female anatomy (and don’t get any naughty ideas, my dears) is the area between the eyebrows, a spot called the ‘Ajna Chakra’. Considered very powerful, this spot is the exit point of the ‘Kundalini’ and the seat of concealed wisdom. When one wears a ‘Bindi’, you are not just signifying and saluting the female energy in you, you can be rest assured that there is an increase in one's level of concentration as well. Evil forces and bad luck, Hindus believe, are also kept at bay if you wear the bindi.
A bindi protects and covers the mystical third eye and by painting it red, one acknowledges the ‘Stree Shakti’ which is one way of honouring Lord Shiva's third eye which is not just powerful but could be destructive if provoked. With black, the wearer displays purity of self.
Armed with this knowledge, I began to propagate the wearing of the Bindi. Being at the fag end of my teens, my mind urged me to begin exploring other ways of protecting the Ajna. I began to experiment with double lines in two colours, sticker bindis surrounded by hand drawn lines and dots. The simple red dot was made more elaborate with ‘Kumkum’ and sandalwood paste or the virgin black dot made a bit more dense by wet ‘Vibhuti’.
Then I came to Bombay in 1998. Within months, the vibrancy of the city played a vital role in creating an explosion of colour on the chosen spot. The straight lines grew longer and angled. The dots varied in formations. Whatever be the design, colour combinations played a vital role. Gone were the black and red dots. They were replaced by a wild splash at times or intricately designed formations or simple designs easy to replicate.
With years flying by, the bindis on my forehead have truly transformed themselves from the initial days of simple dots to being a display board and canvas of colour, design, and style. My ‘funky bindis’ as they are now called by all I know, paved their way into the ‘Limca Book of Records 2008 and 2009’ after the assistant editor of the publication met with me at an event and was quite surprised at the details I gave her of my ‘art form’. I have been in the record book for two years running, for the shortest time taken to draw a bindi and for the fact that I never ever repeat a design.
The generations of women in my family, long gone to the other side of the rainbow mountain, must indeed be proud of the fact that one of the most mundane acts of the day which my mum used to chase me round the house to accomplish, has now been transformed into a much looked at, admired, and copied style.
From a mere ‘Bhru Madhya’ (middle of the brows) to an art form in itself; bindis have indeed come a long way !