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The sheer power of the dot

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The forehead embellishment mark called bindi, the word coming from the Sanskrit bindu, for a dot or small particle, is a typically Indian fashion statement — also with a religious connotation — that has evolved over the years. It alters the look of any woman’s face instantly and has fascinated me. Over the years, the mark has been reduced to a small dot, applied insignificantly or imperceptibly, thus reducing its importance. Some people believe, rightly or wrongly, that the dot enhances brain power as it is the site of the kundalini.

To me, it symbolises femininity at its best.

In earlier days, it often stood out as a round, coin-sized red mark on the foreheads of actors such as Vijayanthimala, Meena Kumari, Rekha, Mumtaz and Mala Sinha, with an instant announcement of a married and happy housewife. It lent that extra grace and charm to their visages. It is very difficult to say at what stage it started descending towards the nose from the centre of the forehead, between the eyebrows and nowadays even to the bridge of the nose. It may soon descend to the tip of the nose, I’m afraid!

A bindi evokes prosperity. It is a warning sign to men to keep off married women, or an invitation by maidens-on-the wings to be married. The dot has degraded itself into a comma, semi-colon, colon and an exclamation mark. It has now taken all shapes, sizes and forms, like glittery snakes and stars, and as ornamental adjuncts, fully colour coordinated. Imagine having to look at an image of Brinda Karat or Sushma Swaraj, or the inimitable glitter-bling pop queen Usha Uthup, without their ubiquitous sovereign-sized bindis. One wouldn’t be able to recognise them.

When the bindi made its entry into the United States three decades ago, it became a sine qua non amongst the comely jeans and T-shirt-clad maidens, so much so that the so-called dot-buster gangs set upon them. It became popular in South Asia amongst Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, Sri Lankans and so on.

Today, the bindi has almost disappeared from the faces of dot-com teenagers and, middle-aged matrons, who prefer the bare-forehead look. They don’t know how much of glamour they can add to their faces by merely placing a simple dot, of any colour of their choice, right in the centre of the forehead. One can only see the bindi amongst the over-40 housewives who proudly continue to sport it, as a mark of tradition.

It lends to their faces an aura of divinity, as it was originally intended. The blazing bindi on the forehead of Goddess Durga spits fire and brimstone.

Lyricists have gone dotty coining phrases like ‘bindiya re’, and ‘bindiya chamkegi’ and so on, binding one to the imagery of Mumtaz and Jaya Bhaduri.

Fashionistas are well-advised to revive the bindi as an Indian symbol of tradition and as an essential addition to good looks for Indian models at beauty pageants.

sapraj2711@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:45:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-sheer-power-of-the-dot/article6689635.ece

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