Bindis are dots placed on the forehead, just above the space between the eyebrows. The majority of Indian women wear bindis. The word bindi comes from bindu, which means dot in Sanskrit. They are also called pottu or bottu in south India. Traditionally, bindis are red in colour.
In olden days, women made bindis using vermillion powder, which is bright red, or scarlet. It is got from a mineral called cinnabar and is also known as sindoor. Bindis are also made with kumkum, a mixture of turmeric and a white powder called slaked lime which reacts with the yellow turmeric and turns it red.
In India and in many other places, red is considered an auspicious colour – a colour that brings luck. And it is considered auspicious to wear a bindi. It is a symbol of marriage.
In olden days, men wore bindis regularly too. Even today, sometimes, during religious occasions, men do put a red dot of kumkum or sindoor on their foreheads. This is because, according to Indian belief, the human body has centres of energy called chakras, and the one located between the eyebrows is the most important. It is also called the Third Eye of Lord Shiva. While placing a bindi, that important spot gets automatically massaged, which is believed to be good for the system. The dot of vermillion on the forehead is believed to help concentration and thinking. Also, the bindi is a symbol to remind people to focus on God.
Nowadays, bindis worn more for fashion. Stick-on bindis are available in various shapes and colours. You can match them with your outfits, and choose fancy ones to wear when you want to dress up for a special occasion.
By the way, women in various other countries in South Asia also wear bindis.