A beautiful Indian tradition…

I recently had a bride of Indian heritage ask me about using the ‘dot’ on the forehead for her wedding ceremony. I knew a bit about this but realized it was time to learn more and, of course, share it in this column.

The dot, popular in India, is called a ‘bindi’ coming from the Sanskrit word ‘bindu’ meaning point or dot. It is also known as a ‘tilka,’ ‘tilaka’ or ‘tika’ in Hinduism. I will use the term tika here, as that is the term the bride used and because I wanted to stay consistent. This felt confusing enough – at least at first.

Beautiful tika

The tika can be more than a dot, sometimes it can be a line or other shape, and signifies a deeper meaning than a bindi. The tika is a sign of blessings or greetings, while the bindi can simply be decorative. Another small difference is the tika is applied with paste or power, but a bindi may be a paste as well as a jewel. I find them both to be very attractive. The bindi is worn only by women, but a tika is worn by both men and women

Not only Hindus, but Sikhs and Jains apply the red tika, and even Christians in India use them for special occasions.

Both bindi and tika are applied between the eyebrows because this spot symbolizes wisdom and concentration (the third eye) but a tika can be applied to other parts of the body.

A red bindi is worn by most young girls and women in India, but different colors can represent different stages in one’s life. Men wear the tika for various reasons but mostly as a cultural symbol to mark that the wearer is Hindu.

Bindi

So clearly there are lots of variations on this. That’s what you get when four thousand years of culture and traditions are passed down. What began as a sign of marital status has evolved into a fashion statement, but that critical location on the forehead is still highly significant.

The groom receives the tika

Back to my bride – because the red tika represents marriage, love and prosperity, this would be great to incorporate into their wedding ceremony.  Traditionally a tika was used specifically for weddings when the father of the bride puts in on the groom’s forehead to show he accepts him as his son-in-law. This ritual would take place about a month before the actual wedding day, and that’s not surprising, because in India wedding celebrations take place over a longer time period and are quite elaborate.  With changing times people have become more flexible, and now it can be done at any time and is used for women in weddings as well.

Mendhi

There are many other customs to honor Indian heritage, such as bangle bracelets, mehndi, flower garlands, and who wouldn’t want to see the groom enter on a horse or elephant? There are the Seven Steps, which I love, and many more. But my brides (yes, two brides) wanted the tika, so together we came up with the idea to have each of them mark the other with the dot at the end of the ceremony, after I pronounce them, but before they kiss. Of course I will explain a little history ahead of time, so everyone can better enjoy this special moment. I think it will be wonderful!

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