In Indian culture, the red dot holds a special place. Known as “bindi” in Hindi and “chandlo” in Gujarati, this small mark on the forehead carries deep meaning and significance, which I only came to realize several years ago.
Growing up surrounded by the Indian community, I frequently adorned Indian attire and placed the chandlo on my forehead without truly understanding its profound significance. It wasn’t until later, in my Swaminarayan faith, that I learned the chandlo represents our devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Guru Mahant Swami Maharaj. Initially hesitant to wear it daily, I later discovered the spiritual essence it holds.
In Hinduism, the concept of chakras, or energy centers, is integral. Among these, the ajna chakra, often referred to as “the third eye,” is located between the eyebrows. Symbolizing the convergence of our conscious and subconscious minds, it connects the physical world with the spiritual realm. The chandlo serves as a bridge, reminding us of the divine presence residing within us, silently observing, guiding, and connecting us to the divine.
The chandlo’s significance also extends to the celebration of femininity in Hindu culture. Made from red kumkum (vermillion) powder, it represents the divine shakti or energy of the goddess Durga, embodying strength and protection. But the chandlo is more than just a representation of one deity; it carries the essence of multiple Hindu feminine deities. It evokes Saraswati, inspiring knowledge and wisdom; Lakshmi, teaching gratitude for prosperity; and Parvati, encouraging compassion and devotion. Wearing the chandlo allows me to carry this divine femininity within me every day.
Initially, I worried about what others might think of my daily chandlo, but I eventually realized that my uniqueness is something to embrace. As an individual in a diverse society, I appreciate the concept of self-expression in American culture. Observing people expressing themselves through clothing, hairstyles, and tattoos, I found the courage to wear my chandlo with pride as a symbol of my identity.
Now, I apply the chandlo every day with respect and reverence. It serves as a reminder of my Guru’s guidance and the divine feminine power within me. As a Hindu woman, I draw strength from the legacy of women like Sita and Draupadi, who exemplified loyalty and righteousness. My chandlo connects me to this rich history, inspiring me to be my authentic self.
In a culture that reveres divine energy, the red dot holds immense significance. Its presence on my forehead embodies the essence of devotion, femininity, and identity. Thanks to this unassuming red dot, I carry with me the profound wisdom of Hinduism and the empowering legacy of remarkable women, making it a cherished emblem of the divine within.
Roma Gujarathi, Attorney, Westborough, MA