Signs and Symbols

Are there any signs or symbols that might identify an individual as a Hindu?

A small dot on the forehead (called a bindu or bindi) is perhaps the most common individual symbol in Hinduism. Many Indian women wear a small round red dot in the middle of the forehead to indicate that they are married, and some wear a black dot to ward off evil prior to marriage. Some regard the red dot as a generic symbol of one’s Hindu faith, as worn by both men and women. Hindus in Europe and the United States sometimes have difficulty deciding whether to wear the dot in public or whether to confine its use to worship. As with so many personal religious symbols, it has become associated with issues of religious distinctiveness and cultural assimilation. Some believe the dot alludes to Shiva’s third eye, a symbol of wisdom and divine power. Shaivites often wear three parallel horizontal lines on the forehead, and often on the upper arms and chest as well. The marks are sometimes made with paint and sometimes with ash to symbolize cremation. Vaishnavites wear what appears to be a large V or double V on the forehead and sometimes on the upper arm.


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