The use of Kumkum or kunkumam ( turmeric processed with lime ) is very much evident amongst Indians since time immemorial.It is in fact a powerful cultural identity as well,as the use of kumkum has been prominent since ancient times.It is even said that this practice was common worldwide,and not just confined to Bharata.
So what exactly is the significance of this red dot on the forehead ?
We must understand that the Indian culture is deeply rooted with spirituality.Every small act,ritual,way of dressing and lifestyle was made it a way that it spiritually benefited us.
This was the great contribution of many yogis,enlightened beings and siddhas of Bharata.A good example would be sage Agasthiya.Sage Agasthiya holds a very prominent position in the tamil culture,even upto date.He introduced traditions and practices in such a way that a common man imbibed spiritual upliftment in every small act he performs daily.The use of kumkum is an example to this ( Does not necessarily mean that Agasthiya was the founder of Kumkum )
Kumkum is applied at the point between the eyebrows,which marks the 6th chakra - the Ajna Chakra,commonly called the third eye.
Kumkum activates this chakra.There is a famous depiction in our puranas - which describes Lord Shiva as being in deep meditation,opens His third eye to burn Kamadeva ( the celestial entity who invokes lust )who tried to disturb His meditative state.There is also a famous saying that once Lord Shiva opens his 'third eye', the entire universe is burnt down.
The significance of this symbolism is to explain that - once our ajna chakra is activated, all illusions gets destroyed.We turn inwards.The 'third eye' gives us god-vision to see reality as it is. Negative qualities like lust which blinds us will be 'burnt' once our awareness is in tandem with the awakening of the third eye - the ajna chakra.
The ajna chakra is given tremendous importance in our culture and in many spiritual schools.
Ajna chakra is responsible for intuition and clairvoyance.This is why our ancient women used large kumkum adoring their forehead all the time.Women by their very nature have a very high intuitive power- almost 7 times that of men.And this was greatly empowered by the use of kumkum.
Our ancient mothers were spiritually strong and formed the backbone of the society.They were experts as societal advisors .All these was due to the importance given to the activation of third eye.
The Gayatri Mantra is said to be the third eye given to mankind.
Kumkum is also prominently used in Devi worship.The essence of kumkum which is turmeric based creates the aura and radiance very apt to the Divine Feminine.
Another significance is that the kumkum is red and appears very much like blood.It is said that by offering kumkum to the fierce or ghora form of Devi - such as Kali, it signifies blood and it pacifies the divine mother.
The disadvantages of using 'sticker' kumkum or bindi
Unfortunately, this science of kumkum is being killed slowly.Today,most women resort to using 'sticker' based kumkum or bindi by using liquid. Let us look at the material of sticker - plastic or fabric ! Not only does it kill the significance of the kumkum, it also blocks the ajna chakra ! Same goes with bindi.
Blockage of ajna chakra can result in many , many undesirable effects.Examples include hormone -related problems and mood disturbances.The pituitary gland - master of all glands is located behind the glabella,in other words,the exact point of the ajna chakra.
The material that covers the point between the eyebrows play a very important role.Even in other cultures, selected gems and stones are used to decorate this spot - to activate the chakra.
Recently,a friend of mine shared as to how kumkum has been patented by the British.If true,that's a synonym to disaster.
This is sad to hear as Indians who adore this tradition are in the verge of misleading the science,while westerners are digging deeper into it.
Remember that our ancestral cultural practices and spiritualism is still deeply encoded within our genetic memory.Not preserving this gift in our very genes is a great mistake to commit.
It is crucial that we make an effort for a transformation.At present,it is only likely that the senior citizens and those certain parts of the world are using kumkum as it is- the upcoming generation simply appear to grab the trendiest sticker bindi in the market.
At the same time,be aware of the use of impure kumkum.Most kumkum sold these days are polluted with mercuric elements.This can cause allergies and scarring when applied.
My suggestion is that , make your own kumkum or simply use turmeric as substitute.
If social norms are there ( eg - kumkum not to be used by unmarried women ) , turmeric can be used.Just rub it on the glabella.
Here is a good article guide on how to make your own kumkum :