Who is “Allowed” to Wear a Bindi?

There has been a torrent of online attacks on non-Indian women who wear the bindi. As a non-Indian woman wearing a bindi with a colourful experience of online attacks, I wanted to write about this topic. Cultural appropriation is a very sensitive subject, many people fear that the deep significance of a tradition or symbol will be lost or misused if others start to use it. The bindi is an iconic South Asian symbol, so should women who do not originate from South Asia be allowed to wear one?

haldi kumkum thali navdurga Durga

Our world is shrinking, people are mixing, cultures are merging (our marriage is one example of that) and therefore cultural appropriation is inevitable, but is it always a bad thing? Many think it is. 

I personally feel we should all attempt to understand and acknowledge the significance of the symbols we adorn ourselves with. We should learn what our wardrobes represent and assess whether that conflicts with our personal ethos. We should learn the history and try to understand the sacred significance of the things we wear so we are able to respect them.  If we all took more time to understand the cultures of the people who live among us, surely it would go beyond dressing appropriately and dissolve some poisonous prejudices.

My experience, as a non-Indian woman married to an Indian man living in India, has been the opposite. If I don’t wear a bindi, people get upset! On the days I have forgotten to wear a bindi, aunties have offered me a bindi from their handbags, my grandmother-in-law has been deeply hurt and a priest appeared from nowhere whilst I was waiting in a restaurant and poked me between the eyes with a stick covered in vermillion.

As someone who will not do something just because someone has told me to, I had to make a choice whether or not to wear a bindi. I asked Indian women what the bindi meant to them and tried to uncover the ancient symbolism. Afterwards I thought long and hard about what the bindi means to me.

I wear a bindi as a reminder that I am more than this body, I am a soul. When I notice the small red dot in the mirror, I find focus. I am conscious that there is more to me than this reflection! I also didn’t want to upset my husband’s grandmother.

Obviously you don’t need to have a spiritual connection with the bindi to respect it, many Indian women wear a bindi as a fashion accessory. We do, however, need to respect that the symbol is sacred to some if we choose to wear it. Unfortunately, even if you do respect the bindi but are not South Asian, you may still be subjected to those online attacks if you chose to wear one. I feel like those who make this malicious attacks are disrespecting the bindi themselves by being so cruel and hateful. 

We must remember that whilst the cultural appropriation police are busy behind their computer screens attacking young women for wearing a bindi, there are many more South Asians who feel honoured that the world finds the bindi beautiful. Not only should we be respectful to cultural and sacred symbols, we should  also respect each other.

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62 thoughts on “Who is “Allowed” to Wear a Bindi?

  1. Wonderful post! I think you’ve captured the essence of what it means to respectfully wear a bindi. I have heard similar things from people regarding wearing qipaos (also known as cheongsam), and your advice would apply equally well there.

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  2. Lauren
    It is only their opinion. Does this mean only people from English speaking countries should be allowed to speak English? I am from USA and I wear a tilak because I like it. I am 65 and just started this 1 year ago. If someone asks me why I wear this, I tell them it’s a personal choice I made. Period.
    The tilak and bindi is not owned by anyone. There is no copyright on it.

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    • Hello. With regards to english speakers, colonization is the reason people outside of England began speaking it. How often are people who don’t speak english treated like backwards people. Colonizers view: I can take what I want and it doesn’t matter what who I take from. I am entitled to it.

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  3. Oh the ‘cultural appropriation police’ are always looking for something to be offended about.
    South Asia can’t even agree on what a ‘bindi’ is.
    Some examples-
    Phot – (literally meaning a small pressing mark) in Assamese
    Tip – (literally meaning “a pressing”) in Bengali
    Tikuli (literally meaning “a small tikka”) in Madhyadeshi areas
    Chandlo – in Gujarati meaning moon shape
    Tikka- in Nepali
    Kunkuma, Bottu, Tilaka – in Kannada
    Tilakaya- in Sinhala
    Tilo -in Konkani
    Kunkoo कुंकू or Tikali टिकली -in Marathi
    Tikili – in Odia
    Pottu -in Tamil and Malayalam
    Chukka or Bottu or Tilakam – in Telugu
    Alpana – the small decorative design over the eyebrows and cheeks used in marriage or festivals, mostly in Bengali areas
    Pottu- is the application of a black dot on the forehead
    Then there’s tilaka, (which can be worn by women or men & is always paste or powder) & may be applied to twelve parts of the body: head, forehead, neck, both upper-arms, both forearms, chest, both sides of the torso, stomach and shoulder & is usually applied for religious or spiritual reasons, to honor a personage, event, or victory.

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  4. I have seen this phrased this way a few times and it always kind of strikes me… of course there is no bindi ban, it’s just a question of whether it is appropriate to wear it or not, and if we are willing to listen to voices that disagree with us on this.

    We can always give our many varied reasons on why we wear/don’t wear it but it often amounts to defensiveness. “The Coachella girls shouldn’t wear it of course, but *I* can, because…” and even if we have perfectly valid reasons there are always going to be those who will disagree with that. I think it is best to patiently listen, hear them out; they may have a perspective we have not yet considered, and whether that changes our mind or not on the issue remains to be seen but it is SO IMPORTANT to listen to the voices of Indians on this, those who love it and those who do not love it, and hear what they are saying and where they are coming from. A lot of times it may be coming out of anger of facing racism and double standards and violence.

    There is always a middle ground between “I’ll wear whatever I want and if it reminds you of the oppression and violence against those who look like you that totally falls under the category of Not My Problem” and “everyone must always stay in their cultural lane at all times” … and it looks different in different places (the bindi you are expected to wear in Maharashtra, I will not wear in Dallas) …

    but I think the main thing we have to remember is that even as we’re doing everything in context of our lives and in the mix of cultures we live in, we also live in a bigger world of systems and history (which connects the past to the present and future) and we need to be sensitive that what may seem like a harmless thing to us may symbolize something incredibly painful to someone else – and even though we can’t mold our lives around everyone we randomly run into, we should not contribute to a larger, systemic problem by retaliating with racist words and actions or callously dismissing them convinced of how right WE are so that must mean they’re wrong.

    I think about this a lot. I hope that these words are not offensive to anyone.

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    • Hey Andrea,

      Yes, there is a lot of hypocrisy flying around in discussions about this topic, when I wrote this post I wanted to address people making the choice for themselves, not judging whether or not someone else has the right to wear one.

      I agree it’s really important to hear from Indian ladies, that’s why when I wrote this I ended it with a request to South Asian ladies to tell us how they feel about it. From the comments on facebook and the blog, no South Asian’s seemed to mind- but obviously we can never please everyone.

      It’s a delicate subject that gives way to very strong opinions.
      I hope you are well, thank you so much for your thought provoking comment!! 🙂 xx

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  5. I love that you talked about this. I’ve been feeling strange about all the cultural appropriation talk going around. Mostly, I think people don’t like stereotypes, so they try to get people to stop doing things that are offensive, but of course, as you put, we are a more global society than ever, so it’s not really right to judge someone for doing something if you don’t know who they are or what their motives are. I actually use your situation as an example when I discuss cultural appropriation. As you said, you live in India and you get scolded if you don’t wear your bindi in public, so someone living in America can’t really get offended by it, and they have no right to tell you, “Hey, you are appropriating Indian culture” when you are living it every day. I’ve worn kimono and yukata many times when I lived in Japan, but I was always invited to by a Japanese person, and I wore a kimono for my coming-of-age day, which the government invited me to attend. I can understand why people get upset at Halloween costumes like kimonos and headdresses and that sort of thing, but these matters are too complicated to be able to draw lines in the sand. Often, when one travels, one is invited to wear traditional clothes, eat traditional food, and partake in cultural exchanges. Those of us who travel can understand the ways in which people get invited into another culture, but in places like America, many people feel oppressed and bring that up when talking about cultural appropriation. Therefore, there are basically two sides: those who say everything is cultural appropriation and one must ALWAYS understand the meaning of everything they do, especially when what they are doing is used by an oppressed population, and those who say it’s difficult to do anything without appropriating a culture.

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    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment!
      Yes, if we really look hard at cultural appropriation, it’s nearly impossible not to do it in some form. Culture is mixing
      Oooh how lovely it must have been to wear a kimono, they look so gorgeous! It’s the same in India with sarees, people really enjoy seeing a foreigner in a saree!
      We cannot please everyone, we just have to feel comfortable and confident in what we ourselves do I guess!
      I hope you are well!
      Sending love xx

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  6. @Lauren

    If a Indian married women does not wear the symbols of marriage it is believed to be inauspicious. Even then, people object to even unmarried women not wearing a bindi but that may be because without a bindi is an essential fashion accessory which completes the makeup. I think it a combination of both these factors. Women are rarely seen without these accessories. However, nowdays in big cities “less is more” with women wearing less and less of these things.

    Talking about bindis are you aware of the outrageous bindis and sindoor designs in various Hindi TV soaps. They have actually reinvented the way bindis are sindor are worn by women. Have a look

    https://www.google.co.in/search?q=komolika&biw=1164&bih=839&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI4Jb9js6UyQIVJx-mCh0SBQYx

    The fact is that bindis. sindoor and other symbols of marriage have a long history of mysogony and oppression as far as women are concerned. Many Indian social reformers have worked relentlessly to fight for women’s rights and things have improved considerably.

    We are conservatives at heart and kind of like these things and the symbolism attached with it but from a women’s point of view these could have a very different meaning.

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  7. There has been a lot on cultural appropriation recently – from lengthy discussions in private fb groups to very public cat fights on instagram etc. I’m shocked as to how angry and racist some of the comments are from both sides. Surely we all need to get over ourselves, as you say take the time to look into what the cultural meanings are behind different symbols and items of clothing. If they resonate with our ourselves then there should be no issue in wearing something that originated form another culture as clearly it is being done respectfully.
    Even the fancy dress issue – seriously, we live in a wonderful world with so many different cultures and it is in human nature to be fascinated by each other. Dressing in the dress of a different culture for fancy dress is no different to dressing in the clothes of the past or as royalty or a celebrity or whatever if it is done with wonder and joy at the beauty of it. There is no harm in playing at being someone else as long as it is not done with malice or disrespect. We are too overly politically correct sometimes that it takes the fun and play and sense of humour out of life.
    Cultural appropriation, whether it is done for fashion, spiritual reasons, as part of an intercultural relationship or just for fun is a chance to learn about each other’s cultures and cultivate shared understanding respect and tolerance which will only make the world a nicer place. Its sad that something that can be so positive is seen by some as such a negative act.
    Because of history, prejudice and other unfathomable reasons cultural appropriation is a sensitive subject for some and at it’s worst can produce racist reactions and bullying. This is bad enough if someone has innocently and naively appropriated something for say a fashion reason, (say for example a teenage girl wearing a sparkly bindi at a music festival) and needs to be set straight on the cultural meaning and how wearing it for fashion may offend some. However, if someone is wearing a cultural symbol for a spiritual reason for the use it was intended for, (say for example Lauren married to a hindu wearing a bindi as part of her marriage), then trying to prevent her from doing so goes against her rights as a human being to express her beliefs.
    The only way this can be prevented is by education and calm sensible discussion. Racism should not be accepted in any form – whoever it is coming from and whatever has sparked it off. If you are going to respectfully use cultural appropriation then you should expect to sometimes have explain yourself to those who do not understand your reasons for doing so, but should not expect EVER to have to experience racism and bullying.

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    • Hey Cotton,
      Thank you so much for your comment!!
      I totally agree, both sides have gone too far in some instances, we really need to be kinder to each other- and sometimes just ignore!!!

      Thank you so much again for your thought provoking comment!
      Sending lots of love,
      Hope you are back in Mumbai now ❤ xx

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    • I really like your reply. Just wanted to say you actually don’t have to explain yourself to anyone if you don’t want to. What you do and wear, weather or not they like it, isn’t thier buisness. If you want to explain yourself because you think it will make thier reaction less inflammatory then that’s up to you. Personally I usually don’t like people being pissed at me, especially if I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want to explain myself to some stranger who’s going to think what they think regardless of my reasons.

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  8. I think that you should always respect other cultures and traditions, I believe that the majority of non_Indians that wear it, do so to join in, look beautiful and because it pleases their Indian relations and or friends. As an example our daughter is having an Indian wedding next month, my daughter and myself along with the rest of our Indian family are wearing traditional Indian clothing and accessories. My daughters friends that are coming to the wedding as well as MIL and SIL are also wearing Indian clothing. They in my view are respecting the location and joining in with how things are done in India. Our Indian family are thrilled. A bindi may be worn by our guests if they wish and I think done respectfully is appropriate. Music videos etc are probably not the place.

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    • Thank you so much, Tracy!!
      Oooh how lovely, I have never been to one but I have British Indian friends, so I have seen lots of photographs of British Indian weddings and they are always so gorgeous and look so fun!!
      So exciting! I hope your daughter’s marriage goes well and you enjoy being mother of the bride!!
      Lots of love xx

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  9. As a white woman married to an indian man in Australia, the only indian sign of marriage I wear 24/7/365 is gold toe rings. I wear bindi, bangles and mangalsutra when I visit my in laws or India, my husbands family only wear sindoor for special occasions. As a white woman in Australia, I do feel it would be culturally insensitive to wear bindi. Particularly because my husband is more australian than indian and does not follow any indian traditions himself. Also because Indian/Australian women my age do not wear bindi. I have to admit I was out with my husband just last week and saw a white girl wearing hippy clothes and a bindi and i pointed her out to my husband as another ignorant white girl pretending to be something she was not. We both agreed that it did not look appropriate. However I would wear bindi among indians or in India

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    • Hey Rachel,
      I don’t wear a bindi in the UK, mostly because I get enough staring in India so it’s nice to have a break. Just a dap of sindoor keeps me going! I find too that not many Indian women in the UK wear the bindi these days!
      Thank you for your comment!
      Take care

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    • Hey Rachel.. if you had been in London, that ‘ignorant white girl’ you judged might have been me! I’m a yoga teacher and student and hold a BA Hons degree specialising in Buddhism & the Eastern Religions. My Yogi friends and I wear bindis at the Ajna Chakra with regularity – it helps to remind us (particularly when we are in western cities, far away from our teachers in Asia) of our higher goal of self realisation. The Ajna Chakra is the site where one finally loses Ahamkara(ego or sense of inidividuality) when one achieves self realization or reaches a higher level of spirituality. Wearing a bindi there, for us, is a way to keep with our path, keep with love and compassion, keep with our belief in the ultimate inner beauty of all living beings…to remind ourselves, or another who may see us in society to see through the mind’s eye and see the bigger picture of attaini. Therefore, it makes me smile at the irony that seeing a bindi on a ‘white girl’ provoked such a reaction in you. May you walk in peace. Namaste.

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  10. I don’t think in India anybody would mind a non-Indian wearing a bindi. Rather they would be proud of the fact. Internet is no doubt, a free for all hunting ground, where anybody could fake being something else and post hurtful comments.

    About Bindi, I would say that the one applied after a religious ceremony or as a welcoming or departing well-wishing ceremony would be called a Tilak and could be round or straight. Although, now decorative bindis are also applied in many shapes and many are available ready-made. In olden days women preferred bigger round Bindis, Now-a-days, smaller ones are preferred. Usha Uthup, pop and playback singer always wears big bindis since the sixties. Maybe the size of the bindi also expresses once personality.

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    • Ahh, the Internet, you are right, a hunting ground!
      I guess you are right, in some ways the bindi is a little reflection on personality. I loveee the Marathi style of bindi, a crescent moon with a small gem (star), I like to wear that style as much as possible!
      I hope you are well, thank you for your comment! 😀

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  11. So glad you brought this up! Respect for the culture seems to be a common theme, and in the end, I think that’s what people want is to be respected. Luckily, you have a deep respect for Indian culture – hopefully no one gets bent out of shape about it.

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  12. On a lighter note anyone can apply bindi!! When I was small I became a punjabi girl wearing salwar kameez and bindi!!! If you want further proof please ask your Husband to show the epic Marathi film ” Ashi hi Banwa Banwi.” with subtitles which means ” We fool people like this Make-up.” Its a story about 4 friends who dont have place to stay in Pune and they find an accommodation where only couples are allowed so two of the friends act like typical marathi housewives to get that accommodation.

    With regards

    Akshay

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  13. Hi Lauren,
    Great to read your new posts and as usual you write about deeply thought out ideas and experiences; I feel bad that the internet trolls upset you with the hateful remarks…they seem to be everywhere.
    Just ignore them.
    Cultural identity issues get some people/haters in a confused state especially during times of change – income gaps, fear of economic tough times, being overwhelmed by a ‘foreign’ cultural influences, etc.
    But they change for the better.

    Did you read about the ‘paki bashing’ (Indians and Pakistanis were lumped together) problem in England during the 1970s or the dot busters of New Jersey, USA?
    I am sure their are many such instances in the western world where foreigners were/are attacked. Attitudes have changed at least for the Indians in the West; I am sure some other hapless groups are being targeted now.
    Same will happen to the internet trolls harassing you, so let it slide.

    Regarding who can wear a bindi – anyone can. The reason you gave why you wear a bindi is so full of love for your husband that it reminds you of your marriage to him. What could be more important than that? I am very impressed by your appreciation of your husband, his family, your local community, India and Sanatana Dharma, and that you also see the problems and examine the underlying issues.

    Westerners wear wedding rings…does that mean they are compelled to? Majority do so as they like the symbol of their unity with their spouse.

    Should Indians stop wearing western clothes because they are not indigenous? What about all those mod. cons and technical gadgets we are so addicted to..all are western contraptions.
    Should non Indians be stopped from doing yoga, following Ayurveda, wearing Indian clothes, etc? So many are doing just that and they look beautiful with bindis, henna, kurtis, …
    We are better off when different nationalities share what is best from other cultures.

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    • Dear Shobha,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! I really appreciate it so much!

      Sadly, I don’t think this “paki bashing” has totally disappeared in England. I was walking with a British Indian friend during my university days and someone screamed “dirty Paki” out of their car window as they passed. I was really shocked and upset, but my friend was totally fine with it as they had experienced it many times before. It was a huge shock for me. It took me a long time to get over it, I shed some tears.

      Thank you so much again for your great comment and kind words!
      Sending lots of love,
      Lauren xx

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  14. I completely understand. I generally sympathize with cultural appropriation (Think of how Hitler changed the meaning of the swastika for westerners), many people abuse other cultures and refuse to cite them or learn about them. As a Greek-American, I get similarly annoyed with fraternities and sororities for taking the Greek alphabet, especially since their reputations are often sleazy.

    But I also know that my mother-in-law loves it when I wear bindi, and that going out in India without a bindi is a bit odd looking, in even a causal salwar. When I wear western clothes, or when I’m in the States, I don’t wear it, because it doesn’t really belong.

    Most people against cultural appropriation understand that there are always conditions to theories, but some people just hate cultural sharing…best to ignore them and try to treat every culture with respect, and try to promote that respect in others.

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    • Hey Kelsey,
      I agree that the key is respect and knowledge.

      I would love to visit Greece someday, I had a fasination with the Ancient Greeks when I was a child! I hope I make it there someday. All I know about the sororities of America I know from movies and they are usually portrayed as sleazy in Hollywood!

      I hope you are well, sending love xx

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  15. Basically.. they are jealous.. so.. dont pay them any mind.. its just pure bitterness and jealousy.. im half latina half chinese btw 🙂

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  16. Most indians doesn’t even understand a thing about Cultural appropriation , i don’t think there any hindi meaning or counterpart of this term . Mostly i have heard this is from western people but does the same apply for Indians following western customs ? All i see is Indians feel extremely proud when some non-indian wear sari ,bindi or say namastay . I find this out of the way micro-analysis and searching for faults in other choices or happiness is becoming annoying .

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  17. I think it’s important to note that you’received not culturally appropriating when you’re married into the culture. That’s a huge difference from someone waring a binding to look fashionable at Coachella. I am engaged to an Indian man, and wore binding before I met him, or understood how problematic cultural appropriation can be. That said, if I wasn’t with him, I wouldn’t wear a bindi (I don’t now because we aren’t married). 🙂

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    • Hey Monica,
      It’s so subjective, it’s hard to pinpoint it but when you marry an Indian you are usually expected to take on the Indian culture I guess!
      Congrats on your engangement! I hope you have a lovely wedding day and married life!! 😀
      Take care xx

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  18. As vkjoshi rightly pointed out in his comment. If one wears a bindi they are respecting a tradition. One should feel good about it. On the other hand even if one doesn’t wear a bindi it’s okay. They are not offending anybody.

    I see so many Indian women who wear a bindi when they wear sarees and the same women don’t wear a bindi when wearing western clothes. Why go far, I have two sisters.

    I laughed about the priest poking you in the middle of the eyes and applying tilak. You said you were in a restaurant. There are many so called sadhus in India and they roam around with a small bowl of tilak and a copper or metal thingy with which they apply that tilak. Just be careful not to hurt your eyes.

    A new born child doesn’t pop out wearing a suit or bindi and say hey mummy papa I’m here. First it has to be spanked, made to cry,, then the parents hold it and give it a name, an identity.

    You’re right! In today’s fast, Internet powered world the distances have virtually been reduced to zero. It’s a border less world. Why argue or think about trivial things like bindi? Boss focus on progress.

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  19. As an Indian myself I would say that you as an individual are justified to wear the Bindi, because by marrying an Indian individual you have assimilated into the ‘Indian culture’. The problem is with the White women who believe that they have the right to look down on Indian people and then heavily incorporate elements of Indian culture, it just feels like a slap on the face.

    A good example is the Psychedelic Trance subculture that has it’s main abode in Goa. You will see thousands of women giving themselves Sanskrit names, adorning Bindi’s on their foreheads and so forth but attempt to socially avoid Indians as much as possible even though they are appropriating our culture.

    This is why many Indians, particularly Indians raised in the west and have had to put with ‘racism’ find this upsetting and their has been this back lash.

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    • Wow – that is terrible! I had no idea people were doing that! Utterly ridiculous of course. But, that said, there are idiots everywhere, in every culture, in every form of dress / adornment. Perhaps our best answer as humans is to accept that what is sacred to one person is not to another and we have no right to impose our views on sartorial choices or material adornment on others – clothing, images, jewellery, make up are all personal choices and the values we see in them are personal and another person’s use of them should not be taken personally – or we risk seeing the same religious insanity which causes people to attack or kill others because of their belief in ‘idolatry’ or the sacredness of their own religious books , symbols or leaders.

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      • Umm unless you are Indian yourself it is not your place at all to say whether it is okay or not for someone to essentially steal my culture.

        I have no problem with someone practising Yoga or learning to play the Sitar, but giving yourself an Indian name and wearing Indian clothes is an entirely different matter. You’re stealing what forms a part of my (And other Indians) cultural identity and then also don’t have any respect for us, it isn’t on and as an Indian I do not consider it acceptable in any way, shape or form.

        If I want to practice Karate then I can practice it, but if I change my name to Hayo Fujiwara and wear a Kimono whilst looking down on Japanese people is extremely offensive and I would have no right to tell someone Japanese that they shouldn’t be anything other than extremely offended, which is what you seem to be telling me.

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      • I am sorry that you feel like that. I do not believe it is actually possible to ‘steal’ someone’s cultural identity. Your cultural identity is internal to you; clothes, symbols etc may be important to you, but you cannot ‘own’ them. As I explained before, I believe that what is sacred to one may not be to another person and whilst it is important to be sensitive to other’s beliefs, it is essentially our own completely personal choice about what we wear or worship.
        You seem to be strongly equating people’s individual, personal sartorial and cultural choices with ‘looking down on people’, and that seems to be informing your hurt or anger.
        Looking down on people is never helpful and I am so sorry if you have had to experience people doing that to you, or witnessed them doing that to other people who share your ethnicity or culture. However, choosing to ‘take on’ parts of a culture one was not born into does not automatically mean the ‘wearer’ is looking down on that culture or members of it – rather it usually indicates admiration, in my own experience. And if the ‘wearer’ only ‘admires’ certain aspects of that culture? Again, their choice! I do respect your right to be offended, but I am saddened that you are as I feel that taking a different, less judgemental view might relieve you of much of that burden. After all – no culture or person is perfect; in certain cultures that I otherwise love, for instance, I find some attitudes to women or non humans extremely challenging, but that does not stop me enjoying joining in as a part of the overall culture. If we were all but a little gentler on one another and more embracing of our own and each other’s imperfections maybe the bigger picture would be more important than finding offence.

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      • You’re just exactly like the people that I described and ironically you don’t even realise it – I try avoiding the term ‘racist’ these days, but it is extremely likely that if you as a western expatriate moved to somewhere like Goa you would cut yourself off from Indians.

        And you cannot logically throw a disassociation from a particular ethnic group under the euphemism of ‘individual choice’ – If I was to say that I didn’t want to associate with an individual because he was black this would universally be deemed as a prejudice statement, if I expressed those same sentiments through subtle and more covert means that wouldn’t make my sentiments towards the black gentleman any less prejudice because it is in a more indirect form.

        Adopting elements or even fully incorporating them when you respect the people from whose culture you are taking it from is justified in my opinion, but the problem is that the vast majority of these people don’t. Try a quick search on Facebook for yourself and look at the profiles of Western Yoga practitioners residing in Goa, take a look at their friends list and note how there isn’t even one Indian but a cross range of other nationalities and ethnic groups despite residing in India and wearing Indian clothes and giving themselves Indian names – A lot of anthropologists consider the behaviour of these expatriates to be a form of neo-colonialism.

        As I stated previously however whether you think it is justified or not regardless of the circumstances involved for a None-Indian to incorporate Indian clothes or name themselves ‘Dev Narayan’ isn’t really your business and I don’t even mean that in a vindictive way – If I wanted to wear a Native American head scarf and give myself a Native American name, it absolutely isn’t my place to tell a Native American that they shouldn’t feel offended – In short if someone wants to learn an art or a skill that doesn’t involve heavily incorporating Indian attire and despite looking down on Indians, this isn’t such a big deal to me.

        But names and clothes are what forms the most vital part of a people’s inherent cultural identity, the line should be drawn at this point and not be considered acceptable in my opinion.

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      • For some reason your latest post of August 16th 3.07pm does not allow the option of reply – so I must reply here. Your assertion:
        “You’re just exactly like the people that I described and ironically you don’t even realise it – I try avoiding the term ‘racist’ these days, but it is extremely likely that if you as a western expatriate moved to somewhere like Goa you would cut yourself off from Indians.”..
        Well, I am sorry that you have resorted to the passive aggressive tactic of accusation by implication. I have been very respectful and certainly am not a racist as you imply. A great irony for myself regarding your following words is that just this morning I was looking at my facebook feeds from friends in Bali and India who are yogi’s and yoga teachers and noticing that they have several local Asian people as friends who regularly participate in their feeds and facebook discussions, so I guess you may be unlucky in the people you know. I also think that the question of whether or how, people living in a new country might become friends with or socialise with locally born people is a much. much wider discussion.
        It is also pretty clear that you do not have any basis to assert the ‘high likeliness (sic)’ of how I might behave.
        I am afraid, that in that you, my friend, are the person displaying a prejudiced attitude.
        In the interests of peace I shall no longer participate in this discussion as it seems to be becoming angry and negative.
        I remain respectful, humble and full of love. May you also be free from suffering. Om Shanti.

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      • Well in all honesty I feel conflicted myself in some ways, on one hand I do naturally feel deeply offended that there are a lot of people out there who feel that they can adopt or even fully incorporate the Indian identity whilst not even having a morsel of respect for Indians but on the other hand I don’t want to be some sixty year old man some day who feels bitter towards others.

        It seems as though you’re trying to say that the Sari for example isn’t tied to Indian culture(s) which is like saying that the Kimono isn’t to the Japanese, to me that is basically denying the deeply embedded history that is inherent to that particular group of people even though that may not be your intention.

        Those people you mentioned whom happily associate with Indians, I have absolutely no problem with those individuals at all. My problem is with those such as from the Psy Trance Subculture in Goa, a quick video search of a ‘Trance Party in Anjuna Beach’ will show you what I mean.

        We both have are own opinions, but I would be lying if I said that I believe your opinion as a None Indian holds any validity. In short I don’t really mind so much if someone wants to adopt elements of South Asian culture such as adorning the Bindi as a transient fashion statement, but giving yourself an Indian name and a Sari just isn’t on –

        You see ‘culture’ as organic and formless, a self imposed term that creates barriers between others whereas I am aware that these barriers are impenetrable and view culture as an entity that it synonymous with the group of people from whom that cultural identity originates hence why we cannot come to an agreement here, we have different interpretations of what culture in itself means – I suppose we will have to just agree to disagree.

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  20. I’m an American married to a Indian man. I wear a Bindi as a symbol of my devotion to him. He also loves that I wear it. He is also okay if I don’t. His family loves that I embrace the Bindi. However, at a previous job I was told that if I wasn’t wearing for religious reasons I had to stop wearing it or be fired. That I looked crazy. I was a server at Genghis grill that had a large number of Indians who eat there. Almost all of the Indian ladies lived that I wore a Bindi or if devotion to my husband. I quit the job and continue to wear a Bindi!!

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  21. I’ve just found your blog and it’s so interesting to read about your life. I’m travelling with my husband to Indis in November this year and am preparing myself for the culture shock. Would be great to see an update on your life now!

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    • That’s exciting, best of luck! I’m still posting blogs! I also update my instagram and snapchat story quite often too 😀 (snapchat: laurenmokasdar). I hope you have an amazing time in India! Xx

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  22. I’m going to be attending a Sikh wedding next year. I am Caucasian. I will be wearing a Sari. I love the Indian fashions. Would it be inappropriate for me to wear a Bindi for the wedding?

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  23. I would just like thank you for writing this article! I am a white American female who is in the process of converting to Hinduism and I want to be able to express my religion without feeling like I’m insulting it. I’ve read many other articles on this subject and I totally agree that with all the hate toward others wearing a bindi those who hate are disrespecting it themselves. I want be proud of who I am, race and religion, and also possibly help other strive toward enlightenment when they ask question about the bindi and Hinduism. Overall I just don’t want to disrespect anyone but also want to be accepted.

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