Pottu veithe, oru vatta nila, kulir punnagai al ennai thotta nila.. Yes, pottu is integral to Indians. Indian women who wear pottu enhance their facial beauty.. Kavithai kotture alagu..
Traditionally, the area between the eyebrows (where the pottu is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of “concealed wisdom”. According to some followers of Hinduism, this chakra is the exit point for kundalini energy. The pottu is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. The pottu also represents the third eye.
I never wore pottu during my school days, just an upward streak of vibuthi which disappears as soon as I get of the crowded school bus in the afternoon then morning.
My Indian schoolmates have criticized my quirk of not wearing pottu, saying that I am not Indian enough and even disrespectful of my religion and race since I don’t wear pottu. I was a prefect and there were 108 rules in my school – the size of the pottu and colour must be so and so, hair length if surpasses shoulders must be tied, the scrunchie and rubber band to tie hair must be so and so of colour and should be of so and so width and thickness, saami kayiru is not allowed, henna is forbidden and as a prefect I was expected to be a stickler to these rules. Fed up with the plethora of disciplining restrictions, I never wore pottu to school and sported a short hairdo throughout my schooling years. YEVELOVU. Remarks like, “Avale paaren, pottu podamaata, mudi naai kotheri veche maari irukku. Princess Diana nu nenepu,” were always made within my earshot. They come from so called ‘prim and proper’ Indian female schoolmates of mine who change boyfriends monthly and have catfights over guys. Avungge than Barathiyar kande puthumai penn. If a tiny dot in between my eyebrows determine my identity and religion, then I should have a pottu on when I was born.
The generic idea of pottu colour is red for married women and black for maidens. Some married women wear a streak of vermillion at the parting of hair on their foreheads. My mom looked very beautiful when she wore the pottu in the latter style but after my dad passed away she renounced pottu and all the refinery married Indian women wear, as well as being sidelined in all auspicious rituals.
Wearing pottu these days is no longer a matter of religious conduct or the identification of an Indian woman; it has become a fashion statement and a matter of preference and volition – wearing the pottu has became an individual’s right, not an imposition. 5 decades ago, Indian widows remarrying was frowned upon but now widows remarry because it has become an individual right to remarry. Same goes to pottu.
Commercialism and globalization didn’t spare pottu. We now have colourful sticker pottus of all shapes and sizes worn by both married and unmarried Indian women. Westerners have started to wear pottu. Madonna wore pottu in her video song, Frozen besides henna. Liz Hurley, who married an Indian wears pottu. From Indian culture, pottu has become a global phenomenon. In northern parts of India, pottu is known as bindi and the late Steve Irwin named his daughter Bindi.
Some professions forbid the use of pottu, like flight cabin crew, hospitality industry and some private firms. Even Ambiga was rebuked for not wearing pottu. Ellatheleyum kuttham kandu pidikurethenu na, namma aalungeluku alva sapdre maari.
I think it’s okay if Indian females here don’t wear pottu when they are in school or at work. Pottu will look incongruous when paired with modern dress and office attire. When Indian women are in traditional attire, they wear pottu matching to the colour of their outfit whether they are going to temples, religious festivals or weddings and receptions.
Not wearing the pottu 24/7 will not disintegrate our culture. In India, ladies wear sari at home; ladies here, don’t. Sari is only worn for auspicious occasions here and, exactly like that, pottu is dismissed – it is not a huge issue to harp on. Oru chinna pulli ku ivalo akke poru..
This sweeping change is called keeping up with times and needs. Culture is not lost if we don’t wear our cultural costumes or pottu day in and day out. It is a matter of choice, propriety, and liberation.
If an Indian female doesn’t wear pottu, please don’t brand her as ‘unwilling to preserve her heritage.’ She may have many reasons on why there is no dot in between her eyebrows.
In a time where female astronauts are orbiting outer space, note the late Kalpana Chawla, this type of talk is very demoralizing. Kalpana Chawla can only wear an astronaut suit in space. She can’t wear sari out there and make sure she has pottu on her forehead. Zero gravity pa.. 🙂