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I currently live in an area which has a high Indian population. I've noticed a number of Indian men and women with various marks and dots on their foreheads but have never asked about the significance behind these for fear of offending them. I genuinely want to know what they mean.

Here's what I've seen:

  • A single black dot (quite small)
  • A single red dot (quite small)
  • A single red dot (much larger)
  • A single red dot (smudged and near the hairline)
  • A yellow vertical line
  • A white vertical line
  • A white vertical line with hairline red dot

What do these all mean, and are there others that I may not be aware of?

I guess I'm more wondering if there is a more modern context to these markings than the "third-eye" or channeling chakras, etc.?

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Different types of tilaka colors signify different aspects.

For instance Skandamahāpurāṇam Verse 2.5.2.30 says the following -

Chapter 2, Mārgaśīrṣa-māhātmya, Vaiṣṇava-khaṇḍa, Skanda-purāṇa


श्यामं शांतिकरं प्रोक्तं रक्तं वश्यकरं तथा ।
श्रीकरं पीतमित्याहुः श्वेतं मोक्षकरं शुभम् ॥ ३० ॥


  1. A dark-coloured Tilaka is said to be conducive to peace; a red one is the cause of winning over others. They say that a yellow one is conducive to prosperity and glory. A white one brings about salvation and is auspicious.

The specific varying shapes of the Tilaka, like 'the U shaped (Urdhvapuṇdra)' , or 'three vertical lines (Tripuṇḍra)' or the 'red-dots (bindu)', are basically sectarian markings of different sects within Hinduism like Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas, and so on.

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