Ask Mr Brain... all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2001, 12:00am

Why do Indian women wear a decorative dot on their foreheads?

The appearance of the decorative dot which goes by many names - the bindhi, pottu, tilakam and kumkum - dates back to the second century AD. The decorative mark appears on statues of Buddha and it can be seen in numerous ancient texts.

The mark was traditionally made from sandalwood paste although later versions used red turmeric, an Indian spice. The red was thought to symbolise the blood of past sacrifices and love.

On men, the red dot was referred to as a tilak and was worn during worship or religious ceremonies.

For women, wearing the kumkum signified their married state. In the past, widows would remove their bindhis.

Today the bindhi is worn decoratively by married and unmarried Indian women alike. Even stars such as Madonna, Drew Barrymore and Liv Tyler have appeared at awards ceremonies and nightclubs sporting the round dot.

Now club-goers regard the dot as a simple piece of body art they can buy at stores in packs of six or eight. No longer created by mixing turmeric, modern dots have peel-off backs and are made of felt or thin metal.

What is a rain forest?

It is a luxuriant forest, generally composed of tall, broad-leaved trees and usually found in wet tropical uplands and lowlands around the Equator.

Rain forests usually occur in regions where there is a high annual rainfall of generally more than 1,800 millimetres and a hot and steamy climate.

The trees found in these regions are evergreen (have leaves all year round). Rain forests may also be found in areas of the tropics in which a dry season occurs, such as the 'dry rain forests' of northern Australia.

Tropical rain forests are found primarily in South and Central America, West and Central Africa, Indonesia, parts of southeast Asia and tropical Australia.

Rain forests have a system of vertical layers in plant and animal development. The highest plant layer, or tree canopy, extends to heights between 30 and 50 metres.

A variety of animals adapted to rain forests have developed swing ing, climbing, gliding and leaping movements to seek food and escape predators. Monkeys, flying squirrels and sharp-clawed woodpeckers are some of the animals that inhabit the treetops. They rarely need to come down to ground level.

The next lowest layer of the rain forest is filled with small trees, ferns and plants like orchids. Some are parasitic and others use the trees simply for support.

The space above the surface of the ground is occupied by tree branches, twigs and foliage. Many kinds of animals run, flutter, hop and climb among the undergrowth.

The rain forest floor is bare, except for a layer of soil composed of fallen leaves. The animals living in this layer, such as chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, deer, leopards, tigers and bears, are adapted to walking and climbing short distances.