significance of holy ash the mark on the forehead of hindus
the holy ash is very closely associated with lord shiva. as the god appeared as the column of fire, it was adorned by the ash from that fire. even today for the shiva lingam which resembles the infinite column of flame (the lord), is anointed with this holy ash in specific that symbolizes this associate that symbolizes this association. having closely associated with the lord the holy ash is of very great significance for the shaivites. here are a few samples from that great glory.
the holy ash is the substance the devotees wear on their bodies with adoration and respect. this along with the rudra beads (1) shows up the devotees of the simple but supreme lord shiva. the holy ash has lots of spiritual sense. there are lots of hymns telling the glory of the holy ash. ((2) – for example). ash – the substance that is arrived when things are completely burnt off. in natural terms it is a final state. the state where it has nothing left to burn off ! this indicates the transience of the beings and the permanence of the supreme that smears in this ash. this also indicates the matured state of bliss the devotees would be heading towards which stands beyond perturbance – transformation (nothing to burn off).
the puranic events associated with the holy ash show its significance. when the three daemons of impurities (tripura) were burnt down by the mere smile of the god, the ash that remained got settled on the lord, who danced there. thus the tripurari was smeared in the ash that came out of burning out of the three impurities. when the cupid – the deva of lust, tried to fire his arrows on the yogic lord, he was burnt by the lord into a heap of ash. the unruffled lord appeared decorated with that ash. at the times when everything reduces unto it, the everexistant lord wears that ash.
the devotees of the lord, who gives his form to the ardent worshipper, wear the same way the holy ash on their body. this holy ash is prepared in the ritual fire in a specified way (3) along with the chanting of the holy five letters (4) and other vedic hymns. thus obtained holy ash is worn on various specified places of the body including the forehead chanting the holy five letters. (there are two broad categories of wearing the holy ash. one is uddulanam that is sprinkling the holy ash on the body and the other is tripundram that is in three distinct bands)
some of the upanishads that hail the glory of holy ash.
holy ash – some more information
lord kalagni rudra teaches bhusu.ndi – earth came out of the sadyojata face of the lord. from this came the gray colored cow called nanda from the dung of which came vibhuti. from the vamadeva face came the water, from that came the black colored cow bhadra giving bhasita. from the aghora face came the fire, from that the copper-colored cow t the copper-colored cow surabhi giving bhasma. from the tatpurusha face came the gas/air, from which cameshanti and from that came the white colored cow sushile giving xara. from the ishana face came the space, from which came the multi colored cowsumana giving raksha.
the holy ash which is called by five names, when pronunced raises the spiritual power of the individual and hence is called vibhuti. since it burns the sins to ashes it is called bhasita. since it gives the wisdom to all it is called bhasmam. since it neutralises the bad things it is called xara. since it protects the people from evil forces, it is called raxa.
irrespective of caste, creed, sex and all other differences all the people shall wear the holy ash. it is an old adage the says the forehead without the ash is a ruined one. the holy ash having the powers of agni and soma refreshes the one who wears it. for the seekers of yoga this holy ash kindles the spirit and provides early fruit. when wearing the holy ash the mantra shivaya namah(the holy five letters(1)) is chanted or the sadyojatadi pajncha brahma mantra(2) or the tryambakam or mano mahantam from rudra suktam(3).
the holy ash purifies the one who wears it. this purification (bath) is called agneya snana. in this the renouced ones would smear the ash in the remains of ritual fire from the leg to the head. others would smear in the ash from the head to the leg.
skandha puranam says that the holy ash would have to be worn at the following fifteen places in the body.
both sides of the belly
two sides of the back
behind the neck
the application of holy ash
the holy ash, that decorates the bodies of lord shiva and shaivites, is very sacred and there are prescriptions on how it needs to be adored and adorned. here are few of those. the two ways of getting adorned with holy ash are tripundram, uddulanam. the first is applying the holy ash in the form of three distinct bands and the second is sprinkling it on the part of the body.
one simple way would be to chant thirunirruppadhikam (1) while taking the holy ash and while getting adorned with that chant the aghora panchaxaram(the aghora holy five letters) which is shivaya namah.
with clean hands take the holy ash chanting the sadyojadadi mantras and the ma no mahantam mantra from shri rudram.
those who perform rituals, perform shiva puja should first take the holy ash without adding water and sprinkle on their head, forehead, chest and two shoulders. later using the right hand index, middle and the ring finger take the holy ash, keep in the left hand, close it with right hand and chant these mantras
om nivriti kalayai namah om pratishta kalayai namah om vidya kalayai namah om shanti kalayai namah om shantyatita kalayai namah
om ishanaya namah om tatpurushaya namah om aghoraya namah om vamadevaya namah om sadyojadaya namah
om hridayaya namah om shirashe namah om shikayai namah om kavachaya namah om netraya namah om astraya namah
then saying hridayaya namah, add water and saying kavachaya vaushat, mix it. chant the first four of the above said panchabrahma mantram and apply (with the three fingers of the right hand mentioned above – index, middle and ring fingers) the holy ash paste on the first four places of the body. (see below for the list of places where to apply holy ash). chant the fifth mantram when applying at the other parts of the body. while applying face up, so that the holy ash does not spill down on the ground. if by mistake the holy ash spills on the ground, clean that area with water.
the places to apply the holy ash on the body
vibhuti can be worn either in 32 places or 16 places or 8 places or five places.
head forehead two ears two eyes nose mouth neck two shoulders two elbows two wrists chest two ribs navel two sides of groin buttocks two urus two thighs two knees two ankles two feet total 32 places
head forehead 2 ears neck 2 shoulders 2 elbows 2 wrists chest navel 2 ribs back total 16 places
head forehead 2 ears 2 shoulders chest navel total 8 places
forehead 2 shoulders chest navel total 5 places
one of the ways of taking bath as prescribed by vedas is known as agneyam. it is defined as agneyam bhasmasnanam. that is agneyam bath is nothing but bathing in the holy ash.
the holy ash has very good medicinal value. this could prevent/cure 81 diseases that are out of air (vata), and 64 of diseases caused by bile(pittam), and 215 of phlegm (kapham).
the holy ash is the most ancient symbol. it is hailed in the vedas along with rudraksha(2). even the devotees of lord vishnu used to wear this originally (kariyameni michai veliya niru chiridheyidum periya kolath thadankannan, niru chevve idakkanil nedumaladiyar enrodum – divya prabhandham).
muzhuneeru puchiya munivar(the saints who decorated with ashes)
the munis completly smeared in holy ash. the lord who burnt the three forts by his graceful smile, who burnt the dheva of desire with a wink of his eye, who dances enjo of his eye, who dances enjoying in the self when the creations are reduced to ash before the regeneration that lords holy blessing substance is the holy ash. the three adorable rated holy ash being karpam, anukarpam, upakarpam and unacceptable being akarpam, one should accept the first three those purifies one from the flaws like desire.
when the cows that give the holy five substances for the lord to get anointed are about to send out accepting that with the gomaya mantra , in the sacred fire grown for lord shiva with the shiva mantra praised by the celestial bodies putting thus accepted cow dung saluting the holy feet of the three-eyed lord, the holy ash that results is the chaste karpam.
bringing the dung that is dried in the forests, powdering it, wetting with the water of the cows, with the aththira man^dhiram casting it and then putting in the ritual fire and taking the properly burnt holy ash is the an^ukarpam.
other than ash from the forest fire, fire in the cow yard and a few such ashes, making balls out of the dung with the water of the cow chanting the holy mantras and then burning in the ritual fire and the holy ash thus obtained is called upakarpam.
thus taking the sacred ash humbly chanting the shiva mantra the slaves of the lord adorn themselves. the holy ash the fame and fruit of which very big to explain and that makes good for the devotees who wear with respect kindles the spiritual progress. the munis wear this holy substance praising the god. let the holy ash and its glory as found by the muzu n^iru puchiya munivar stay in the mind.
thiruneetrup padhikam sloka prayer
this padhikam is sung as a medicine for colic (sulai) – heavy pain in the stomach.thalam : thirualavay pan : gandharam irandam thirumurai thiruchchirrambalam mandhira mavadhu niru vanavar meladhu niru chundhara mavadhu niru thudhikkap paduvadhu niru thandhira mavadhu niru chamayaththi lulladhu niru chenthuvar vayumai pangan thiruala vayan thirunire vedhaththi lulladhu niru venthuyar thirppadhu niru podhan tharuvadhu niru punmai thavirppadhu niru odhath thaguvadhu niru unmaiyi lulladhu niru chidhap punalvayal chuzndha thiruala vayan thirunire muththi tharuvadhu niru muniva ranivadhu niru chaththi yamavadhu$(1)$ niru thakkor pukazvadhu niru paththi tharuvadhu niru parava iniyadhu niru chidhdhi tharuvadhu niru thiruala vayan thirunire kana iniyadhu niru kavinaith tharuvadhu niru peni anipavark kellam perumai koduppadhu niru manan thagaivadhu niru madhiyaith tharuvadhu niru chenan tharuvadhu niru thiruala vayan thirunire pucha iniyadhu niru punniya mavadhu niru pecha iniyadhu niru perunthavath thorkaluk kellam achai keduppadhu niru vandhama dhavadhu niru thecham pukazvadhu niru thiruala vayan thirunire aruththama dhavadhu niru avalam aruppadhu niru varuththan thanippadhu niru vanam alippadhu niru poruththama dhavadhu niru punniyar puchumven niru thiruththagu malikai chuzndha thiruala vayan thirunire eyiladhu vattadhu niru virumaikkum ulladhu niru payilap paduvadhu niru pakkiya mavadhu niru thuyilaith thaduppadhu niru chuththama dhavadhu niru ayilaip polidharu chulath thalava yanthiru niru iravanan meladhu niru ennath thaguvadhu niru paravana mavadhu niru pavam aruppadhu niru tharavana mavadhu niru thaththuva mavadhu niru aravanan kunthiru meni alava yanthiru niru malo dayanari yadha vannamu mulladhu niru melurai dhevarkal thangal meyyadhu venpodi niru ela udambidar thirkkum inban tharuvadhu niru alama dhunda 2) midarrem malava yanthiru niru kundikaik kaiyar kalodu chakkiyar kuttamun kudak(3) kantikaip pippadhu niru karudha iniyadhu niru enthichaip patta porular eththun thakaiyadhu niru andaththa varpanin dheththum alava yanthiru niru arral adalvidai yerum alava yanthiru nirraip porrip pukali nilavum puchuran nyanacham pandhan therrith thennanuda lurra thippini yayina thirach charriya padalkal paththum vallavar nallavar thame thiruchchirrambalamn
rudraksh is one of the most important things for the devotees of lord shiva. the word rudraksha means the eye of lord rudra (rudraksha – rudra + aksha). the rudraksha beads are worn by the lord and its devotees. rudraksha beads proven to have very good positive effect in one who wears it properly is spiritually quite significant.
puranic importance of rudraksham
on the request of the divines lord shiva burnt the three daemon forts called tripurasura who were into disruptive activities. god burnt them without even a weapon just by the smile itself ! three daemons in those forts who were good and devotees of the lord came out without any harm by the lord’s grace ! at this point of time fromt he three eyes of the lord rudraksha came out. since it came from the aksha (eye) of lord rudra (a role played by the supreme shiva), it is called rudraksha.
glory of rudraksha
skanda puranam (3) details the glory of this great ornament.
“hearing or reading the glory of rudraksha can drive away the sins of anybody. be devoted or not, scholar or illiterate, whomsoever it be one who wears the rudraksha will surely get rid of all the bad deeds. philosophers call this as mahavrata. there is no deed more virtuous than wearing rudraksha. one who gets adorned in a sincere and proper way with thousand rudraksha, all the divines will salute that person. if thousands are not available sixteen each in both the hands, one at the head top, each hand twelve, in the neck thirty-two, six each in the ears shall be worn. one who wears like that is worshiped by others as if they are lord rudra. one who wears rudraksha with pearl, ruby, spadikam crystals, silver, gold, vaiduryam (lapis lazuli), that person is rudra himself ! one who wears the emblem of lord rudra, the rudraksha, them the sins do not approach as the darkness cannot approach the sun. the chanting (japa) with rudraksha mala will yield lots of good result. the japa done without that will give the fruit only to the extent of its own glory. thus very virtuous rudraksha is not worn by anybody, their life gets wasted like that of the one who does not wear holy ash (2). the wise who keeps the rudraksha at the head and bathes, gets the benefits of bathing in gangas, this is beyond doubt. such rudraksha even if only one seed is worn that person gets rid of the sin did in many births. one who anoints rudraksha gets the benefit of anointing shiva linga (1). one, five and fourteen faced rudraksha are adorable in all the worlds. human who worships rudraksha, even if he/she is very poor, will get all the wealth.”
skanda purana also refers to many stories that tell the glory of adorning one with shrl rudraksha .
how to wear rudrakshas
rudraxas are very holy. one should wear them with respect and maintain their sanctity. various ways are suggested by the scriptures on adorning oneself with them. some of them are:
adorning with thousand rudraksha .
26 beeds on head, 50 over the chest, 14 on the shoulders, 12 on the wrist.
16 each in both the hands, 1 at the head top, 12 in each hands, 32 in the neck, 6 each in the ears.
garlands of 108, 50, 27 are boonful.
a single beed.
different types of rudrakshas
rudraksha are in three colors. tawny reddish (kapila) color represent sun (surya), white represent moon (chandra) and black represent fire (agni) eyes of the lord from which they originated.
rudraksha come with different number of faces. though all rudrakshas are emblems of the lord shiva, each type has its additional significance. some of them are given here.
one face – shiva svarupam
two – devadevi (shiva shakti)
three – agni
four – brahma
five – kalagni
six – subrahmanya
seven – manmata
eight – vinayaka
nine – bhairava
ten – vishnu
eleven – ekadasharudra
twelve – dvadashaditya
thirteen – shanmukha
fourteen – lord shiva
more details on rudraksham
trees giving rudraksha beads grow in the himalayan regions of india and nepal. experienced do tests to confirm the originality of the rudraksha beads.
upanishads that hail rudraksh