Devotees of Lord Vishnu use a mark in the shape of the alphabet ‘U’ in while Lord Shiva followers apply horizontal lines, learn more about Thirunamam or sacred ash.
You may notice many Hindu men wear a decorative mark on their forehead that is made with sandalwood paste, vermillion or holy ashes. The thirunamam represents the ‘sacred name of God‘. The sacred ash in reference to Hindu god Shiva represent the 3 Gunas (tenets) of Prakriti, Shakti(Satva, Rajas and Tamas), and then Lord Shiva himself represents the immortal Purush or brahman, who is the witness or the souls of a repetitive creation, maintenance and destruction that happens in the universe.
Ash is a reminder of death.
As Isha Foundation’s Sadhguru explains the varied uses of vibhuti or sacred ash. The main use of the sacred ash is act as a “medium to transfer or transmit energy, and it has an ability to help direct and control the energy body. Apart from that, there is a symbolic significance to applying it on the body. It is a constant reminder of the mortal nature of life – it is like you are always wearing mortality on your body.”
The phrase Namam also represents the white clay found at the deeper layer of earth, which is used as the powder to wear a flame-shaped mark. The Vaishnavites or devotees of Lord Vishu apply a mark in the shape of the alphabet ‘U’ in English whereas Shaivites or devotees of Lord Shiva apply it in horizontal lines. These are called different names in different parts of the country — Gopi, Kuri, Namam, Patta, Thilakam and so on. The powerful use of ash when properly prepared and you know where and how to apply it, sacred ash can make you much more receptive. The locations of its application on your body enables you to remain alert and “more sensitive and goes towards the higher nature.” So, before you step out of the house in the morning, you should apply sacred ash or holy water at certain points to receive the divine around you, not negative vibrations.
How to apply sacred ash?
Traditionally, vibhuti is lifted with a dab using your your ring finger and applied between the eyebrows, known as the agna chakra, at the pit of the throat known as the vishuddhi chakra, and in the center of the chest where the ribcage meets, known as the anahata chakra.
The reason why Hindus apply the thirunamam at these particular points is that sacred ash is a balancing act for those chakra points. Sometimes you will notice it being applied to the tongue as well to harness only positive utterances from ones self.
The mark of Lord Vishnu
Here, you see the namams of Vaishnavites in Thirukkurungudi Village, Nanguneri, Thirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. Devotees apply it as a mark of respect to Lord Vishnu, denoting they are holding his Lotus Feet on their forehead. The two white lines represent the feet of the Lord, and the red line represents goddess Lakshmi (Thaayar) who is ever-present with Him.
Iskcon devotees follow this mantra chant as they apply tilak, as you apply the tilaka, recite the appropriate names of Vishnu. Om keshavaya namah means “O my Lord Keshava, I offer my respectful obeisance unto You.”
So as one mark their bodies, you chant twelve of His holy names.
- oṁ keśavāya namaḥ (forehead)
- oṁ nārāyaṇāya namaḥ (navel)
- oṁ mādhavāya namaḥ (chest)
- oṁ govindāya namaḥ (throat)
- oṁ viṣṇave namaḥ (right side of the navel)
- oṁ madhusūdanāya namaḥ (right upper arm)
- oṁ trivikramāya namaḥ (right shoulder)
- oṁ vāmanāya namaḥ (left side of the navel)
- oṁ śrīdharāya namaḥ (left upper arm)
- oṁ hṛṣīkeśāya namaḥ (left shoulder)
- oṁ padmanābhāya namaḥ (upper back)
- oṁ dāmodarāya namaḥ (lower back)
If you can’t find the clay to make tilaka (or if your wearing tilaka wouldn’t sit well with your boss), you can go through the same procedure using only water. Use water that has bathed the home deity or pure water, you’ve sanctified by chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
By chanting the names of the Lord, applying the invisible representation of His temple, you’ll be protected and spiritually inspired for a Krishna conscious day.
Where is Lord Vishnu now?
As Paravāsudeva, the Lord is staying in the spiritual realm (para-vyoman) in His eternal abode — Vaikuṇṭha. He is sitting on the coils of Lord Ananta on a golden throne, accompanied by His beloved consorts: Lakṣmī, Bhūmi and Nīḷā.
The mark of Lord Shiva
Tripundra (Sanskrit: त्रिपुण्ड्र tripuṇḍra “three marks“) is a Śaivite tilaka, and body art with origins in South India. It consists of three horizontal lines on the forehead, usually with a dot made from sacred ash, and has a spiritual meaning in Shiva tradition within Hinduism.
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