In Sanskrit the name for the marks worn on the forehead is tilak (Sanskrit: तिलक) , which literally means, “ornament.” In Hindi the word is shortened to tika. There are three basic uses for the tilaka marks: The mark worn by ladies as part of their makeup; the red “dot” that is applied during puja; and the mark worn by priests and other religious people.
In a form of yoga called kundalini-yoga certain places on the body are known as chakras or places of “psychic openings.” The most important of these places is the space between the eyes just above the eyebrows. This is sometimes called the place of the third eye, and this is the main place where the tilaka is worn.
Types of Tilak:
- Madhva sampradaya : The Madhva sampradaya mark two vertical lines representing Krishna’s ‘lotus feet’. In the Madhva sampradaya the tilak is made out of Gopichandana mud from Dwaraka.In between a vertical black line is made from the daily coal of the yajna-kunda (fire sacrifice).
- Gaudiya sampradaya : In the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya the tilak is usually made out of mud from Vrindavan. The main tilak is basically identical to the Madhva tilak (Two vertical lines representing Krishna’s ‘lotus feet‘).In the Gaudiya line devotees do not approach Radha and Krishna directly, but always indirectly through their servant. To indicate this, the black line representing Radha is replaced with a tulsi leaf offered at the base of Krishna’s feet.
- Kumara sampradaya : The tilak is made of Gopi-Chandana (the clay from Gopi Kunda lake in Dwarka, Gujarat). It starts at the bridge of the nose and continues as two vertical lines to the top of the forehead.Within these lines, between the eyebrows is a black dot, made from the slate found in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, the sacred birthplace of Radha. This is said to represent God as Radha and Krishna together.
- Rudra Sampradaya : The tilak worn is generally a single vertical red line. This line represents Yamuna devi. The form of Krishna worshiped in this sampradayais Sri Nathjior Govardhana.
- Sri Sampradaya : Tilak with two lines representing the feet of Narayana. the tilak is made out of the white mud found in anthills. The scriptures tell us that the mud from the base of a Tulasi plant and the white mud from within the ant hill are both pure and best for making tilak. A red line in the middle which representing Lakshmidevi. The red line was originally made from a red stone found within the ant hill. The ants would usually make their ant hill on top of these red stones.
- Shaiva Marks : In general Shaivatilakais made of ash coming from burned wood, cow dung or incense. The tradition of ash goes back to stories that tell how Shiva would smear his body with ash taken from cremation sites, and so today, Shaivasmark their bodies with holy ash. In general, amongst Shaivas, the wearing of tilakais not as extensive or as rigid as it is in the Vaishnavaschools. Here are the most common Shaiva patterns.
- Shaktas : In general Shaktas use kumkuma, or powdered red turmeric. They draw one vertical line or dot (not to be confused with Bindi used by Indian women from different religions).
- Ganapatya : In general Ganapatya use red sandal paste (rakta candana).
- Raja tilaka and Vira tilaka : In general Raja tilaka and Vira tilaka are usually applied as a single vertical red line. Raja tilaka will be used while enthroning kings or inviting prominent personalities. Vira tilaka is used to anoint victors or leaders after a war or a game.
स्नानं दानं तपो होमो देवता पितृकर्म च। तत्सर्वं निष्फलं याति ललाटे तिलकं विना।।
ʹबिना तिलक लगाये स्नान, दान, तप, हवन,देवकर्म, पितृकर्म – सब कुछ निष्फल हो जाता है।ʹ
Applying Tilak Using Different Fingers:
- Ring Finger – Peace : Don’t we all strive for inner peace amidst the chaos we live in each day? If you want some peace in your life, then use your ring finger to apply Tilak on someone.Just like Saturn resides at the base of the middle finger, the sun resides at the base of the Ring finger it is said that by using the ring finger, a person awakens the Agya Chakra on the forehead and this helps in awakening one’s intellect and peace of mind. Not only this, the Sun also physically bestows its glow on the person who applies the Tilak using his ring finger. As a matter of fact, we all apply Tilak on Gods and Goddesses using this finger.
- Middle finger – Brings prosperity : It is said that applying a Tilak using the middle finger is said to bring good luck and prosperity in one’s life. According to Hindu mythology, Saturn is at the base of the middle finger. Saturn, which is known as the protector of life, hence gets activated when you use this finger to apply Tilak – this in turn bring health, wealth and prosperity into the life of the wearer.
- Thumb finger – Strength : As per Hindu mythology, the planet Venus is at the base of the thumb. It is said that applying Tilak using this finger brings health and wealth to the person. One should also note that if someone is sick in the family, then applying a sandalwood Tilak on him every day using the thumb finger will nurse him soon to good health owing to both the presence of Venus and the cooling and rejuvenating qualities of Sandalwood.
- Index finger – Moksha : At one point, we all will break away from the cycle of birth and death. While one should always desire to attain moksha, one should not do so when they are alive. Hence, one should not use the index finger to apply Tilak on anyone, as it signifies the end of a human’s being journey in this mortal world. Only when a person is dead, should one apply Tilak on him using the index finger, so that the person breaks away from the cycle of life and death and attain instant moksha or salvation.
It is believed that a mystical eye tests at this place, which enables bride to see the future. It sensitizes her about if something bad is destined in future. Applying Tilak on someone is supposed to bring in good luck and happiness to the wearer. The Tilak can be applied using sandalwood, ash or even vermillion (sindoor).
The area between the eyebrows (or the sixth chakra known as the ‘Agna”) is the seat of concealed wisdom. According to the tantric cult, when, during meditation, the latent energy (kundalini) rises from the base of the spine towards the head; this ‘agna’ is its probable outlet.
In addition to its religious symbolism, the tilak has a cooling effect on the forehead and this can assist in concentration and meditation.
The ‘Bindi’ between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration. It is also the central point of the base of the creation itself symbolizing auspiciousness and good fortune.
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