The Sacred Symbol of Marriage..
Mangal = auspicious
Sutra = thread
A mangalsutra (also mangala sutra or mangalasutra) is an Indian symbol of Hindu marriage, consisting of a gold ornament strung from a yellow thread, a string of black beads or a gold chain.

The word mangalsutra can be deciphered as 'sacred thread or cord'; as 'mangal' means auspicious and 'sutra' means thread or cord.

In South India, the Maangalyam is made up of a yellow thread painted with Turmeric paste. The thread is tied with three knots around the bride’s neck. In some of the weddings the first knot is tied by the groom, while the remaining two knots are tied by his sister. In North India the Mangalsutra is a golden ornament having black beads and a gold or Diamond pendant in it.

Mangalsutra is Lord Brahma. Mangalsutra. That is to say Thali is both creator and destroyer. When tied to a girl’s neck, thali promotes her to wifehood and when removed from her neck it demotes her to widowhood.

It is called mangal sutra, because it represents “auspiciousness”. By wearing it, a woman announces that she is happy and fulfilled in her life, this is what makes her “auspicious”. The sutra represents the many strands of emotions, love, faith, trust, friendship etc that go into making up a relationship, especially one that is suppose to last a life time. It also represents the many relationships that bind them now, those of the two families that are now woven into one.


"Historically, the custom of tying a mangalsutra, the auspicious emblem or cord, on the wedding day, appears to have become popular only after the 6th century AD. Before this, a yellow protective cord known as 'kankanabandhana' was tied around the wrists of the bride and the groom to signal their commitment to marriage.

The mangalsutra is considered a talisman to ward off the evil eye. The black colour of the beads is said to absorb all negative vibrations before they can reach the bride and her family. The stringing together of the beads into one thread has its significance as well. Just as each bead contributes to making a beautiful necklace, so does the woman have to blend and integrate into the new family after marriage."

According to Hindu culture, there are five signs of marital status of women. They are mangalsutra, Toe rings, Kumkum, bangles and a nose ring. Mangalsutra is the most important among them.

The Mangalsutra consists of two pieces, ONE FROM EACH FAMILY, traditionally dangling on a yellow thread. The variations in the Mangalsutra and the way it is made / arranged varies from region to region. It contains images of the Shiva Lingam - Iyers The Namam and Sudarshana Chakra - Iyengars A pair of shell (shakha) and red coral (paula) bangles - Bengali Ivory -Punjab and Rajastan Gold chain with black beads and a gold pendant - West and other parts of India. Kashitali - gold chain with coral beads and two black beads on either side of a diamond shaped gold pendant - Karnataka, specifically "Konkini" Soft 24 Karat Gold is fashioned into necklaces modelled on the local flora and fauna—earrings like the hona, which replicate the orchid, and the lokaparo, which consists of two birds placed back to back. - Assam Gold is used to craft imitations of the human head and long funnel-shaped beads which are used in combination with shells, animal claws and teeth and precious and semi-precious stones. - Nagaland Rice grains, the Cobra’s hood, Melon and Cucumber seeds are some of the common motifs of nature inspired jewellery. - Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Silversmiths craft large ornaments, which have a very delicate and intricate appearance. Headdresses called chak, long earrings and large nose rings with papal leaf or bird motifs are the specialties of the region. - Himachal Pradesh Turquoise, Cornelian (sort of reddish quartz), Coral and Agate - Ladakh and East Indian States Our humble Mangalsutra had a very humble Beginning.

A Hindu marriage symbolizes not just a bonding of two individuals but also the bonding of understanding, commitment, mutual love and spiritual growth. In Hindu tradition marriage is not just about celebration and fun it demands sacrifice, companionship, dedication, and surrender by both the partners. Each and every rituals and customs associated with marriage portrays the real essence of wedding. Mangalsutra is one such symbol of marriage. It is not just a jewelry item it has lots of significance to an Indian married woman. It is a sacred thread of love and goodwill worn by married women as a symbol of their marriage.

Mangalsutra is the guardian of the wearer; a sort of fence as the South Indian saying goes. To every woman Mangalsutra is precious, as precious as her loving husband. Temple goers invariably touch their Mangalsutra with the Kumkum offered by poojaris as prasad.

Married women who value their Mangalsutra perform ‘Sumangali pooja’ for strengthening the life span of their Mangalsutra. When they prostrate before elders to receive their blessings and good wishes, they are blessed with the words ‘Deerga Sumangali Bhava’, meaning ‘Let you lead a long married life’, which only tells indirectly ‘Let your husband be hale and hearty forever so as to make you happy’.

Ear Piercing

In India, Hindu infants of both genders get their ears pierced as early as 12 days after birth or before their first birth day or third or fifth year (depending on region and local custom).

According to Legends The shape of the ear resembles the holy symbol 'Aum'. It is believed that piercing the ear is just dotting the Aum. The ear is pierced by a priest during a holy ceremony (Karnavedha).


Karnavedha or the practice of wearing earrings is one of the Hindu Sanskars (sacraments) performed for a child. Karnavedha is a Vedic rite of passage. Common between male and females, it is intended to open the inner ears of the child for receiving sacred sounds. This rite has deep mystical and symbolic significance. It is believed that merely hearing sacred sounds has merit in that it cleanses sin and nurtures the spirit.

According Dharma sindhu, it must be done on the 10th, 12th or 16th day after birth of the child. If it is not possible to do on these days, it must be done on 6th or 7th month after birth. Even if this is not possible, it must be done on odd years and not on even years of the child. At least by the time of upanayana, one must have this done. The men must have the ear stud permanently after Upanayana (thread ceremony).

The continuous pressure in the ear lobe perhaps helps in keeping active that part of the brain responsible for memory. It must be mentioned here that piercing the ear at the bottom part of the ear lobe is the recommended

Since earliest times, wearing ear ornaments by married Indian women has been considered auspicious. Besides, earrings were considered to be a symbol of woman's wealth and her status in society. Elongated ear lobes were considered a sign of beauty and wealth - the longer the lobe, the greater the woman's wealth. By appending ornaments to almost every part of the ear, the woman also ensured a continuous state of mental and physical well being.

According to Acupressure Therapy, the meridians connecting the brain pass though this area. This is said to help in the quick development of the brain. Hence, the earlier the ears of the child are pierced, better the results will be. In certain Indian communities, even a boy’s ears are pierced.

Recent studies have identified the ear as a microcosm of the entire body. Some even say the point of vision in acupuncture is situated in the center of the lobe. Hence the practice of wearing earrings is thought to have some therapeutic value. Besides, in certain places, ear piercing was believed to be good for the eyes. It also sharpened the mind and drew off 'bad humors'.

Ear Ring

An earring can be described as a piece of jewelery that is worn on the ear.

According to Legends Ancient Prakrit and Sanskrit literature describe girls wearing fresh flowers in their ears. A range of floral earrings of gold, silver or precious stones that have been popular over the centuries in India suggest that the forms of flowers were translated into precious jewelry. A type of flower known as the karnphul, i.e., 'ear-flowers' is considered particularly auspicious. Karn Phools are an large, round metal flower-form earring, with a central stud at the back being the equivalent of a flower stem.

Scholars believe that the choice of the flower as the inspiring shape for earrings is not without significance. Flowers are considered natural erotic stimulants, by virtue of their association with Kama, the God of love, besides these are considered a concise symbol of nature, condensing into a brief span of time the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. In addition, flowers also reflects gentleness, youth, spiritual perfection and innocence, qualities which are but the fundamental attributes of feminine character.

Nose Piercing

Nose piercing is the piercing of the skin or cartilage which forms any part of the nose, normally for the purpose of wearing jewelry. The Hindu women usually have their noses pierced at the age of sixteen which is what is considered to be the age to marry. The piercings honor the goddess of marriage, known as Parvathi.

According to the Indian medicine, the female who get her nose pierced is assumed to experience less pains while delivering the child. The reason behind this belief is, through the piercing some vein is pressed that makes the childbirth easier.

Nose Ring

A piece of stead-like ornament worn by women in their nose, commonly known as nose-ring and nose stead. (known as Mukkuthi or Mookuthi in Tamil & Kannada and Nath in Hindi) Nose ring are usually worn in the left nostril. The reason that the left side is chosen more often is because it is linked with the female reproductive organs.The custom to wear this ornamental jewel is typically different from one state to other, one caste to other and even different amongst communities. Some use it in their left nose, some at right and few wear it in both sides of their nose. Nose stud is widely worn in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu and in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, by both married and unmarried young women.

It is strongly believed that the nose ornaments have their own scientific advantages. By piercing the nose to wear these ornaments the women protect themselves from all nasal infections. It also helps her to have a stronger sense of smell. Call it acupuncture treatment.

In some parts of India the nose ring is never removed once a woman is married, and thus a nose ring is often considered to be a sign of marriage.

All said and done for the Indian woman who wishes to look beautiful in the traditional fashion, her shringar is never complete without the wearing of a sparkling nose ornament.


Wearing of toe rings is highly practiced in India. It is worn as a symbol of married state by Hindu women and is called bichiya (pronounced: bee-chee-ya) in Hindi, Mettelu in Telugu, Metti in Tamil & kalungura in Kannada. Toe rings, also known as bichwa, are a must for married Hindu woman. Tradition of wearing toe rings carries tremendous social significance for married Hindu women in India.

They are usually made of silver and worn in pairs on the second toe of both feet. Traditionally they are quite ornate, though more contemporary designs are now being developed to cater to the modern bride. Some 'bichiya sets' may have pairs for four of the five toes, excluding the little pinky. 'Bichiyas' may not be made of gold, as gold holds a 'respected' status and may not be worn below the waist. Hindus believe that gold is the metal of the Gods; it symbolizes Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and therefore considers it inappropriate to wear gold below the waist.

Traditionally a large ring was worn on the great toe of the left foot to indicate a married status. As Toe Rings or Bicchwas were considered to be symbolic of married woman, Hindu religion prohibits unmarried girls from wearing Bichhwas. Even in present times, girls refrain from wearing toe-rings before marriage.Toe rings also symbolize a womans dual status as sister and wife. She wears two sets of toe rings on each foot one for her brother and one for her husband. When either the husband or brother dies, one set is removed. The symbolism is that if her husband were to die then her brother would offer her protection.

In great Indian epic called 'Ramayana' toe ring plays a vital role. When Seeta was abducted by Ravana, on the way, she throwed her toe ring (kaniazhi) as the identification for lord Rama.This shows that toe ring is used from ancient time. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, bichwa or toe rings is one of the most important symbols of marriage and women are encouraged to decorate each toe with different rings with myriad motifs ranging from paisley, to fish to flowers.

During the Vedic times, Sanskrit texts laid down the concept of sixteen Shringaar or the sixteen traditional accouterments with which every woman could adorn herself.

In South India too, toe rings are a symbol of marriage and women wear a heavy ring on the second toe of each foot.

Toe rings are usually adjustable.These rings are seldom closed circles but open hoops so that they could easily be removed. Toe rings usually have a small gap on the bottom of the ring to allow them to slip over the tips of the toe more easily.

Scientific & Ayuvedic.

Some men frequently wore a ring on the big toe for curative purposes or to augment their masculine vigor. Wearing toe ring to the second toe has sexual/erotic effect. The reflexology texts also mention about treating gynecological problems by massaging the second toe. There is also a belief that the wearing of toe rings press on certain nerves that pertain to the reproductive system, keeping it in balance and healthy. Ancient Ayuvedic medicine has long been used along side acupressure. The Indians believe that your "prana" or life force must be in balance in order for you to stay healthy. All of the paths of your "prana" run down to your toes, so the idea that a marital symbol could double up as a reproductive enhancer is not a big stretch.

This is a ring with two or three line rounds, worn in their second finger from toe. By wearing this in both feet, it is believed, that their menstrual cycle course is regularized with even intervals. This gives good scope for conceiving to married women. Also it is said just because that particular nerve in the second finger from toe, also connects the uteruses and passes thru heart. Because of this, the constant friction caused while walking and doing all sorts of chores during a day, it revitalizes the productivity organs. Silver being a good conductor, it also absorbs the energy from the polar energies from the earth and passes it to the body, thus refreshing whole body system.


Bangles are a type of ornament worn by women in India. Also called Kangan or Chudi in Hindi, Valayal in Tamil, Gaaju in Telugu, Bale in Kannada. Bangles are part of traditional Indian jewelry. In India, bangles are very popular and with growing fashion trends, have become a highly popular in their various designs and forms. They are usually worn in pairs by women, one or more on each arm. Most Indian women prefer wearing either gold or glass bangles or combination of both. Inexpensive Bangles made from plastic are slowly replacing those made by glass, but the ones made of glass are still preferred at traditional occasions such as marriages and on festivals. Bangles hold great value in Hinduism and tradition. It is considered inauspicious for a woman to have bare arms. Traditionally, married Hindu women always weary bangles around their wrists. Today, the modern day women may not wear bangles with their daily attire, but only on occasions and festivals. This is because to them, bangles have a very sentimental value. In fact, to the Hindu woman, bangle is not only an ornament, but also an important part of womanhood and honor.

A single bangle worn by a man is called a Kada or Kara (steel or iron bangle). Kada is a circular shaped bangle having religious significance for Sikhs, and is made from iron, white metal or gold.

Marriage - While girls in traditional Indian society are allowed to wear bangles, married women are generally expected to wear bangles. The jewelry is primarily associated with matrimony, signifying marriage in the same way that the Western wedding ring does. After the wedding, the woman continues to wear her bangles as a charm of safety and luck for her husband, and after a Hindu woman's husband dies, she breaks her glass wedding bangles in an act of mourning.

Bangles and Honeymoon – During an Indian wedding, the bride tries to wear the smallest glass bangles. She is helped by her best friend or sister to do this using scented oil. It’s believed that smaller bangles symbolize a happy and loving marriage and a wonderful honeymoon.

Bangles and Husband and Luck – A married Indian woman is required to wear bangles (green or red depending on which region they belong to) on a day to day basis because bangles are symbolic of safety, marriage and luck for their husbands. Sudden breaking of glass bangles is considered a sign of danger or an unpleasant incident involving the husband.

Color and Meaning

Glass bangles hold different meanings according to their color. Some regions have specific bangles associated with their local traditions, and there is a more general color code for bangles as well. Red bangles symbolize energy, blue bangles symbolize wisdom and purple symbolizes independence. Green stands for luck or marriage and yellow is for happiness. Orange bangles mean success, white ones mean new beginnings and black ones mean power. Silver bangles mean strength, while gold bangles mean fortune.

In Gujarat and Rajasthan, the bride’s mother has to gift the bride a pair of ivory bangles. It is only on wearing these ivory bangles that the bridal couple can perform the ‘saptapati’; without the bangles, this ritual cannot be performed. (The saptapati is the seven steps that are taken around the fire, without which no Hindu marriage is considered complete).

Married women in Bengal have to wear the iron ‘kada’ (bangle) or ‘loha’ as it is commonly called, to signify marriage. In addition to this kada, the bride is presented with white conch bangles that are beautifully crafted and red lac bangles.

The South Indian ceremony called Valaikaapu occurs during the seventh month of a woman's pregnancy. The family celebrates, and bangles of all colors and designs are stacked on the woman's wrists. Once the ceremony is completed, the woman goes to her mother's residence. There, she will deliver her child.

It is believed to be an event held to ward off evil spirits that might be lurking around the mother-to-be or the baby in the womb.

Why do we wear marks on the forehead?

One of the most visible external symbols of Hindu identity is the mark that many of us wear on our forehead. This is called tilak, pottu or bindi. The dot is called 'Kumkum' or 'Bindi', and when worn by men it is called 'Tilak' (mark). Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on Varna or colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races. The vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.

Also Worshippers of Lord Vishnu wear a Chandan (sandalwood paste) Tilak of the shape of “U.” Vertical lines usually represent Vaishnava devotees. Lord Shiva worshippers apply a three horizontal line bhasma or sacred ash. Horizontal lines represent Shaiva devotees. Worshippers of Devi or the female goddess apply a red dot of kumkum. A red tika is widely applied during pujas on devotees by priests.

The wearing of a mark on the forehead is a unique feature associated with Hinduism. Basically, the wearing of Tika invokes a feeling of sacredness on the wearer and on the people with whom the wearer comes into contact. Tilak, or Tika, is also a religious symbol and they reveal the particular God worshipped by the wearer.

The tilak worn by Hindu priests have more significance. It represents the particular school of thought or Sampradaya he represents. The lines and the color used by priests vary from region to region and from sect to sect.

The area in which the mark is applied is between the eyebrows, called the “Ajna Chakra”. This is the point that most schools of Hinduism consider the entry and exit point of our jivaatma (soul). The tilak also represents our third eye (the spiritual eye) a concept closely related to Lord Shiva.

This Ajna Chakra area is often citied as the seat of thinking, concentration and memory. It is also the area which gets heated during stress and tension. Applying the tilak has a cooling effect, aids concentration and signifies our eternal link with the Supreme Being, known as the Brahman (absolute).

The tilak is applied with the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds." Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces. The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache.

It is also said that the chandan or bhasma cools the forehead and the spot between the eyebrows, which is known to generate heat during stress and tension. It is also known to prevent energy loss.

The most famous Indian mark on the forehead is the Bindu or Bindi worn by females and it has is part of makeup. The red dot applied on the top of the forehead (near the hair) is the mark of a married female.

The dot or bindi Pronounced as 'Bin Dee', the word bindi is derived from the Sanskrit word bindu, which means "drop". Bindi is an auspicious ornamental mark worn by Hindu girls and women on their forehead between the two eyes . Bindi is arguably the most visually fascinating in all form of body decoration. More than a beauty spot, the manga tika (bindi) indicates good omen and purity.

Considered a symbol of Goddess Parvati, a bindi signifies female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands. Traditionally a symbol of marriage, it has also become decorative and is worn today by unmarried girls and women as well.

No longer restricted in colour or shape, bindis are seen in many bright colours and in different shapes and designs. They are also made of coloured felt and embellished with coloured glass or glitter.

The vermilion, used to make bindis, is called ‘sindoor or ‘sindoora’ meaning red and representing Shakti or strength. Bindi also stands up for love; the red dot on the forehead gives a special charm to the lady’s face that attracts her lover. Sindoor and yellow turmeric are kept in temples and during celebrations, as a good omen. This represents intellect and is very special in temples dedicated to Hindu Gods Shakti, Lakshmi and Vishnu.

One day as Sri Jankidevi, wife of Lord Rama, was adorning the part of her hair with sindur, Hanumanji asked her, "Mata, why do you put this red thing on your head?" Smiling at Hanumanji’s curiosity, Sri Sitaji replied, "By applying this my swami [husband] lives long." Because Hanumanji is a Parma-bhakta of Sri Ram, he thought that if a pinch of sindur could make his master’s life long, a whole lot of it would make him live longer. So he rubbed it all over his gigantic body!

Bindi can be called:
Tikli in Marathi
Pottu in Tamil and Malayalam
Tilak in Hindi
Chandlo in Gujarati
Bottu or Tilakam (in Telugu)
Bottu or Tilaka (in Kannada)
Teep (meaning "a pressing") (in Bengali)
Nande is a term erroneously used to describe the bindi in Malaysia. It may contain pejorative connotations although not in most cases.

Bhasma, Vibhuti

Vibhuti (meaning glory) or Bhasma (that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered) is the holy ash that Hindus apply over their forehead and body. The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. This holy ash is created by burning cow dung along with milk, ghee, honey, etc. It is a principle sacrament in the worship of Lord Siva, representing His burning away of our ignorance to ashes.

Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.

Literal meaning of bhasma

The Sanskrit word bhasma literally means “disintegration”. Bha means bharatsanam (to destroy), while sma implies smaran (to remember). Bhasama is thus a reminder to us of the ephemeral nature of life. Also,if we wish to unite with God ( or the ‘ supreme self’ ) and remember him constantly, our ego or ‘little self’ has first to be disintegrated or burnt to ashes. Bhasma is a symbol of this process. It is also called raksha because it protects one from all fears. When appled to the forehead before sleep, it is said to keep away evil spirits or ghosts, whether external or those which manifest fro the depths of the mind in the from of nightmares.
Bhasma symbolishes the burning of our false identification with the mortal body, and freedom from the limitations of the painfully illusive cycle of birth and death. It also reminds us of the perishable quality of the body, which will one day be reduced to mere ashes.

Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions.

Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.
The power of Bhasma :

Bhasma or Udi is also called “vibhooti”, because it gives spiritual power. The Sanskrit word, vibhooti means ‘glory’ , as it gives glory to one who applies it, protection from ill health and negative forces, and attracts the higher forces of nature. Another meaning of vibhooti is ‘healing power’, and it is widely used as a medicinal treatment in both ayurveda and Chinese and Tibetan medicine.

Vibhooti also means ‘dominion’, and is the subtle power lying behind creation, from which all things manifest. From vibhooti or bhasma , anything can be created by a tantric or aghora , because the potential of creation lies within it , and he ha penetrated the law and controlled the elements.

Maha yogi Shiva , father of tantra , is usually depicted naked in sadhana , his whole body coverd in bhasma. The first verse of the Shiva Panchakshara Stotram gives the following description; Nagendrahaarya trilochanaaya, bhasmaangaraaya maheshwaraaya . Nityaaya shuddhaaya digambarayya – ‘ Salutations to the mighty three eyed shiva, eternal and pure, wearing the king of snakes as his garland, naked and besmeared with sacred ash.’ Some other name given to Lord Shiva are Bhasmashrayaaya (abode of bhasma ) and Bhasmabhootaaya (covered with bhasma). Covering the body with ash is considered to be auspicious act for discovering one’s Shiva nature.

Vibhuthi should be taken with the right hand and applied on the forehead as three horizontal lines. The first line stands for removal of Ahankar (pride) the next stands for removal of Ignorance and the third stands for removal of bad karma (actions). The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death.


Sannyassins wear three lines of bhasma on the forehead. These three lines (tripundra) with a red dot of kumkum underneath , between the eyebrows,symbolize Shiva-Shakti, the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe. The lower line indicates tamoguna, the basic inertia and darkness, the middle line represents the rajas, activity and dynamism and the top line represents sattwa , balance and illumination. The red hot or tika indicates th power of Shakti through sadhana , which can take the sadhaka beyond the three gunas or qualitie to the state of turiya, the forth dimension of existence. This is the state of trigunnatita – beyond the gunas.

Bhasma has medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches. The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.

Tryambakam yajaamahe
Sugandhim pushtivardhanam
Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan
Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat

"We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death – effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem."


Vaishnavites apply clay (preferably from holy rivers) or sandalwood paste. They apply the material in two vertical lines, which may be connected at the bottom, forming either a simple U shape or a form said to be like a tulasi leaf. Their Tilak is called the urdhva-pundra. Vaishnavites use clay for their Srichurnam. This is also called “thirumann” ( mann is the tamil word for clay). This is known as Srichurnam and wearing this is as an important part of the daily rites of a Sri Vaishnavite. The Tilak is applied to twelve parts of the body, reciting the twelve names of the Lord. Vedas say, by wearing this mark, he becomes fortunate, gets released of all the worldly bondages and attains liberation.

In Sri Vaishnava sampradaya 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 anthill are both pure and best for making tilak. The Sri Vaishnavas will draw two lines representing the feet of Sri Narayana, and in the middle they will put a red line to represent Lakshmi Devi. Because the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya begins with Sri Lakshmi Devi, and they approach Narayana only through Lakshmi, their tilak reflects this process of surrender. Using mud also makes us reflect that we come from clay and go back to clay.

"In the Padma Purana there is a statement describing how a Vaisnava should decorate his body with tilaka and beads: "Persons who put tulasi beads on the neck, who mark twelve places of their bodies as Visnu temples with Visnu's symbolic representations [the four items held in the four hands of Lord Visnu--conch, mace, disc and lotus], and who have visnu-tilaka on their foreheads, are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Visnu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain, they make that place as good as Vaikuntha."

A similar statement is in the Skanda Purana, which says, "Persons who are decorated with tilaka or gopi-candana [a kind of clay resembling fuller's earth which is produced in certain quarters of Vrndavana], and who mark their bodies all over with the holy names of the Lord, and on whose necks and breasts there are tulasi beads, are never approached by the Yamadutas."

Different types of tilaka markings denote the different sects of Vaisnavism, namely the impersonalists and the personalists. Gaudiya Vaisnava tilaka appears as two straight and perpendicular vertical lines on the forehead that meet between the eyes. Tilaka marks are ornamented in various ways. Sometimes white or yellow clay is used for marking the outer lines, and turmeric or red sricurna powder mark the central line. Curved tilaka is not to be worn Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Gaudiya Vaisnava tilaka is also known as udra pundra, or Visnu temple, which distinguishes the personalist Vaisnavas from the mayavadis, who use the three parallel lines, tripundra.

Members of the Kumara Sampradaya place on the forehead two vertical lines of white clay (gopichandana) with a central black spot. For members of the Laksmi Sampradaya, the representation of Namam on the Vaisnava's forehead is known as Thirumann, which means the sacred earth (dust). Namam consists of three vertical lines joined at the base, the two outer white lines signifying the worship of Brahama and Vishnu and the red centerline signifying the worship Mahalakshi. The Saivite tilaka has three pundra, or lines, on the forehead.

The fingers used for applying tilak are as follows:

At the base of the little finger is Mercury, at the base of the ring-finger is Sun, at the base of the middle finger is Saturn, at the base of the index finger is Jupiter and at the base of the thumb is Venus. Tilak applied with the ring finger and the thumb is beneficial. The Sun represents firmness, brilliance, honour, respect and faith. These are the blessings achieved by applying tilak with the ring finger. Venus is a life and health giving force, the creator of life, the bestower of gentility and politeness. This is achieved by applying tilak with the thumb.

Women should use the ring finger for applying bindi, which should be made of unbroken rice grains. Men should also use unbroken rice grains (akshat) mixed in red chandan and apply the tilak with the thumb. The unbroken rice grains symbolise steadfastness and firmness of the brain and are also a symbol of peace.

The holy scriptures of Hindu advocate the importance to Tilak on a forehead in the below line:

The scriptures say: "A forehead without a Tilak, a woman without a husband, a Mantra the meaning of which is not known while doing Japa (recitation), the head that does not bend before holy personages, a heart without mercy, a house without a well, a village without a temple, a country without a river, a society without a leader, wealth that is not given away in charity, a preceptor without a disciple, a country without justice, a king without an able minister, a woman not obedient to her husband, a well without water, a flower without smell, a soul devoid of holiness, a field without rains, an intellect without clearness, a disciple who does not consider his preceptor as a form of God, a body devoid of health, a custom (Achar) without purity, austerity devoid of fellow-feeling, speech in which truth is not the basis, a country without good people, work without wages, Sannyasa without renunciation, legs that have not performed pilgrimages, determination unaided by Viveka or discrimination, a knife which is blunt, a cow that does not give milk, a spear without a point- all these are worthy of condemnation. They exist for name´s sake only."

According to the Brahmanda Purana, the colours and manner of application of the tilak are significant: "A black Tilak will derive peace; a red Tilak will bring obedience and control; a yellow one will bring wealth; one which is white will deliver devotion to Vishnu; a Tilak of correct size, marked using one’s fingers will offer the god’s support and blessing; a Tilak in the centre of the forehead will bring youth and long life; the Chandlo made using the third finger (Anamika) will deliver joy; and a bounded Tilak will ultimately bring salvation".