In Hinduism, the tilaka or tilak (Sanskrit: तिलक tilaka; Hindustani pronunciation: [ˌt̪ɪlək] tilak) is a mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body. Tilaka may be worn on a daily basis or for special religious occasions only, depending on different customs.

Significance of tilaka

The tilaka symbolize the third eye, or mind's eye, that is associated with many Hindu gods and the idea of meditation and spiritual enlightenment. In the past, tilakas were usually worn by gods, priests, ascetics, or worshippers, but is now a common practice for most Hindus. It can express which Hindu tradition one follows. It may be made with sandalwood paste, ashes (vibhuti), kumkum, sindhoor, clay, or other substances. The pastes are applied to the forehead and in some cases to the upper part of the head.

History and evolution of the tilak

The tilak is a mark created by the smearing of powder or paste on the forehead. Occasionally it extends vertically and horizontally on a large part of the forehead and may cover the nose also. The most conspicuous and widespread are those worn by Vaishnavites or followers of Lord Vishnu and his incarnations, chiefly Lord Krishna. The tilak consists of a long line starting from just below the hairline till almost the end of one's nose tip. It is intercepted in the middle by an elongated U. There may be two marks on the temples as well. This tilak is traditionally done with sandalwood paste, lauded in Hindu texts for its purity and cooling nature.

The other major tilak variant is often worn by the followers of Lord Shiva and the different forms of Devi Shakti. It consists of three horizontal bands across the forehead with a single vertical band or circle in the middle. This is traditionally done with the ash or bhasma of the wood used in yagnyas to propitiate Lord Shiva or Devi Shakti. This variant is the more ancient of the two and shares many common aspect with similar markings worn across the world. Many worshippers of Goddess Shakti will wear a rectangular mark of kumkum on the forehead, especially South Indians or those of South Indian descent.

Nowadays, many Hindus do not wear the tilak in everyday life. Women consider it an old tradition that doesn't suit their western clothing, but many Hindu women do wear the Bindi. It is often worn on religious occasions and on auspicious dVarieties of tilaka EnlargeMan with tilaka==Varieties of tilaka==

Different Hindu traditions use different materials and shapes to make the tilaka.

  • Saivites typically use vibhuti in three horizontal lines across the forehead. A bindu of sandalwood paste with a dot of kumkum in the centre is often worn with the vibhuti. (tripundra).
  • Vaishnavas apply clay from a holy river or place (such as Vrindavan or the Yamuna river) which is sometimes mixed with sandalwood paste. They apply the material in two vertical lines, which may be connected at the bottom, forming either a simple U shape or with an additional marking in the shape of a tulsi leaf. Their tilaka is called the Urdhva Pundra Tilak.
  • Ganapatya use red sandal paste (rakta candana).[2]
  • Shaktas use kumkuma, or powdered red turmeric. They draw one vertical line or dot.
  • Honorary tilakas (Raj Tilak and Vir Tilak): They are usually applied as a single vertical red line. Raj Tilak will be used while throning kings or inviting prominent personalities. Vir Tilak is used to anoint victors or leaders after a war or a game.
  • Swaminarayan Tilak: It is U-shaped in the middle of forehead along with the red dot in the middle of U (known as chandlo).
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Tilaka. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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