Vibhuti is the sacred ash used in religious worship in Hinduism. The main ingredient of Vibuthi is cow dung but several other substances such as milk and ghee prescribed in scriptures are also used to form a distinct treat for the senses. These substances are burned in a sacred fire (Homa). Vibuthi is placed on the forehead as it is considered sacred and holy. Many devotees add an amount to the tongue to receive the blessings of the deity.
The ash has several symbolic meanings.
- When eaten, Vibuthi imparts the blessings of the divine.
- Placed on the forehead of devotees, it serves as a sectarian mark (tilaka).
- In worship connected with Lord Shiva it is a symbol of purity and is one of the main sacraments given at pūjā in all Śaivite temples and shrines.
- The ash thus serves as a reminder to the believer to cast away selfish and worldly desires that wrap the self in maya, and calls to mind the story of how Shiva burned Kama (the god of desire) to ashes when Kama attempted to break Shiva's focus on the Divine Truth.
Vibhuti can refer to glorious attributes of the divine, and in this context is translated as 'all pervading', 'superhuman power', 'wealth' and so on.
The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the Homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma. Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on other parts of the body, like the upper arms, chest, etc.
The word bhasma means “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered". ”Bha” implies Bhartsana (“to destroy”) and “sma” implies smaranam (“to remember”). The application of Bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called Vibhuti (“glory”) as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. It also reminds us that the body is perishable and shall one day be reduced to ashes. As death can come at any moment, this awareness must increase our drive to make the best use of time. 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.
Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva, who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotees apply bhasma as a tripundra (the form of three lines). When applied with a red spot in the centre, the mark symbolises Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).
Ash is what remains when all the wood is burnt away and it does not decay. Similarly, the Lord is imperishable Truth that remains when the entire creation of innumerable names and forms is dissolved.
Bhasma is believed to have 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 Mrutyunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead, thus:
- “Tryambakam yajaamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam Urvaarukamiva bandhanat mrutyor muksheeya maa amritaat !!”
- “We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spreads fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death effortlessly, like the fall of a ripe cucumber from its stem !!”
In yajna only wood is burnt since cow-dung is not that sufficiently sacred to be used in yajna. Mostly sandal wood or 'shami' wood is used in yajnas.
Vibhuti (powers) can refer to paranormal powers that some believe can be developed by yoga practices.
Patanjali in the Vibhuti Pada of the Yoga Sutras, mentions many different vibhutis:
- Knowledge of the past and future
- Understanding the sounds (language) of all beings
- Knowledge of previous existences
- Knowing the minds of others
- Suspending the ability of the body to be heard, touched, tasted, or smelled
- Foreknowledge of the time of death
- Strength of any attitude (such as friendliness)
- Super strength (such as the strength of an elephant)
- Knowledge of subtle, hidden, remote things
- Knowledge of worlds, realms, universes, etc.
- Knowledge of the arrangement of stars, planets, etc.
- Knowledge of the movement of stars, planets, etc.
- Knowledge of the arrangement of systems in the body
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Attainment of steadiness or immobility
- Visions of Siddhas (perfected beings)
- Knowledge of anything and everything
- Knowledge of the mind
- Knowledge of pure consciousness (purusha)
- Psychic hearing, touch, vision, taste, and smell
- Entering and controlling the bodies of others
- Ability to float or walk on water, swamps, thorns, and other such objects
- Ability to glow or radiate light around the body
- Super hearing (hearing at vast distances)
- Ability to fly
- Mastery over the elements (earth, water, fire, air, space)
- Making the body atomically small, indestructible, perfect
- Perfection of the body in beauty, strength, grace, and brilliance
- Mastery over the senses
- Quickness of the mind, perception with the senses
- Supremacy over all states of existence, omnipotence
- Higher knowledge
- Discriminating knowledge
- Absolute freedom (kaivalyam)
Vibhuti Yoga in the Gita
In Chapter 10 of the Bhagavad Gita, titled Vibhuti Yoga, Krishna uses the term vibhuti to describe divine attributes such as magnificence, splendour, glory and prosperity.
Vibhuti as surname
Vibhuti is used as surname in northern parts of Indian subcotinent. These people fall under Agrahari community which is a specific caste under Banias (Business oriented peoples). Certain group of people in Maharashtra states also keep this name with i replaced by e i.e. Vibhute. sometimes VIBHUTI itself is used as name like in VIBHUTI BHUSHAN etc.
Members of Vibhuti Surname
- Apte, Vaman Shivram. "A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary" p. 866.
- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Loving Gaṇeśa. (Himalayan Academy: 1996) p. 692. ISBN 0-945497-64-4
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola
- Yoga Sutras word-for-word translation
ta:திருநீறு VIBHUTI is also used as a name for individuals.