Significance of Holy Ash - The mark on the forehead of Hindus

The Holy Ash is very closely associated with Lord shiva. As the God appeared as the column of fire, It was adorned by the Ash from that fire. Even today for the shiva lingam which resembles the infinite column of flame (the Lord), is anointed with this Holy Ash in specific that symbolizes this associa that symbolizes this association. Having closely associated with the Lord the Holy Ash is of very great significance for the shaivites. Here are a few samples from that great glory.

Holy Ash
The holy Ash is the substance the devotees wear on their bodies with adoration and respect. This along with the rudrAxa beads (1) shows up the devotees of the Simple but Supreme Lord shiva. The holy Ash has lots of spiritual sense. There are lots of hymns telling the glory of the holy Ash. ((2) - for example). Ash - the substance that is arrived when things are completely burnt off. In natural terms it is a final state. The state where it has nothing left to burn off ! This indicates the transience of the beings and the Permanence of the Supreme that smears in this ash. This also indicates the matured state of bliss the devotees would be heading towards which stands beyond perturbance - transformation (nothing to burn off).

The purANic events associated with the holy Ash show its significance. When the three daemons of impurities (tripura) were burnt down by the mere smile of the God, the ash that remained got settled on the Lord, Who danced there. Thus the tripurAri was smeared in the Ash that came out of burning out of the three impurities. When the cupid - the deva of lust, tried to fire his arrows on the yogic Lord, he was burnt by the Lord into a heap of ash. The unruffled Lord appeared decorated with that ash. At the times when everything reduces unto It, the Everexistant Lord wears that ash.

The devotees of the Lord, Who gives His form to the ardent worshipper, wear the same way the holy Ash on their body. This holy Ash is prepared in the ritual fire in a specified way (3) along with the chanting of the Holy Five Letters (4) and other vedic hymns. Thus obtained Holy Ash is worn on various specified places of the body including the forehead chanting the Holy Five Letters. (There are two broad categories of wearing the Holy Ash. One is uddUlanam that is sprinkling the Holy Ash on the body and the other is tripuNDram that is in three distinct bands)

Some of the upanishads that hail the glory of holy ash.

> kAlAgnirudram
> taitrIya
> yogatattva
> jApAli
> sanyAsa
> vAsudeva
> bhasmajApAla
> jApAla (bR^ihajjApAla)
> nArada parivrAja
> rAmarahasya
> chANDilya
> tripurAtApini
> atharvashira

The munis completly smeared in Holy Ash. The Lord who burnt the three forts by His graceful smile, who burnt the dhEvA of desire with a wink of His eye, who dances enjo of His eye, who dances enjoying in the Self when the creations are reduced to ash before the regeneration that Lords holy blessing substance is the Holy Ash. The three adorable rated Holy Ash being kaRpam, an^ukaRpam, upakaRpam and unacceptable being akaRpam, one should accept the first three those purifies one from the flaws like desire.

When the cows that give the holy five substances for the Lord to get anointed are about to send out accepting that with the gomaya mantra , in the sacred fire grown for Lord shiva with the shiva mantra praised by the celestial bodies putting thus accepted cow dung saluting the Holy Feet of the Three-eyed Lord, the Holy Ash that results is the chaste kaRpam.

Bringing the dung that is dried in the forests, powdering it, wetting with the water of the cows, with the aththira man^dhiram casting it and then putting in the ritual fire and taking the properly burnt Holy Ash is the an^ukaRpam.

Other than ash from the forest fire, fire in the cow yard and a few such ashes, making balls out of the dung with the water of the cow chanting the holy mantras and then burning in the ritual fire and the Holy Ash thus obtained is called upakaRpam.

Thus taking the Sacred Ash humbly chanting the shiva mantra the slaves of the Lord adorn themselves. The Holy Ash the fame and fruit of which very big to explain and that makes good for the devotees who wear with respect kindles the spiritual progress. The munis wear this holy substance praising the God. Let the Holy Ash and its glory as found by the muzu n^IRu pUchiya munivar stay in the mind.

Holy Ash - Some Information
Lord Agni rudra teaches bhusundi - earth came out of the sadyojAta face of the Lord. From this came the gray colored cow called nanda from the dung of which came vibhUti. From the vAmadeva face came the water, from that came the black colored cow bhadra giving bhasita. From the aghora face came the fire, from that the copper colored cow t the copper colored cow surabhi giving bhasma. From the tatpuruSha face came the gas/air, from which came shAnti and from that came the white colored cow sushIle giving xAra. From the IshAna face came the space, from which came the multi colored cow sumanA giving raksha.

The Holy Ash which is called by five names, when pronunced raises the spiritual power of the individual and hence is called vibhUti. Since it burns the sins to ashes it is called bhasita. Since it gives the wisdom to all it is called bhasmam. Since it neutralises the bad things it is called xAra. Since it protects the people from evil forces, it is called raxa.

Irrespective of caste, creed, sex and all other differences all the people shall wear the Holy Ash. It is an old adage the says the forehead without the ash is a ruined one. The Holy Ash having the powers of agni and soma refreshes the one who wears it. For the seekers of yoga this Holy Ash kindles the spirit and provides early fruit. When wearing the Holy Ash the mantra shivAya namaH(The Holy Five Letters(1)) is chanted or the sadyojAtAdi paJNcha brahma mantra(2) or the tryambakaM or mAno mahAntam from rudra sUktam(3).

The Holy Ash purifies the one who wears it. This purification (bath) is called Agneya snAna. In this the renouced ones would smear the ash in the remains of ritual fire from the leg to the head. Others would smear in the ash from the head to the leg.

skandha purANam says that the Holy Ash would have to be worn at the following fifteen places in the body.

> Head
> Forehead
> Neck
> Chest
> Both sides of the belly
> Two arms
> Two Ankles
> Two wrists
> Two sides of the back
> Behind the neck

The application of Holy Ash
The Holy Ash, that decorates the bodies of Lord shiva and shaivites, is very sacred and there are prescriptions on how it needs to be adored and adorned. Here are few of those. The two ways of getting adorned with holy ash are tripuNDram, uddUlanam. The first is applying the holy ash in the form of three distinct bands and the second is sprinkling it on the part of the body.

Way 1

One simple way would be to chant thirunIRRuppadhikam (1) while taking the Holy ash and while getting adorned with that chant the aghora panchAxaram (The aghora Holy Five Letters) which is shivAya namaH.

Way 2

With clean hands take the Holy Ash chanting the sadyojAdAdi mantras and the mA no mahantam mantra from shrI rudram.

Way 3

Those who perform rituals, perform shiva pUja should first take the holy ash without adding water and sprinkle on their head, forehead, chest and two shoulders. Later using the right hand index, middle and the ring finger take the holy ash, keep in the left hand, close it with right hand and chant these mantras

panchakalA mantram

om nivRiti kalAyai namaH
om pratiShTA kalAyai namaH
om vidyA kalAyai namaH
om shAnti kalAyai namaH
om shAntyatIta kalAyai namaH
panchabrahma mantram

panchakalA mantram
om IshAnAya namaH
om tatpuruShAya namaH
om aghorAya namaH
om vAmadevAya namaH
om sadyojAdAya namaH
ShDhaNga mantram

panchakalA mantram
om hRidayAya namaH
om shirashe namaH
om shikAyai namaH
om kavachAya namaH
om netrAya namaH
om astrAya namaH

Then saying hRidayAya namaH, add water and saying kavachAya vauShaT, mix it. Chant the first four of the above said panchabrahma mantram and apply (with the three fingers of the right hand mentioned above - index, middle and ring fingers) the holy ash paste on the first four places of the body. (See below for the list of places where to apply holy ash). Chant the fifth mantram when applying at the other parts of the body. While applying face up, so that the holy ash does not spill down on the ground. If by mistake the holy ash spills on the ground, clean that area with water.

The places to apply the holy ash on the body

vibhUti can be worn either in 32 places or 16 places or 8 places or five places.

32 Places

Two ears
Two eyes
Two shoulders
Two elbows
Two wrists
Two ribs
Two sides of groin
Two UrUs
Two thighs
Two knees
Two ankles
Two feet
Total 32 Places

16 Places

2 ears
2 Shoulders
2 Elbows
2 Wrists
2 Ribs
Total 16 places

8 Places

2 ears
2 Shoulders
Total 8 places

5 Places

2 Shoulders
Total 5 places

One of the ways of taking bath as prescribed by vedas is known as Agneyam. It is defined as Agneyam bhasmasnAnam. That is Agneyam bath is nothing but bathing in the holy ash.

The holy ash has very good medicinal value. This could prevent/cure 81 diseases that are out of air (vAta), and 64 of diseases caused by bile(pittam), and 215 of phlegm (kapham).

The Holy Ash is the most ancient symbol. It is hailed in the vedas along with rudrAxam(2). Even the devotees of Lord viShNu used to wear this originally (kariyamEni michai veLiya nIRu chiRidhEyidum periya kOlath thadaNkaNNan, nIRu chevvE idakkANil nedumAladiyAr enROdum - divya prabhandham). The following scriptures talk about the glory of the Holy Ash.

The scriptures that hail Holy Ash




bharadvAja - sAtAtapa - parAchara






shivarahasya parama itihAsam


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