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Specifics on Different Tilaks - The Glories of Gopi - candana,Tilaka

The tilak is an external symbol of our surrender to Krishna, or to our object of worship. The shape and material used may differ ac...

Specifics on Different Tilaks

The tilak is an external symbol of our surrender to Krishna, or to our object of worship. The shape and material used may differ according to the particular process of surrender the sampradaya follows.

In the 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 ant hill 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. The red line was originally made from a red stone found within the ant hill.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. When you rub the stone in water, a red color paint is formed. The category of Shakti is generally represented with the color red in all lines, both Vedic and Tantrik. Because the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya begins with Sri Lakshmi Devi, and because they approach Narayana only through Lakshmi, their tilak reflects this process of surrender. The tilaks of each sampradaya actually depict the siddhanta of the sampradaya.

In the Vallabha sampradaya the tilak worn is generally a single vertical red line. This line represents Sri Yamuna Devi. The form of Krishna worshiped in the Vallabha line is Sri Nathji or Govardhana. The consort of the Govardhana hill is the river Yamuna. Their process of surrender goes through Sri Yamuna Devi.

In the Madhva sampradaya the tilak is made out of Gopichandana mud from Dwaraka. Two vertical lines are made out of Gopichandana to represent the feet of Lord Krishna. This gopichandana tilak is nearly identical to that used in the Gaudiya sampradaya. In between a vertical black line is made from the daily coal of the yajna-kunda. In their sampradaya, the process of worship involved nitya-homa, or daily fire sacrifices to the Lord. The remnant coal of the puja was taken each day to mark the forehead. Underneath the black line, a yellow or red dot was put to indicate Lakshmi or Radha. Those who did not perform daily fire sacrifice would only put the simple gopichandana tilak.

In the Gaudiya sampradaya the tilak is usually made out of the Gopichandana mud. Some lineages prefer to use the mud from Vrindavana. The main tilak is basically identical to the Madhva tilak. The slight difference arises due to the emphasis on nama-sankirtana, or the chanting of the Lord's names. In Sri Chaitanya's line, nama-sankirtana is the yajna to be performed in kali yuga, and not the daily fire sacrifice performed in the Madhva sampradaya. As such, the black line made from the ash of the fire sacrifice is not applied in the Gaudiya sampradaya. The second difference arises due to Sri Chaitanya's process of approaching the Lord. In the Gaudiya line one does not approach Srimati Radharani directly, but always indirectly through the servant. To indicate this, the red dot representing Radha is replaced with a tulasi leaf offered at the base of the Lord's feet. Only with the mercy of Tulasi Devi can we develop pure devotion to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

In the scriptures there are very general descriptions of the procedure for applying tilak. For example it is mentioned that the tilak should be urdhva-pundra, or vertical lines; the body should be marked in twelve locations, etc. But these instructions are very general and leave a lot of the details to the acharyas. Even in a simple point, such as the location of the tilak, one person may interpret the 'shoulder' to start from the arm, where as another may interpret it to start higher up near the neck. This is actually the case in the two branches of the Sri Vaishna sampradaya.

The actual design of the tilak will manifest either through divine revelation or through scientific study. An example of divine revelation is the Gaudiya lineage of Sri Shyamananda. Radharani revealed a portion of her broken bangle to Sri Shyamananda, which he used in applying tilak to his forehead. As a result, his followers apply a unique design of tilak from other branches of the Gaudiya sampradaya.

In other cases, an acharya may scientifically analyze the sampradaya siddhanta and compare its compatibility with the tilak they wear. The external purpose of the tilak is to differentiate the followers of a sampradaya from other classes of philosophers, just as one branch of the armed forces wears a uniform to differentiate itself from the other branches. In such a case, the tilak may change when there occurs a shift or branching of the sampradaya due to philosophical views. The newly formed branch may re-analyze the tilak in connection with its siddhanta and make changes that fully reflect their process of surrender. Such is the case among the two branches of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya. Due to a difference of opinion in regards to the process of surrender, two distinct tilaks emerged.

In any case, the ultimate purpose of tilak is to sanctify oneself and mark the body as the temple of the Lord. The scriptures do not specify in detail the manner that this should be done, and as such it is the acharyas who crystalize the procedures while adhering to the general prescriptions given in the scriptures.

Putting on Tilaka
Specifics on Different Tilaks

In the Uttara-khanada of the Padma Purana, Lord Shiva says to Parvati that in the middle of the "V" of the Vaishnava tilaka mark there is a space and in that space reside Lakshmi and Narayana. Therefore, the body that is decorated with tilaka should be considered a temple of Lord Vishnu. The Padma Purana also states:

vama-parshve sthito brahma
dakshine cha sadashivaha
madhye vishnum vijaniyat
Tasman madhyam na lepayet

"On the left side of the tilaka Lord Brahma is situated, and on the right side is Sadashiva, but one should know that in the middle dwells Lord Vishnu. Therefore one should not smear the middle section."

One should pour a little water into the palm of his left hand and rub gopi-chandana (mud from Dwaraka) into it. When making Tilaka the following mantra from the Uttara Khanda of the Padma Purana:
lalate keshavam dhyayen
narayanam athodare
vaksha-sthale madhavam tu
govindam kantha-kupake
vishnum cha dakshine kukshau
bahau cha madhusudanam
trivikramam kandare tu
vamanam vama-parshvake
shridharam vama-bahau tu
hrishikesham cha kandhare
pristhe tu padma-nabham cha
katyam damodaram nyaset
tat prakshalana-toyam tu
vasudeveti murdhani

In accordance with the above mentioned mantra one should apply the gopi-chandana with the ball of the middle finger tip to make the tilaka marks on the twelve parts of the body. According to the Brahmanda Purana, one should not use the fingernail to make the space in the middle of the tilaka. One should place a thin damp cloth over the finger and make the space with that. Thus, when the tilaka is applied, the following mantras should be chanted:

> The forehead--om keshavaya namaha
> The belly--om narayanaya namaha
> The chest--om madhavaya namaha
> The throat--om govindaya namaha
> The right side of the waist--om vishnave namaha
> The right upper arm--om madhusudanaya namaha
> The right shoulder--om trivikramaya namaha
> The left side of the waist--om vamanaya namaha
> The left upper arm--om shridharaya namaha
> The left shoulder--om hrishikeshaya namaha
> The upper back--om padmanabhaya namaha
> The lower back--om damodaraya namaha

Finally, after washing one's had, whatever water is left should be wiped on the top of the head in the region of the shikha (tuft of hair) with the mantra: om vasudevaya namaha.

In the Padma Purana it is stated:
nasadi-kesha-paryantam
urdhva-pundram sushobhanam
madhye chidra-samayuktam
tad vidyad dhari-mandiram


"That marking (of tilaka), which begins from the root of the nose and extends up to the hairline, which has a space in it and is very beautiful, is known as urdhva-pundra (tilaka). One should know it to be a temple of Lord Hari [Vishnu]." The Padma Purana also mentions that the tilaka marking should only extend three quarters of the way down the nose from the root of the nose, which is located between the eyebrows. The space in the middle of the tilaka should begin from between the eyebrows and extend up to the hairline. The marking on the nose and forehead should be connected. That is a perfect tilaka marking.



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