Why do we wear marks (tilak, chandan, kumkum and the like) on the forehead?


Wearing Kumkum on the Forehead
Most religious Indians, especially married women wear a tilak or pottu on the forehead. It is applied daily after the bath and on special occasions, before or after ritualistic worship or visit to the temple. In many communities, it is enjoined upon married women to sport a kum kum on their foreheads at all times. The orthodox put it on with due rituals. The tilak is applied on saints and images of the Lord as a form of worship and in many parts of North India as a respectful form of welcome, to honour guests or when bidding farewell to a son or husband about to embark on an journey. The tilak varies in colour and form.

This custom was not prevelant in the Vedic period. it gained popularity in the Pauranic period. Some belive that it originated in South India.

The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognised as a religious mark. It form and colour vary according to one's caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshiped.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on verna or color) Braahmana,Kshatriya,Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan (sandalwood paste) mark signifying purity as his profession was of a priestly or ecademic nature. The Kshatriya applied a red kum kum mark signifying valour as he belonged to the warrior races. The Vaishya wore yellow kesar or termeric mark signifying properity as he was a business man or trader devotted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasmakasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he support the work of the other three divisions. Also Lord Vishnu worshipers apply a chandan tilak of the shape of "U", Lord Shiva worshipers applied a tripundra bhasma, Devi worshippers applied red dot of kum kum.

The chandankum kum or bhasma which is offered to the Lord is taken back as prasad and applied on foreheads. The tilak covers the spot between the eye brows, which the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the aajna chakra in the language of yoga. 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 protection against wrong tendencies and forces.

The entire body emanates energy in the form of electro-magnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot between the eye brows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak orpottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes, the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable 'stick bindis' is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

This unique to Indians and helps to easily identify us anywhere.

The mark on forehead invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It covers the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga.

The mark on forehead is 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 called the brumadhya is the center that attracts various kinds of energies from the outside world.  Kumkum the turmeric-based powder prevents negative energies from entering inside.
Another reason is that the agneya chakra should be touched with the solar finger at least once in a day, so that the solar energy is activated into the agneya chakra, initiating the inner journey leading to one’s enlightenment.

It was recommended that people of both sexes should wear the kumkum on their foreheads.  However, with efflux of time, the wearing of kumkum became mandatory for women.  

The turmeric content in the kumum lends luster to the skin while acting as a powerful germicide.  Today most brands of kumkum are made to suit aesthetic needs.  However, the beneficial effects of scientifically prepared kumkum transcend cosmetic needs.  Even today, there are dedicated people preparing kumkum the traditional way, with high quality turmeric as the base.

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