VIBHUTI: What significance does applying ash on forehead hold in Hinduism?

Ever wondered why the pundits you met sported three ash lines on their forehead, read to know more.

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Vibhuti on Forehead of a Sadhu. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • It’s believed that the holy ash also called ‘vibhuti’ or ‘bhasma’ protects man against all evil forces
  • A Vibhuti has medicinal values, it is used in many Ayurvedic medicines and prevents headaches and cold
  • A ‘tripund’ is good to display if one consciously remembers to follow the meaning behind its existence

“OM Namah Shivaya, OM Namah Shivaya” are some words hymned by the Pandits, sages and your local gurus. These are mantras that are sung to ask Lord Shiva for his blessings. When one says the name Shiva, it automatically reminds him/her of the tripund; a symbol made of three horizontal lines that Lord Shiva adorned on his forehead. While the world continues to worship the God with all his disciples, a question is bound to linger in the mind of a curious devotee, “ Why the Ash lines on the forehead?” It’s a question that can also stem from the daily visit to a temple, where one can very easily find many pundits flaunting the ‘tripund’.

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Lord Shiva meditating (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Lord Shiva Idol. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

There are many stories behind the idea of putting ash on one’s body but there’s one universally agreed to the theory behind it. It’s believed that the holy ash also called ‘vibhuti’ or ‘bhasma’ protects man against all evil forces. Ash is a substance that is obtained only when things are completely burnt off. This indicates that the ash kindles the devotee’s spirit and purifies him.

According to the Indian scriptures, bhasma means ‘‘that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered’’, this, in turn, signifies its inclusion in the worship of Lord Shiva. Adding to that a shiva lingam that is smeared with the holy ash is a common sight at shrines. Hence, to show one’s respect to Lord Shiva, he/she who renounces worldly practices and the person who completely rejects material pleasures, becomes a devotee and can wear ash on his forehead.

Shiva Linga. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Shiva Linga. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are five sacred names given to the ash of ‘homa’, the sacrificial fire. The names ‘vibhuti’ and ‘bhasma’ that are extensively mentioned in this piece also have a principle behind them. Since the holy ash is believed to burn the sins to ashes and give wisdom to all its called ‘bhasma’ or ‘bhasmam’. Additionally, its name raises the spiritual power of an individual and hence the name ‘vibhuti’.

Science has its reason to believe that vibhuti has medicinal values attached to its name too. It is used in many Ayurvedic medicines and prevents headaches and cold. Not only that, bhasma is also compounded with other medicines to increase its use.

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Lastly, a ‘tripund’ is good to display if one consciously remembers to follow the meaning behind its existence and strives to live by it. Without awareness of the truth that lies behind it, these symbols are nothing but social identities.

by Karishma Vanjani, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @BladesnBoots

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    My parents told me that Vibhuti is applied on our forehead so that no evil spirits can touch us. It is also applied on the neck.