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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
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  • 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
  • Let’s talk about types, Benefits & medical properties/values of Vibhuti or Bhasma.

What Is Vibhuti or Bhasma :

Vibhuti (Sanskrit: विभूति; vibhūti), also called Bhasma (ash), Thiruneeruand Vibhooti, is a word that has several meanings in Hinduism. Generally, it is used to denote the sacred ash which is made of burnt dried wood in Āgamic rituals.

“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.

Benefits Of Vibhuti or Bhasma:

  • It increases the positive energy. The smell, the act of applying it, the chanting before it, everything increases the positive energy.
  • Applying holy ash prevents headaches. It prevents allergies on the skin especially if it is made with different herbs.
  • Applying holy ash is said to regulate all the 7 chakras in the body which is the basis for good health.
  • Thiruneer also prevents cold and is very good for preventing all cold related headaches.
  • It always reminds of the impermanence of our lives.
  • Applying it on the forehead is said to prevent cold.
  • Stimulating the area between the eye brows can actually have another effect too. It can clear the sinuses. It can also prevent nose-block too. When you apply vibhuti regularly on the forehead, the area gets stimulated. 

Types of Vibhuti/Bhasma:

  • Swarna bhasma is prepared form gold
  • Godanti bhasma is prepared from gypsum
  • Shankh bhasma is prepared from conch shell
  • Mandur bhasma is prepared from iron oxide and
  • Vanga bhasma is prepared from tin.

These are all very important ayurvedic preparations that is used internally for treating different illness and should only be consumed under the strict supervision of an experienced ayurvedic practitioner

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.

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Shankaracharya: A remarkable genius that Hinduism produced (Book Review)

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

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He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.

Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699

This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.

A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.

Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.

He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess.

Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.

Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.

Also Read: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)