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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.

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
  • 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.

Next Story

Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.