Left: A Vaishnava Hindu with Tilaka (Urdhva Pundra).[1]
Right: A Shaiva Hindu with Tilaka (Tripundra).[2][3]

Gaze of a priest
Sadhu Vârânasî
A Hindu wedding ritual in progress b
A Tilaka ceremony in progress to welcome the groom at a Hindu wedding

In Hinduism, the tilaka (Sanskrit: तिलक) is a mark worn usually on the forehead, sometimes other parts of the body such as neck, hand or chest. Tilaka may be worn on a daily basis or for rites of passage or special religious occasions only, depending on regional customs.

The term also refers to the Hindu ritual of marking someone's forehead with a fragrant paste, such as of sandalwood or vermilion, as a welcome and expression of honor when they arrive.[4]


The tilaka is a mark created by the application of powder or paste on the forehead. Tilakas are vertical markings worn by Vaishnavites. The Vaishnava tilaka consists of a long vertical marking starting from just below the hairline to almost the end of one's nose tip, and they are also known as Urdhva Pundra.[1] It is intercepted in the middle by an elongated U. There may be two marks on the temples as well. This tilaka is traditionally made with sandalwood paste.

The other major tilaka variant is often worn by the followers of Shiva, known by the names of Rudra-tilaka and Tripundra.[5][6] It consists of three horizontal bands across the forehead with a single vertical band or circle in the middle. This is traditionally done with sacred ash from fire sacrifices. This variant is the more ancient of the two and shares many common aspects with similar markings worn across the world.

Shaktas, worshippers of the various forms of the Goddess (Devi), wear a large red dot of kumkum (vermillion or red turmeric) on the forehead.


Chapter 2 of the Kalagni Rudra Upanishad, a Shaiva traditional text, explains the three lines of a Tilaka as a reminder of various triads: three sacred fires, three syllables in Om, three gunas, three worlds, three types of atman (self), three powers in oneself, first three Vedas, three times of extraction of the Vedic drink Soma.[7][8]

  • The first line is equated to Garhapatya (the sacred fire in a household kitchen), the A syllable of Om, the Rajas guna, the earth, the external self, Kriyā – the power of action, the Rigveda, the morning extraction of Soma, and Maheshvara.[7][8]
  • The second streak of ash is a reminder of Dakshinagni (the holy fire lighted in the South for ancestors), the sound U of Om, Sattva guna, the atmosphere, the inner self, Iccha – the power of will, the Yajurveda, midday Soma extraction, and Sadashiva.[7][8]
  • The third streak is the Ahavaniya (the fire used for Homa), the M syllable in Om, the Tamas guna, Svarga – heaven, the Paramatman – the highest self (the ultimate reality of Brahman), Jnana – the power of knowledge, the Samaveda, Soma extraction at dusk, and Shiva.[7][8]

These lines, states Antonio Rigopoulos, represent Shiva’s threefold power of will (icchāśakti), knowledge (jñānaśakti), and action (kriyāśakti).[9] The Tripuṇḍra described in this and other Shaiva texts also symbolizes Shiva’s trident (triśūla) and the divine triad of Brahmā, Vishnu, and Shiva.[9]

The Vasudeva Upanishad, a Vaishnava tradition text, similarly explains the significance of three vertical lines in Urdhva Pundra Tilaka to be a reminder of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; the Vedic scriptures – Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda; three worlds Bhu, Bhuva, Svar; the three syllables of Om – A, U, M; three states of consciousness – awake, dream sleep, deep sleep; three realities – Maya, Brahman and Atman; the three bodies – Sthula, Sukshma, and Karana.[10][11]


Examples of Tilaks or sect-marks
Examples of Tilaks or sect-marking in British India, summarized by 19th-century scholar Russell

Different Hindu traditions use different materials and shapes to make the tilaka.[12]

  • Saivites typically mark their Tilak using vibhuti (ash) in three horizontal lines across the forehead.[1] Along with the three horizontal lines, a bindu of sandalwood paste or a dot of red kumkum in the centre completes the Tilaka (tripundra).[2][3]
  • Vaishnavas apply a Tilak with vermillion, clay, sandalwood paste (Chandan), or latter two mixed.[1] They apply the material in two vertical lines, which may be connected at the bottom, forming a simple U shape, often with an additional vertical red marking in the shape of a tulsi leaf inside the U shape. Their tilaka is called the Urdhva Pundra.[1] See also Srivaishnava Urdhva Pundra, the Srivaishnava tilaka.
  • Ganapatya use red sandal paste (rakta candana).[13]
  • Shaktas use kumkuma, or powdered red turmeric. They draw one vertical line or dot (not to be confused with Bindi used by Indian women from different religions).
  • Honorary tilakas (Raja tilaka and Vira tilaka are usually applied as a single vertical red line. Raja tilaka will be used while enthroning kings or inviting prominent personalities. Vira tilaka is used to anoint victors or leaders after a war or a game.
  • Swaminarayana tilaka is U-shaped in the middle of forehead along with the red dot in the middle of U (known as chandlo).

Cultural tradition

A Tilaka on forehead of guest to welcome, honor
Applying Tilaka on the forehead of guests to welcome and honor is a cultural tradition in India and Nepal.[4]
  • Sikhs apply the tilaka as well. The Darshan Darbar devotees apply red tilaka to the forehead. This tilaka is a long red mark vertically applied. Saint Baba Budha ji applied tilaka to the first five Sikh Gurus.[14]
  • Jains use Tilaka to mark the forehead of Jaina images with sandalwood paste, during Puja ceremonies.[15]
  • Christians in India use Tilaka, both to mark special occasions and during their worship rites.[16]
  • Hindus use the Tilaka ceremony, as a mark of honor and welcome to guests, something special or someone special.[4] It may also be used, for same reason, to mark idols at the start of a Puja (worship), to mark a rock or tree before it is cut or removed from its original place for artisan work, or a new piece of property.[4][17]


The choice of style is not mandated in Hindu texts, and it is left to the individual and the regional culture, leading to many versions. The known styles include[18] Vijayshree – white tilaka urdhwapundra with a white line in the middle,[18] founded by Swami Balanand of Jaipur; Bendi tilaka – white tilak urdhwapundra with a white round mark in the middle,[19] founded by Swami Ramprasad Acharya of Badasthan Ayodhya; and Chaturbhuji tilaka – white tilak urdhwapundra with the upper portion turned 90 degrees in the opposite direction, no shri in the middle, founded by Narayandasji of Bihar, ascetics of Swarg Dwar of Ayodhya follow it. Sharma has named additional styles as, Vallabh Sampraday Tilak, Sri Tilaka of Rewasa Gaddi, Ramacharandas Tilaka, Srijiwarama ka Tilaka, Sri Janakraja Kishori Sharan Rasik Aliji ka Tilaka, Sri Rupkalajee ka Tilaka, Rupsarasji ka Tilaka, Ramasakheeji ka Tilaka, Kamanendu Mani ka Tilaka, Karunasindhuji ka Tilaka, Swaminarayana Tilaka, Nimbarka ka Tilaka and Madhwa ka Tilaka.[20]

Relationship to bindi

The terms tilaka and bindi overlap somewhat, but are not synonymous.[21] Among the differences:

  • A tilaka is always applied with paste or powder, whereas a bindi may be paste or jewel.
  • A tilaka is usually applied for religious or spiritual reasons, or to honour a personage, event, or victory. A bindi can signify marriage, or be simply for decorative purposes.
  • A bindi is worn only between the eyes, whereas a tilaka can also cover the face or other parts of the body. Tilaka can be applied to twelve parts of the body: head, forehead, neck, both upper-arms, both forearms, chest, both sides of the torso, stomach and shoulder.


Indus seal impression
similar pictography from Indus Valley Civilization

It is also called tikli or sheether harr in Bengali, tika, or tilakam or tilak in Hindi; Sanskrit: तिलक tilaka; Hindustani pronunciation: [t̪ɪˈlək])[22]

In Nepal, Bihar and other regions, the tilakam is called a tikā/teeka (टिका [ʈɪkaː]), and is a mixture of abir, a red powder, yoghurt, and grains of rice. The most common tikka is red powder applied with the thumb, in a single upward stroke.


Green Tara as Prajnaparamita. Sumtsek hall at Alchi monastery, Ladakh, ca. 3d quarter of the 11th century

Green Tara as Prajnya paramita depicted with tilaka, c. 11th century

Malekallu Tirupathi-balaji, Arsikere

Vishnu with Shri Vaisnava tilaka marking

Madhvacharya depicted with Angara Akshte tilaka. Tilaka markers are also worn on chest and arms.

Gaudiya tilaka

Krishna Balarama12

Krishna and Balarama, depicted with Gaudiya tilaka

Indian - Cosmic Narayana (Vishnu) as Infant Krishna - Walters 543081

Infant Krishna depicted with Vaishnavite tilaka, 16th century

Lalita statue

Goddess Lalita depicted with tilaka, Pala Dynasty

Brosen sritilaka

Shri Vaisnava tilaka marking

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva)

Subramuniyaswami with Tripunda Tilaka

हिन्दू विवाह सम्प्रदाय 3 - जयपुर, भारत

Tilaka to welcome in India and Nepal

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e James Lochtefeld (2002), "Urdhvapundra", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 2: N–Z, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 978-0823931798, page 724
  2. ^ a b Deussen, Paul (1997). Sixty Upanishads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 789–790. ISBN 978-81-208-1467-7.
  3. ^ a b Gautam Chatterjee (2003), Sacred Hindu Symbols, Abhinav Publications, ISBN 978-8170173977, pages 11, 42, 57-58
  4. ^ a b c d Axel Michaels (2015), Homo Ritualis: Hindu Ritual and Its Significance for Ritual Theory, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0190262631, page 100-112, 327
  5. ^ Klostermaier, Klaus K. (1984). Mythologies and Philosophies of Salvation in the Theistic Traditions of India. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. pp. 131, 371. ISBN 978-0-88920-158-3.
  6. ^ Deussen, Paul (1997). Sixty Upanishads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 789–790. ISBN 978-81-208-1467-7.
  7. ^ a b c d Deussen 1997, p. 790.
  8. ^ a b c d Nene 1999.
  9. ^ a b Antonio Rigopoulos (2013), Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 5, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004178960, pages 182-183
  10. ^ Sunder Hattangadi (2000), Vasudeva Upanishad, Sama Veda, SanskritDocuments Archives
  11. ^ D Dennis Hudson (2008), The Body of God, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195369229, pages 90-95
  12. ^ Makhan Jha, Anthropology of ancient Hindu kingdoms: a study in civilizational perspective, Page 126
  13. ^ p. 202, note 40. Grimes, John A. Ganapati: Song of the Self. (State University of New York Press: Albany, 1995) ISBN 0-7914-2440-5
  14. ^ Purnima Dhavan(2011) "When Sparrows Became Hawks: The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition, 1699-1799.", p.36
  15. ^ Robert Williams (1998), Jaina Yoga: A Survey of the Mediaeval Śrāvakācāras, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120807754, pages 221-222
  16. ^ Robert Eric Frykenberg (2008), Review: Christian Inculturation in India by Paul M. Collins, Journal: Church History (Cambridge University Press), Vol. 77, No. 4, pages 1118-1120
  17. ^ E. Washburn Hopkins (1910), Mythological Aspects of Trees and Mountains in the Great Epic, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 30, No. 4, pages 347-374
  18. ^ a b Vijay Prakash Sharma, The sadhus and Indian civilisation, page 72
  19. ^ Vijay Prakash Sharma, The sadhus and Indian civilisation, page 73
  20. ^ Vijay Prakash Sharma, The sadhus and Indian civilisation, page 75
  21. ^ personal faith
  22. ^ V. S. Apte. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. p. 475.


Further reading

External links


Achamanam (achamana, achmana) is one of the most important rituals in the Hindu tradition. It is a purification ritual that is believed to cure all physical and mental illnesses.

Archana (Hinduism)

Archana is a special, personal, abbreviated puja done by temple priests in which the name, birth star and family lineage of a devotee are recited to invoke individual guidance and blessings. Archana also refers to chanting the names of the Deity, which is a central part of every puja. The Sanskrit meaning is "honouring, praising."

Archana is also a common Indian female name. It means adoring or dedicated.


Traditionally, an ashram (Sanskrit: ashrama or ashramam) is a spiritual hermitage or a monastery in Indian religions.

Bindi (decoration)

A bindi (Hindi: बिंदी, from Sanskrit बिन्दु bindú, meaning "point, drop, dot or small particle") is a coloured dot worn on the centre of the forehead, originally by Hindus and Jains from the Indian subcontinent. The word bindu dates back to the hymn of creation known as Nasadiya Sukta in the Rigveda. Bindu is considered the point at which creation begins and may become unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state".A bindi is a bright dot of some colour applied in the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows worn in the Indian subcontinent (particularly amongst Hindus in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia among Balinese, Javanese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Burmese Hindus. A similar marking is also worn by babies and children in China and, like in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, represents the opening of the third eye. Bindi in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism is associated with ajna chakra, and Bindu is known as the third eye chakra. Bindu is the point or dot around which the mandala is created, representing the universe. The bindi has a historical and cultural presence in the region of Greater India.

Hindu iconography

Over the millennia of its development Hinduism has adopted several iconic symbols, forming part of Hindu iconography, that are imbued with spiritual meaning based on either the scriptures or cultural traditions. The exact significance accorded to any of the icons varies with region, period and denomination of the followers. Over time some of the symbols, for instance the Swastika has come to have wider association while others like Aum are recognized as unique representations of Hinduism. Other aspects of Hindu iconography are covered by the terms murti, for icons and mudra for gestures and positions of the hands and body.

Kalagni Rudra Upanishad

The Kalagni Rudra Upanishad (Sanskrit: कालाग्निरुद्र - उपनिषत्), is one of the minor Upanishads of Hinduism, written in the Sanskrit language. It is attached to the Krishna Yajurveda. It is one of 14 Shaiva Upanishads.The Upanishad is a discourse by Kalagni Rudra (Shiva) to sage Sanatkumara on the Tripundra, the Shaiva sectarian tilaka consisting of three horizontal lines of sacred ash on the forehead. The allegorical significance of the "three ash lines", states Deussen, is that the tradition sees them as streaks of three Vedic fires, three audible syllables of AUM, three Guṇas, three worlds, three Atmans, three Vedas and three aspects of Shiva. The text extols the Tripundra and tells about the procedure for applying Vibhuti (sacred ash) as Tripundra on various parts of the body with the associated mantras and rites.

Klaus Klostermaier classifies the Kalagni Rudra Upanishad with the Bhasmajabala Upanishad, the Rudrakshajabala Upanishad, the Brihajjabala Upanishad and the Akshamalika Upanishad as Shaiva texts that explain sectarian symbolism in Shaivism.


Karmkand refers to ritual services proferred by swamis or religious Brahmins in exchange for dakshina.


Kumkuma is a powder used for social and religious markings in India. It is made from turmeric or any other local materials. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of slaked lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into a red color.

In India, it is known by many names including kuṅkumam (Sanskrit कुङ्कुमम्), kumkuma (Telugu కుంకుమ), kunku (Marathi कुंकू), kumkum (Bengali কুমকুম, Hindi कुमकुम), kunkuma (Kannada ಕುಂಕುಮ), kungkumam (Tamil குங்குமம்), and kuṅkumam (Malayalam കുങ്കുമം).

Pinda (riceball)

Piṇḍas are balls of cooked rice and barley flour mixed with ghee and black sesame seeds offered to ancestors during Hindu funeral rites (Antyesti) and ancestor worship (Śrāddha).

Pindi (Hindu iconography)

Pindi are decked stones or tree stumps viewed in Hinduism as abstract manifestations of the mother goddess Shakti. Most of the 20th century goddess temples in Himachal Pradesh, India, enshrine a pindi.


In the historical Vedic religion, Pravargya was a ceremony introductory to the Agnishtoma (Soma sacrifice), at which fresh milk is poured into a heated vessel called mahavira or gharma and offered to the Ashvins. The ceremony is described in details in the technical texts on proper ritual, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Shrautasutras.


Pushpanjali (Sanskrit:पुष्पाञ्जलि, literally folded hands full of flowers) is an offering of flowers to Indian Gods.

Pushpanjali is the first dance in a Bharatha Natyam performance. It is the salutation to the lord of dance Nataraja, the Guru, the musicians and the audience.

It is made up of 2 words.

Pushpa - flower

Anjali - folded hands to show respect.

The dancer holds flower to offer prayers to the Trinity of God's, goddesses, ashta dikpalakas, and scholars in dance.


Putrakameshti is a special Yajna performed in Hinduism for the sake of having a male child/son. It is a kaamya-karma.

In the ancient Indian epic Ramayana, upon the recommendation of Sage Vashishta, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya performed the Putrakameshti Yajna under the supervision of Rishishringa Muni, who was an expert in Yajurveda, which has the guidelines for this prayer. After its successful completion, the Lord of Fire, Agnidev appeared and gave a bowl of sweet to the King of Ayodhya, which was provided to his three queens in order to promulgate his sons Sri Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna.

Saavira Kambada Basadi

Saavira Kambada Temple (Sāvira Kambada Basadi) or Tribhuvana Tilaka Cūḍāmaṇi), is a basadi or Jain temple noted for its 1000 pillars in Moodabidri, Karnataka, India. The temple is also known as "Chandranatha Temple" since it honors the tirthankara Chandraprabha, whose eight-foot idol is worshipped in the shrine.The town of Moodabidri is noted for its eighteen Jain temples but Saavira Kambada Temple is considered the finest among them.

T. B. Ilangaratne

Tikiri Bandara Ilangaratne (27 February 1913 – 21 May 1992) was a Sri Lankan politician, author, dramatist, and theater actor he was Member of Parliament for Kandy, Galaha, Hewaheta and Kolonnawa in Colombo district. He served as the Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister of Labour, Housing,Social Services, Finance,Commerce, Food, Trade and Shipping and in other government positions in a career spanning three decades. He was the mastermind behind the Employees' Provident Fund, Petroleum and insurance corporations and the People's Bank (Sri Lanka) in Sri Lanka while in office. As a writer, Ilangaratne is best known for writing Amba Yahaluwo (1957), a popular children's novel.

His novels Tilaka Saha Tilaka, Lasanda and Nedeyo have been adapted into movies. Amba Yahaluwo was made into a television serial.

Tantras (Hinduism)

Tantras ("Looms" or "Weavings") refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The religious culture of the Tantras is essentially Hindu, and Buddhist Tantric material can be shown to have been derived from Hindu sources. And although Hindu and Buddhist Tantra have many similarities from the outside, they do have some clear distinctions. The rest of this article deals with Hindu Tantra. Buddhist Tantra is described in the article on Vajrayana.


Tripundra (Sanskrit: त्रिपुण्ड्र tripuṇḍra "three marks") is a Saivite tilaka, and a body art with origins in South India. It consists of three horizontal lines on the forehead, usually with a dot made from sacred ash, and has spiritual meaning in Shiva tradition within Hinduism. A Vishnu tradition related mark consisting of vertical lines is called Urdhva Pundra.

Vasudeva Upanishad

Vasudeva Upanishad (Vāsudeva Upaniṣat) (Sanskrit: वासुदेव उपनिषत्, or Vasudevopanishad is one of 108 Upanishadic Hindu texts, written in Sanskrit language. It belongs to the Vaishnava sect, which worships Vishnu and his avatar Krishna, and this late medieval era minor Upanishad is attached to the Samaveda. It is one of the 14 Vaishnava Upanishads dedicated to Vaishnava sacred marks, including the Urdhva Pundra - the Vaishnava tilaka. It is described in a sermon by Krishna to the sage Narada.

Worship in Hinduism

Worship in Hinduism is an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more Hindu deities. A sense of Bhakti or devotional love is generally invoked. This term is probably a central one in Hinduism. A direct translation from the Sanskrit to English is problematic. Worship takes a multitude of forms depending on community groups, geography and language. There is a flavour of loving and being in love with whatever object or focus of devotion. Worship is not confined to any place of worship, it also incorporates personal reflection, art forms and group. Hindus usually perform worship in temples or at home to achieve some specific end or to integrate the body, the mind, spirit and also to live a pure life in order to help the performer reincarnate into a higher being.

Main topics
Sacred animals
Sacred plants
See also


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.