SHRIMAD DEVI BHAGAVATAM | BOOK 11 CHAPTER 15

THE ELEVENTH BOOK

Chapter XV

On the rules of using the Tripuṇḍra and Ūrdhapuṇḍra marks

1-10. Nārāyaṇa said:

Only the twice born are to take this Tripuṇḍra on the forehead and the other parts of the body after carefully purifying the ashes by the mantra Agniriti Bhaṣma, etc.

The Brāhmaṇs, Kṣattriyas, and Vaiśyas are known as the twice-born, (the Dvījas). So the Dvījas ought to take daily this Tripuṇḍra with great care.

O Brāhmaṇa! Those who are purified with the ceremony of the holy thread, are called the Dvījas. For these the taking of Tripuṇḍra as per Śruti is very necessary.

Without taking this Vibhuti, any good work done is as it were not done. There is no doubt in this. Even the japam of Gāyatrī is not well performed if this Bhaṣma be not used.

O Best of Munis! The Gāyatrī is the most important and the chief thing of the Brāhminhood. But that is not advised if the Tripuṇḍra be not taken.

O Munis! As long as the ashes born of Agni are not applied on the forehead, one is not entitled to be initiated in the Gāyatrī Mantra.

O Brāhman! Unless ashes be applied on the forehead, no one will recognise you as a Brāhmaṇa. For this reason I take this holding of the merit-giving Tripuṇḍra as the cause of the Brāhminhood.

I speak this verily unto you, that he is recognised as a Brāhmaṇa and literary on whose forehead there is seen the white ashes purified by the mantra.

He is entitled to the state of a Brāhmaṇa who is naturally very eager to collect the ashes as he collects the invaluable gems and jewels.

11-20. Those who are not naturally eager to collect the Bhaṣma as they are naturally eager to collect gems and jewel, are to be known as Chāṇḍālas in some of their previous births. Those who are not naturally joyous in holding Tripuṇḍra, were verily Chāṇḍālas in their previous births; this I tell you truly very truly.

Those who eat roots and fruits without holding ashes go to the terrible hells. He who worships Śiva without having Vibhuti on his forehead, that wretch is a Śiva hater and goes to hell after his death. He who does not hold Vibhuti is not entitled to any religious act.

Without taking Vibhuti, if you make a gift of Tula Puruṣa made of gold, you won’t get any fruits. Rather you will have to go to hell!

As the Brāhmaṇas are not to perform their Sandhyās without their holy threads, so without this Vibhuti, one ought not also to perform one’s Sandhyā.

If at times a man by chance has no holy thread, he can do his Sandhyā by muttering the Gāyatrī or by fasting. But there is no such rule in holding Bhaṣma.

If one performs Sandhyā, without having any Vibhuti, he is liable to incur a sin; as without holding this Bhaṣma, no right can come to him to perform his Sandhyā.

As a man of a lowest caste acts contrary and incurs a sin if he hears the Veda mantra, so a twice-born incurs a sin if he performs Sandhyā without having his Tripuṇḍra.

The twice-born must therefore collect his thoughts with his heart intent on this Tripuṇḍra whether it be according to Śrauta or Smārta method; or in absence thereof the Laukika Bhaṣma.

Of whatsoever sort is the Bhaṣma, it is always pure. In the Sandhyā and other actions of worship, the twice-born ought to be very careful and punctilious in using this Bhaṣma.

21-31. No sin can enter into the body of one besmeared with ashes. For this reason, the Brāhmaṇas ought always to use ashes with great care.

One is to hold the Tripuṇḍra, six Angulas high or greater by the fore, middle and ring fingers of the right hand. If anybody uses Tripuṇḍra, shining and brilliant, and extending from eye to eye, he becomes, no doubt, a Rudra.

The ring-finger is the letter “A,” the middle finger is “U” and the forefinger is “M”; so the Tripuṇḍra marks drawn by the above three fingers is of the nature of the three Guṇas.

The Tripuṇḍra should be drawn by the middle, fore, and ring fingers in a reverse way (from the left of the forehead to its right).

I will now tell you a story, very ancient. Listen.

Once Durvāsā, the head of the ascetics, with his body besmeared with ashes and with Rudrākṣam, all over, on his body went to the region of the Pitris, uttering loudly:

“O Śankara, of the Form of All! O Śiva! O Mother Jagadambe, the Source of all auspiciousness!”

The Pitris Kavya-Vālās, etc., (Kavya Vālanalaḥ Somaḥ Yamaḥ schaivāryamā Tathā, Agnisvāttvā, Varhisadaḥ, Somapāḥ Pitri Devatāḥ) got up, received him heartily and gave him seats and showed him great honours and respect and held many pure conversations with the Muni.

During their talk, the sinners of the Kumbhīpāka hell were crying:

“Oh! Alas! We are killed, we are being killed. Oh! We are being burnt!”

some others cried: “Oh! Oh! We are cut down.”

Thus various cries and lamentations reached their ears.

32-40. Hearing their piteous cries, Durvāsā, the prince of the Riṣis, asked with a grievous heart the Pitris:

“Who are those crying?”

 The Pitris replied:

There is a city close to our place called “Samyamanī Purī” of the King Yama where the sinners are punished. Yama gives punishment to the sinners there.

O Sinless One! In that city the King Yama lives with his terrible black-coloured messengers, the personifications of Kāla (the Destruction).

For the punishment of the sinners, eighty-six hells exist there. The place is being guarded always by the horrible messengers of Yama.

Out of those hells, the hell named Kumbhīpāka is very big and that is the chief of the hells. The ailings and torments of the sinners in the Kumbhīpāka hell cannot be described in hundred years.

O Muni! The Śiva-haters, the Viṣṇu-haters, the Devī-haters are made to fall to this Kuṇḍa.

Those who find fault with the Vedas, and blame the Sun, Gaṇeśa and tyrannise the Brāhmaṇas fall down to this hell.

Those who blame their mothers, fathers, Gurus, elder brothers, the Smriti and Purāṇas and those as well who take the Tapta Mudras (hot marks on their bodies) and Tapta Śūlas (i.e., those who being Śaivas act as they like) those who blame the religion (Dharma) go down to that hell.

41-50. We hear constantly their loud piteous cries, very painful to hear; hearing which naturally gives rise to feelings of indifference (Vairāgyam).

Hearing the above words of the Pitris, Durvāsā, the prince of the Munis, went to the hell to see the sinners.

O Muni! Going there, the Muni bent his head downwards and saw the sinners when, instantly the sinners began to enjoy pleasures more than those who enjoy in the Heavens.

The sinners became exceedingly glad. Some began to sing, some began to dance, some began to laugh; some sinners began to play one with one another in great ecstasy.

The musical instruments Mridaṇga, Muraja, flute, Dhakkā, Dundubhis, etc., resounded with sweet sonorous tones (in accordance with five resonates). The sweet fragrant smell of the flowers of Vāsanti creepers spread all round.

Durvāsā Muni became surprised to see all this.

The messengers of Yama were startled and immediately went to their King Yama and said:

 “O Lord! Our King! A wondrous event occurred lately. The sinners in the Kumbhīpāka hell are now enjoying pleasures more than those in the Heavens.

O Vibhu! How can this take place! We cannot make out the cause of this. O Deva! We all have become terrified and have come to you.”

Hearing the words of the messengers, Dharmarāja, mounting on his great buffalo, came there instantly and seeing the state of the sinners sent news immediately to the Heavens.

51-60. Hearing the news Indra came there with all the Devas, Brahmā came there from His Brahmāloka; and Nārāyaṇa came there from Vaikuṇṭha.

Hearing this, the regents of the quarters, the Dikpālas came there with all their attendants from their respective abodes.

They all came there to the Kumbhīpāka hell and saw that all the beings there are enjoying greater pleasures than those in the Heavens.

They all were astonished to see this; and they could not make out why this had happened:

“What a wonder is this! This Kuṇḍa has been built for the punishment of the sinners. When such a pleasure is now being felt here, the people won’t fear anything henceforth to commit sins.

Why is this order of the Vedas created by God reversed? Why has God undone His own doing? What a wonder is this! Now a great miracle is before our sight.”

Thus speaking, they remained at a fix. They could not make out the cause of this.

In the meanwhile Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa after consulting with the other Devas went with some Devas to the abode of Śankara in Kailāśa.

They saw there that Śrī Bhagavān Śankara (with crescent of the Moon on His forehead) was playing there attended always by the Pramathas and adorned with various ornaments like a youth, sixteen years old.

His parts of the body were very beautiful as if the mine of loveliness. He was conversing on various delightful subjects with His consort Pārvatī and pleasing Her mind. The four Vedas were there personified.

Seeing Him, Nārāyaṇa bowed down and informed him clearly of all the wonderful events.

He said:

61-75. “O Deva! What is the cause of all this? We cannot make out anything! O Lord! Thou art omniscient. Thou knowest everything. So kindly mention how is this brought about!”

Hearing words of Viṣṇu. Bhagavān Śankara spoke graciously in sweet words, grave as the rumbling of a rain-cloud:

“O Viṣṇu! Hear the cause of this. What wonder is there? This is all due to the greatness of Bhaṣma (ashes)! What cannot be brought about by Bhaṣma!

The great Śaiva Durvāsā went to see the Kumbhīpāka hell, besmearing his whole body with Bhaṣma and looked downwards while he was looking at the sinners.

At that time, accidentally a particle of Bhaṣma from his forehead was blown by air to the bodies of the sinners in the hell.

Thereby they were freed of their sins and they got so much pleasure! Such is the greatness of Bhaṣma!

Henceforth the Kumbhīpāka will be no more a hell. It will be a Tīrtha (holy place of pilgrimage) of the residents of the Pitrilokas. Whoever will bathe there will be very happy. There is no doubt in this. Its name will be henceforth the Pitri Tīrtha.

O Sattama! My Lingam and the form of Bhagavatī ought to be placed there. The inhabitants of the Pitri Loka would worship them. This will be the best of all the Tīrthas extant in the three Lokas. And if the Pitriśvarī there be worshipped, know that the worship of the Trilokī is done.

Nārāyaṇa said:

Hearing thus the words of Śankara, the Deva of the Devas, He thanked Him and, taking His permission came to the Devas and informed them of everything what Śankara had said.

Hearing this, the Devas nodded their heads and said:

 “Sadhu (well, very well)” and began to glorify the greatness of Bhaṣma.

O Tormenter of the enemies! Hari, Brahmā and the other Devas began to eulogise the glories of ashes. The Pitris became very glad to get a new Tīrtha.

The Devas planted a Śiva Lingam and the form of the Devī on the banks of the new Tīrtha, and began to worship them regularly day by day.

The sinners that were there suffering, all ascended on the celestial chariot and got up to Kailāśa.

Even today they are all dwelling in Kailāśa and are known by the name of the Bhadras.

The hell Kumbhīpāka came to be built afterwards in another place.

76-84. Since that day the Devas did not allow any other devotee of Śiva to go to the newly created hell Kumbhīpāka. Thus I have described to you the excellent greatness of the Bhaṣma.

O Muni! What more can there be than the glories of the Bhaṣma!

O Best of Munis! Now I am telling you of the usage of Ūrdhapuṇḍra (the vertical marks) according to the proper province of the devotees. Listen.

I will now speak what I have ascertained from the study of the Vaiṣṇava Śāstras, the measure of Ūrdhapuṇḍra, according to the Anguli measurements, the colour, mantra, Devatā and the fruits thereof. Hear.

The earth required is to be seen red from the crests of hills, the banks of the rivers, the place of Śiva (Śiva Kṣettra), the ocean beaches, the ant-hill, or from the roots of the Tulasī plants. The earth is not to be had from any other places.

The black coloured earth brings in peace; the red-colour earth brings in powers to bring another to one’s control; the yellow-coloured earth increases prosperity and the white- coloured earth gives Dharma (religion).

If the Ūrdhapuṇḍra be drawn by the thumb, nourishment is obtained; if it be drawn by the middle finger, longevity is increased; if it be drawn by nameless or ring finger, food is obtained and if it be drawn by the fore finger, liberation is attained.

So the Ūrdhapuṇḍras ought to be drawn by these fingers, only be careful to see that the nails do not touch at the time of making the mark.

The shape of the Ūrdhapuṇḍra (the vertical mark or sign on the fore-head) is like a flame or like the opening bud of a lotus, or like the leaf of a bamboo, or like a fish, or like a tortoise or like a conch-shell.

85-95. The Ūrdhapuṇḍra, ten Angulis high is the super best; nine Angulis high, is best; eight Angulis high, is good; the middling Ūrdhapuṇḍra is of three kinds as it is of seven Angulas, six Angulas, or five Angulas.

The lowest Ūrdhapuṇḍra is again of three kinds as it is four Angulas, three Angulas or two Angulas high.

On the Ūrdhapuṇḍra of the forehead, you must meditate Keśava, on the belly you must think of Nārāyaṇa; on the heart, you must meditate on Mādhava; and on the neck, you must meditate on Govinda.

So on the right side of the belly, you must meditate on Madhusūdana; on the roots of the ears on Trivikrama; on the left belly on Vāmana; on the arms on Śrīdhara; on the ears, Hriṣīkeśa; on the back, Padmanābha; on the shoulders Dāmodara; and on the head Brahmārandhra you must meditate on Vāsudeva.

Thus the twelve names are to be meditated. In the morning or in the evening time when you are going to make the Pūjā or Homa, you are to take duly, single-in-intent, the above names and make the marks of Ūrdhapuṇḍras.

Any man, with Ūrdhapuṇḍra on his head, is always pure, whether he is impure, or of unrighteous conduct or whether he commits a sin mentally.

Wherever he dies, he comes to My Abode even if he be of a Chāṇḍāla caste.

My devotees (Vīra Vaiṣṇavas or Mahāvīrā Vaiṣṇavas) who know My Nature must keep an empty space between the two lines of Ūrdhapuṇḍra of the form of the Viṣṇupāda (the feet of Viṣṇu)

and those who are my best devotees are to use nice Ūrdhapuṇḍras, made of turmeric powder, of the size of a spear (Śūla), of the form of the feet of Viṣṇu (Viṣṇu padā).

96. The ordinary Vaiṣṇavas are to use with Bhakti the Ūrdhapuṇḍras without any empty space, but the form of it is to be like a flame, the blossom of a lily or like a bamboo leaf.

97-110. Those who are Vaiṣṇavas in name only can use Ūrdhapuṇḍra of both kinds, with or without any empty space. They incur no sin if they use one without an empty space.

But those who are My good devotees, incur sin if they do not keep an empty space between the two vertical lines (in the Ūrdhapuṇḍra three vertical lines are used).

The Vaiṣṇavas who use excellent vertical rod like Ūrdhapuṇḍras keeping an empty space in the middle and uttering the mantra “Keśavāya Namaḥ” build My Temple there.

In the beautiful middle space of Ūrdhapuṇḍra, the Undecaying Viṣṇu is playing with Lakṣmī.

That wretch, the twice-born who uses Ūrdhapuṇḍra without any empty space kills Viṣṇu and Lakṣmī, seated there. The stupid who uses Ūrdhapuṇḍra without a vacant space goes successively to twenty-one hells.

The Ūrdhapuṇḍra should be of the size of a clear straight rod, lotus, flame, a fish with sharp straight edges and with vacant spaces between them.

O Great Muni! The Brāhmaṇa should always use the Tripuṇḍra like the lock of hair on the crown of his head and like his Sacrificial thread; otherwise all his actions will be fruitless.

Therefore in all ceremonies and actions the Brāhmaṇas ought to use Ūrdhapuṇḍras of the form of a trident, a circle or of a square form.

The Brāhmaṇa who knows the Vedas is never to use the semi-moonlike mark (Tilak) on his bead. The man who is of the Brāhmin caste and follows the path of the Vedas should not even by mistake use any other mark than those above-mentioned.

Other sorts of puṇḍras (marks) that are mentioned in other Vaiṣṇava Śāstras for the attainment of fame, beauty, etc., the Veda-knowing Brāhmaṇas should not use them.

The Vaidik Brāhmaṇas should not use even in error any other Tilakas than the curved Tripuṇḍras.

If, out of delusion, the man, following the path of the Vedas, uses other sorts of Tripuṇḍras, he would certainly go down to hell.

111-118. The Veda-knowing Brāhmaṇas would certainly go down to hell if they use other sorts of Tripuṇḍras on their bodies. Only the Tilakas, prescribed in the Vedas ought to be used by those who are devoted to the Vedas.

Those who do not observe the duties of the Vedas would use Tilakas approved of by other Śāstras.

Those should use marks approved of by the Vedas whose Deity is that of the Vedas. Those who follow the Tantra Śāstras different from the Vedas, should use marks approved of by the Tantras.

Mahā Deva is the Veda’s Deity and, ready to deliver from the bondages of the world, He has prescribed the Tilakas prescribed in the Vedas for the benefit of the devotees.

The marks prescribed by Viṣṇu, also a Deity of the Vedas, are also those of the Vedas. His other Avatāras also use marks approved of by the Vedas.

The Tripuṇḍras and the besmearing of the body with ashes are according to the Vedas.

In the Tantra Śāstra different from the Vedas, there is the usage of Tripuṇḍra and other marks. But they are not to be used by the Vaidiks. No never.

Those who follow the path of the Vedas should use the curved Tripuṇḍras and Bhaṣma on their foreheads according to the rules prescribed in the Vedas.

He who has obtained the highest state of Nārāyaṇa, i.e., who has realised My Nature, ought to use always on their foreheads Śūla marks scented with fragrant sandalpaste.

Here ends the Fifteenth Chapter of the Eleventh Book on the rules of using the Tripuṇḍra and Ūrdhapuṇḍra marks in the Mahāpurāṇam Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.