The Tilak is a mark of auspiciousness and invokes a feeling of respect in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and color vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of worship of the person in question. Tilak is applied on the forehead with sandal paste, sacred ash or kumkum, a red turmeric powder. In a wedding, a Kumkum tilak is applied on the forehead of both the bride and groom.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or color) – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra – applied marks differently. The Brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The Kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valor as he belonged to the warrior race. The Vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The Shudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three castes.

The devotees of Shiva apply sacred ash (Bhasma) on the forehead as a Tripundra (three parallel horizontal lines); the devotees of Vishnu apply sandal paste (Chandan) in the shape of “U” and the worshippers of Devi or Shakti apply Kumkum. The tilak is applied in the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thought. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The Tilak is applied with the prayer – “May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude, the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces. The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – the forehead and the spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak cools the forehead, protects the wearer and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).