Saturday, April 9, 2011


The Vaishnavite Paribhasha (colloquial) for wearing ThirumaN (Auspicious Clay) is ThirumaN Kappu Saatal. The key word here seems to be Kappu or Protection. That protection is achieved thru the Lord’s weapons celebrated in Panchaayudha Sthotram. Like Dig Bhandhanam before Mantra recitation, the request for protection of the limbs of one body and protection from above, behind, sides etc is a well known practice in Ahnikaas (Performance of Daily rituals prescribed).Hence, ThirumaN Kappu can be viewed as a Kavacham, that confers protection on the Vaishnavas wearing that by invoking the weapons and the power of the Lord. The freedom from fear of the ThirumaN Kappu wearing Vaishnavas referred to in Eswar's note relates to the Mahaviswasam of the Vishnu Bhaktas in Lord's protection from the three kinds of afflictions of life.

The 12 names associated with 12 Urdhva Pundarams have been elaborated upon by Swami Desikan in his work known as "Panniru Thirunaamam" dedicated to the celebration of the holy feet of Kanchi Perumaal.

Examples of that are: Forehead, Presiding lord is Kesavan. His color is invoked as Golden. His weapons are 4 Chakrams. The direction assigned to him is East.` Centre Portion of Stomach, the next site to wear Urdhva Pundram has Sriman Narayana as the presiding deity. His Color is visualized as Blue.His Weapons are 4 Conches .The direction of protection offered by him is West.Thus it goes on for the rest of the 10 Urdhva Pundram.

Incidentally, Urdhva Pundram is associate with Urdhva Rethas celebrated in the Vedic Passage "Urdhva Retham virupaksham Viswaroopaya Nama:" Urdhva Pundaram is also symbolic of Sattvika Guna by Lord Krishna In Bhagavat Gita ( Urdhvam Gacchanti Satttwasthaa:).Reference to this is from Naaradheeyam.In this context, this souce says that the Vishnu Bhaktaas should not wear Tiryak Pundram(cross , horizontal wearing of the Pundram) even as a playful matter. Vishnu Dharmottaram establishes guidelines as to which finger to use in applying ThirumaN. Pavitram wearing finger and the middle finger are taboo. One should apply ThirumaN , while sitting. The Thirucchornam used must be sanctified. Any vermilion paste wont do. The people , who have had Bharanyaasam should wear the Yellow choornam and others the Vermilion version. The thirumaN wearing has to have the White two lines and the Red line at the centre, housing the Divine couple, who are never separated. The two white lines are like temple for them. Lord Himself says that he and His consort love to reside in the temple created by the two broad white lines of ThirumaN. Narrow crowding of the two lines are not desirable to him, In my other note, I will speculate on the Neuroanatomical significance of the shape of the thirumaN and suggest a reconciliation between the Tenkalai and Vadakalai versions of wearing the ThirumaN.

On the Sampradhayam(tradion) side, there are number of mantras to create the paste of clay with water in one"s palm.Nrsimha Beejam is to be drawn at the center after completing the preparation of the paste.The Veda Mantras used in the preparatory rituals are 7 in number.Panchopanishad Mantra, Ashtaaksharam,Vishnu Shadakshara Mantram, Dwaadasaaksharam, Dwayam(Mantra ratnam), Vishnu Gayatri are to be included in the appropriate phases of the Pundram wearing ceremony. In between the 12 Names of the Lord to be recited at the time of the decoration of the individual parts of the body, the 12 names of Sri Devi are to be added. They are: Sriyayai nama:., Amrutothbhavaayayai Nama:, Kamalaayayai Nama:,Chandra Sodharyayai nama:, Vishnupatnyayai nama:, Vaishnavyayai nama:, Varaarohayayai nama:,Harivallabhyayai Nama: , Saarnginyayai nama:, Devadevikaayayai nama:, Surasundaryayai nama:. Maha Lakshmyayai Nama:, Sarvaabhishtapalapradhaayayai nama:. Guru vandanaams are also involved. I have seen my grandfather take a minimum of 30 minutes to perform this ThirumaN ceremony sitting at the abnk of Cauvery river after his morning bath. Even today, we can see in the Toopul House Remains of Swami Desikan , the section, where he sat and applied ThirumaN prior to his Abhigamana Araadhanas( Act of Going near the Lord and His consort with Humility and reverence) prescribed by Ramanuja in one of his nine works.

Neuroanatomical speculation on ThirumaN

This is fairly fanciful, but please view it a light hearted manner after the heavy traditional intrepretation fro "co(s)mic relief:. Our Central nervous system and its "gray" matter is packed in 3 coverings (dura, Pia etc). for protection against accidents of Life.Theree are a dense arterial and veinous circulation of the fluid of life thru them in a intricate fashion reaching out to all nooks and corners of the brain and its centres , which control every motor , thought processes as long as we live.

he brain has two hemispheres connected by the collosoal fibre bundle known as corpus collosum, which cross connects the left and the right brain, each odf which have special functions revealed from the Caltech Scientist et al. The cutitng of the Corpus Collosum and its consequences in terms of the calamities in the coordinated functioning of the Brain has also been detailed by the Caltech pioneer. We can view the two lines of the Thiruman connected by the U shaped line as the two lobes of the brain connected by the Corpus collosum.

The frontal lobes and the feeling states and the emotional aspects they symbolize come closest at the forehead in the area of the Ajna Chakram.That region is covered by the U shaped or the Y shaped portion of the ThirumaN. The Central nervous System (CNS) really extends as we know down to the tip of the spinal chord and the Dura matter covers it as a Sac all the way down to Mooladharqa Chakram. The Vada kalai version might be an abstracted version of the all powerful version of the CNS to remember and retain Bhagavan and the Tenkalai Version the full representation of the CNS . The Cranial Nerves control thru the Sensory and Motor branches the functioning of the limbs in our daily activities. The presence of ThirumaN on the upper limbs can in this model be associated with the Control thru the Cranial Nerves.

This allegory is mostly for semi-serious Consumption.

Questions: 1. Why Lord Wears ThirumaN / Why Ramunuja or others applied ThirumaN to The Lord of Thiruvenkatam? He surely does not need it.
2. Why Ramanuja was not welcome at Siva temples ?

Ramanuja Related Questions:

It is said that Ramanuja requested ThiruVekatamudayan to wear the Sanka and Chakra after entering His Sanctum as a Serpent(Adi Sesha) thru the water hole . The hagiographic account refers to the Archa at Thirupati being that of Sankara or Subramnaya . In this context, One of the Azhwar refers to the blending of the Body of Siva and Vishnu in one at Thirumalai( Third Thiruvanthadhi: Verse 63). Peyazhwar is the One great Azhwar, who saw the form of Divine couple and cried out in Thirukkovalur " Thirukkanden, ponmeni Kanden--". Even today, Bilvarchana at Thirupathi and the nonremoval of the Golden Kavacham for the two weapon-bearing hands of Thiruvekatamudayan even during Thirumanjanam and Adi sankara"s establishment of Dhanaakarshana Yantra at Thirupathi are mysteries. Regarding Ramanuja, There is no reason for him to be unwelcome at Siva Temples, except that he had no reason to go there.

Why the Lord Wears ThirumaN?

Ramanuja is also known as Godhagraja or the elder to Andaal based on an incident that happpened at Thirumaaliruncholai ( Offering of the 1000 vessels of Akkaravadisal on behalf of Aandal). Ramanuja is also known as Thiuppavai Jeeyar, because of the joy that he experienced in reciting Thiruppavai Verses and the reverence he had for the Philosophy of Aandal. She , unlike other Azhwars reminded Her Lord of his duties and awakened from his slumber (Yoga nidra). She reminded her Lord about his sworn duties to rescue the tormented Jeevans and interceded on their behalf. Ramanuja in the spirit of Andaal might have put the ThirumaN on the Lord to remind Him of His duties to use his weapons to come to the rescue of the Jeevans. I think however the practise of wearing ThirumaN goes to a time much before Ramanuja.

In conclusion, it can be said that Lord wears Thiruman not as His Lotus feet on His forehead , but as an indication of the power of his weapons and His presence in every one of the directions to protect His devotees. When the Vaishnavas wear the Pundrams , they consider their body as being protected by His weapons and as a temple for the Divine Couple. Thus , there are two separate reasons for the ThirmaN wearing by the Lord and His devotees.

Vaishnavas (Worshippers of Vishu as the Supreme) wear on their bodies the LORD's external symbols. There are several groups of Vaishnavas,

Sre: Vaishnava, Chaitanya, Vallabha, ISKON Vaishnavas

Among these Sre: Vaishnavas have their faith in Bhakti & Prapatti for Sre:man Na:ra:yana: (MahaVishnu & MahaLakshmi), and wear on their foreheads the mark of the feet of the LORD, in the vertical position Works like Padma Purana, Marichi, Pancaharatra, Viakhanasa, Parameswara samhita etc explain clearly how the feet of the Lord should be worn on the forehead. They do not though explain the details of the shape very clearly. They do give about 25 objects, which the "Lords feet" should resemble, all these shapes and forms have the authority of the shastras. These 20 to 25 forms can be reduced to two forms, one resembling the english letter "Y" and the other "U" Minor Vedantic differences existed between scholars, subsequent to the age of Purvacharyas, which formed into Vatakalai & Thenkalai groups. Both groups wear the "Lords feet" of different forms U & Y, but they both will quote the  same Pancaratra samhita sloka as authority.

Y & U both denote the lord's feet. (The Bhava of adorning is Dasatvam, Sheshatvsam) Y specifically denotes both the feet of the lord (Charanao, is Dwithia vibhakti) We always say Charanao Sharanam Prapadye in many places. Venkata Nathar in "Saccaritra Raksha" explains that the Mark worn on the forehead of Vaishnavas should not be designated by the name, but be designated "HARIPADAKRITI" The shape of the feet of Hari. If there had been any conrtoversy over this at that time, swami Venkata Nathar would have mentioned this in his work.

There are scholars who have their (shatstra based) reasons for why U stands only for one foot of the Lord. There are scholars who read the "HARIPADAKRITI" as one foot and not two feet (as it could go either way) So all the controversy we see over Y & U does not have a basis, as different forms of the Lord's feet have been sanctioned by the Sastras. No difference or quarrel should arise on this account. (Shape of Feet of the Lord) The most important thing is why we wear it and the Bhava we need to have. There is a difference in Y and U shape. This mainly arises from interpretation of the same sloka that both groups agree on. In the Phrases : Arabhya Nasika Mulam : Nasikamulam arabhya: "nasadikesa paryantam, anasamulam-arabhya" - From Pancarathra Samhita 1st Interpretation (Literal meaning ) Followed by U mark.


Adi and Mula indicate the Space between two eyebrows, Nasanta (Nose Tip)
"Feet of the Lord" is from the space between the eye-brows - Bhru Madha to the end of the Hair - Kesanta. 2nd Interpretation (Technical interpretation) Followed by Y mark.


Since Pancaratra samhita is a highly technical treatise (Not a literary work) the Y groups feels technical interpretation is more appropropriate Nasikamula is one word and not Two words , same as nasamula is one word The nose is divided into two parts : The soft portion of the nost from the tip : Madhvasti Over the Mashvasti, The Hard Part : Nasikamula (or Nasamula) The Y shape comes as the Mark should commence from the "Hard part" of the nose


Vikhanasa muni :- (Wearing Y Shape) in most Indian Temples.

I have heard some periyavas say (The Thiruvallikeni Chief Priest, Vaikhanasa Scholar)Swamin has quoted some Vaikhanasa slokas and explaines the bottom part as the Stand for the feet of the Lord, as you would not want to just make Maha Vishnu & Lakshmi sit on the floor, you always put a stand on which you will have them grace. So they have a stand shaped like KAMALAM. Some Vikhanasa muni wear it as U and they also have relevant authorities. (Wear Y shape in all cases) Since you see the Y shape on all the ISCON followers when asked some of his followers for the reasons for the Y shape on their forehead All they said was it is per their acharya and his words on this are as per Puranas.


Now the Presence of MahaLakshmi between the feet of the LORD is acccepted by both U & Y (Tiruppolinda sevadi yen seeninyin mer porittai - PeriAzhwar) Lakshmi is represented as Sre:Churna. This is Turmeric (yellow in color) made red during manufacture.

According to Pancaratra, in the mystical diagram representing the Lord position of Lakshmi is marked red. Thenkalais and half of the Vadakalais have adopted the red color for sre:churna. The other part of Vadakalai use the Yellow color and they also have relevant authorities. Hiranya Varnam.....(Golden color)

Each thiruman placed on the body represents a different name of Sriman Narayana:

Forehead - Kesava
Belly - Narayana
Chest - Madhava
Throat - Govinda
Right side - Vishnu
Right arm - Madhusudana
Right shoulder - Trivikrama
Left side - Vamana
Left arm - Sridhara
Left shoulder - Hrisikesha
Upper back - Padmanabha
Lower back - Damodara

Follow up quesiotns that will come up:

Q. Why we wear Thiruman:

A. To take the feet of the Lord on our forehead and other parts (To indicate we are HIS servants)

Q. Why do we do that. ?

To make our body a temple for Sre:manna:ra:yana: (Sre: & Narayana) and to identify us as his property. With this we realize & act in accordance to the Lord and are guided by HIM : in our Heart we always have HIM; all our physical actions (On Shoulders we have his sign); in speech we are guided by HIM, in thought we are guided by HIM. And perform "Selfless service" to the Lord and his devotees.

Q. Why do we put Thiruman on the Lord: (Why put the feet of the Lord on the Lord?)

Lord wears Thiruman as the indication of the ayudhas (weapons) (some say to protect devotees, and universe etc) Also to identify with other devotees as if HE is one of us.


Prayer 1:

adiye:n prays to Lord Sre:mannara:yana: and Purvacharyas to help with the spreading of Sre: Sampradaya all over the world, without any divisions or quarrels between Y & U, without any concern about caste & race.

Prayer 2:

We also pray for SadBuddhi so we all treat all devotees with utmost respect and regard (and treat them as you would treat the Lord Incarnate.)

If we treat all devotees of the lord with utmost respect and regard, we will see our beautiful Sampradaya spread all over the world, we will see our Mayors, Presidents and general public all over taking to this beautiful and logical sampradaya.


A lot of interesting comments have been made on The Vaishanavite wearing ThirumaN, Ramunuja"s role in it, The differences in the shape of the ThirumaN worn by the Thenkalai and Vadakalai sects , Smarthas/Vaishanvas worship of Vishnu , Why ThirumaN is seen on the forehead of Archa Murthys in recent notes of Prapatti Group members.

I will share my views on this : First of All , there is a lot of history to it. Vangipuram Nambi , one of the 74 Simhasanaathipatis summarized Ramanuja"s views on Sadaachaaaras regarding this practise and Swami Desilkan later elaborated on this in his Saccharitra Raksha and linked the sources of his views to Paarameshtya Samhita,Brahmaraatra Samhita et al. Other granthas like Sacchaaritra Sudha Nidhi and the 800 page Monograph approved by the 44Th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt known as "Sri Vaishanava Sadaachara Nirnayam" by Vidwan Villivalam Krishna Dasa (Krishnamacharya) have detailed references to the mantras that go with this daily observance , the right way to apply the ThirumaN and other daily observances by Vaishanavites..

Sreekrishna 's note indicated that ThirumaN is some salt of Calcium . I agree. Chalk- Clay has many versions. Mostly , they are made of Calcium carbonate, Sulfates, Oxalates et al in admixture with salts of Magnesium , Barium , Strontium et al. For instance the Kimmergidian Chalk belt ( craie a Belemnites extending from the white Cliffs of Dover in UK across the English channel to Northern France and there on to Champagne district) is said to contain 50 different kinds of Chalks These Chalks are remains of the cephalopods, crustaceans and shell fish that lived and died 600 million years ago, when these regions were covered by sea water.The chalk- clay here is at places 600 feet deep and drains subsurface water and in dry times releases the moisture held by

them to the vines.Thus their role in draining of moisture , holding it and releasing it has implications for the ThirumaN, which according to Tradition has to be worn thick, so that the underlying skin is not seen. Thirunarayanapuram and regions a round it might have been under the sea in earlier geological times and the chalk origin might come from that. Geologists specializing in Karnataka can comment on that better.

Chemistry of ThirumaN

As indicated by Sree Krishna, calcium salts have important effects on Circulatory and Brain functions. One can speculate on the Osmosis of Calcium thru the skin to surface blood vessels - and then on to main arteries- during the days, months and years of Thiruman wearing Vaishnavites. It can be a cumulative beneficial effect from the health point of view.

We can connect the Calcium effects to Calcium’s role at large as a Calcium channel blocker used in many modern day drugs such as Dilitazem, Nifedipine and Verapamil. These drugs thru their Calcium channel blocking activity gives the benefits of (1) antiarrhthymic (2) anti anginal (3) stabilizing of regular heart beat (4) control of high blood pressure (5) increased flow of Oxygen to heart muscle (6) control of spasm of Esophagus (6) check on Osteomalecia/Ricketts and (7) arrest of Osteoporosis .

It is interesting to observe that many of our ancestors and particularly our revered Acharyas lived long lives, the Vedic prescribed age of 100 or more. Ramanuja lived for 120 years; Swami Desikan lived for 101 years. Their dietary restrictions, Saatvik way of life and observance of daily rituals such as Naama Dharanam (Cumulative effect of Calcium) might be factors in it.

The goal of a SriVaishnavan is to awaken to the joyous realization that he/she is the simple servant of the Supreme Lord, Shriman Narayana. Such a realization is life changing, affecting every level of our being, taking us to a level where in body, mind and spirit we become humble receptacles to His Divine Grace and simple instruments to His Good Efforts. We want such a realization to be experienced in everything we do, say or feel. Both the desire for this experience and the experience itself is outwardly expressed to ourselves and others through the wearing of Thiruman and sri:chu:rnam in the 12 major energy nodes of our body.

Two fundamental qualities must be cultivated in a devotee seeking to come to the Divine awakening described above. One is Peace and the other is Divine Love. Peace is only known at the twin Lotus Feet of of Shriman Narayana. These are our only refuge and our True Home. So, these are placed on ourselves as twin vertical white lines. Divine Love can be known only by becoming constantly aware of the Lord's Mercy and Compassion, which reside with Him as His Eternal Consort, Sri, the Divine Mother. Her presence is seen in the red/yellow marking that is known as the sri: Chu: rnam. We could stop here, but, in order for both of these to be known and experienced correctly, a proper foundation is required. Bhagavad Sri Ramanuja becomes this foundation through our Acha: rya paramparai and this is seen as the connector, the base, if you will, on which the three vertical lines rest. This base is represented by either the semi-circular shape or the ""lotus flower"" shape that is placed just under the eye-brows.

To me, what is important is not whether the Thiruman is shaped U or Y, but rather the philosophical attitude that one must cultivate when one is wearing them. We must recognize and treasure the that our very ability to wear Thiruman is the kind gift of our Acharyas, who provides with us this great honor during our sama: sra: yanam. We must see the Thiruman as a holy sacrament, a ritual that invokes in us the the mood of being simple instruments in the Lord's Loving Hands through the mercy of the Acharya paramparai that finds its foundation and highest ideal in Bhagavad Sri Ramanuja.


  1. I observe Thenkali vaishnavas wear only one Y Namam on their forehead. At eleven other places on their body they wear a U Namam . Can you explain why and what is the significance.

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