The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “greatness of the holy ashes (bhasma)” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 24 - The greatness of the holy ashes (bhasma)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:—

1. The ashes (bhasma) of auspicious nature are of two types. I shall explain their characteristics. Please listen attentively.

2. One is known as Mahābhasma (Great ashes) and the second is known as Svalpa (the little). The Mahābhasma is of various types.

3. It is of three types: Śrauta, (Vedic), Smārta (resulting from Smṛti rites) and Laukika (prepared from ordinary fire). The Svalpa is the ordinary ash which is of various forms.

4. The Śrauta and the Smārta ashes are to be used only by the twice-born. The Laukika can be used by every one.

5. Sages have said that the twice-born should apply the holy ashes repeating mantras. The others can simply apply without any mantra.

6. When dry cow-dung is reduced to ashes it is called Agneya (fiery). O great sage, for the sake of Tripuṇḍra this ash can be used.

7. The ashes resulting from Agnihotra and other sacrificial rites shall be used for the Tripuṇḍra by men seeking intellect.

8. When the ashes are put on the forehead or smeared with water, the seven mantras “Agni[1]” etc. mentioned in the Jābālopaniṣad, shall be recited.

9. People of all varṇas and Āśramas shall put on Tripuṇḍra on the forehead or dust their bodies with the mantras mentioned in the Jābāla-Upaniṣad or if no mantra is used they shall do the same with reverence.

10. Dusting with the holy ashes and smearing the Tripuṇḍra in horizontal parallel lines shall not be abandoned by those who seek salvation. Śruti lays down that they shall not get negligent.

11-12. Śiva, Viṣṇu, Umā, Lakṣmī, goddess of speech and other gods and goddesses, brahmins, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and persons of mixed castes and hill tribes have observed Tripuṇḍra and dusting always.

13. Those who do not observe Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana cannot practise well the various rites of the different Varṇas and Āśramas.

14. Those who do not observe with faith Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana cannot be liberated from the world even if they take ten million births.

15. Even after hundreds of crores of Kalpas, Śiva-knowledge will not dawn upon those who do not observe with faith Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana.

16. This is the final conclusion of all sacred texts that those who do not observe with faith Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana are tarnished by great sins.

17. Any action performed by those who do not observe Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana with faith will give adverse results.

18. O sage, the hatred towards Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana is kindled in the hearts of only those great sinners who hate everyone.

19. After performing the sacred rites of Śiva in the fire, the devotee who has realised the Self shall smear the forehead with the ashes repeating the mantra beginning with “Tryāyuṣā[2]”. The moment the ashes (bhasma) come in contact with his body he will be freed from sins of his impious acts.

20. He who observes Tripuṇḍra with white ashes during the three Sandhyās every day becomes free from all sins and rejoices with Śiva.

21. He who makes the Tripuṇḍra on the forehead with white ashes shall attain, on death, the primordial worlds.

22. No one shall repeat the six-syllabled mantra without applying ashes on the body. After making the Tripuṇḍra with the ashes he shall perform the Japa.

23-24. All holy centres and all sacrifices will be present for ever in the place where a man after having put ashes on his body stays permanently, no matter whether he is ruthless, base, sinful or commits morning sins, or is a fool or a fallen man.

25. Even a sinful person is worthy of being honoured by Devas and Asuras if he has Tripuṇḍra on his forehead. What then of a faithful man endowed with a pure soul?

26. All the holy centres and sacred rivers go ever to the place which a person who is endowed with Śiva Jñāna (knowledge of Śiva) and has put on ashes casually visits.

27. Why should I say more? The sensible person shall always apply the ash, shall always worship the phallic image and shall always repeat the six-syllabled mantra of Śiva.

28. Neither Brahmā, nor Viṣṇu, nor Rudra, nor sages, nor the devas can explain adequately the greatness of the application of the ashes.

29. Even if a person has eschewed the duties of the different Varṇas and Āśramas, even if a person has omitted the holy rites of the Varṇas, he shall be freed from the sin if he wears Tripuṇḍra once.

30. Those men who exclude a man wearing Tripuṇḍra and perform holy rites are not liberated from worldly bondage even after crores of births.

31. If a brahmin wears the Tripuṇḍra with the ash on his forehead he must be considered as having learnt everything from the preceptor and as having performed every sacred rite.

32. Those who begin to strike on seeing a person who has applied the ash are reborn of Cāṇḍāla parents. O holy one, this can be guessed by the wise.

33. With great devotion Brahmins and Kṣatriyas shall apply the holy ashes over such parts of the body as are prescribed by the rule repeating the mantra “Mā nastoke[3]” etc.

34. A Vaiśya shall apply the ashes repeating the Tryambaka[4] mantra and a Śūdra with the five-syllabled mantra[5]. Widows and other women shall do like the Śūdras.

35. A house-holder shall repeat the Pañcabrahma[6] mantra etc. and a Brahmacārin shall repeat the Tryambaka-mantra[7] at the time.

36. The Vānaprastha shall repeat the Aghora mantra[8] and an ascetic shall observe with the Praṇava alone.

37. A Śivayogin being outside the pale of Varṇa and Āśrama rites because of his conception “I am Śiva” shall wear ashes with the Īśāna mantra.

38. Śiva has ordained that the rite of wearing ashes shall not be eschewed by the people of any caste and outside the bounds of caste by other living beings.

39. A person who has applied ashes on his body actually wears as many liṅgas as there are particles of the ash that remain on his body.

40-41. Brahmins, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, Śūdras, people of mixed castes, women, widows, girls, heretics, a brahmacārin, a householder, a forest-dweller, an ascetic, performer of sacred rites and women who have Tripuṇḍra marks are undoubtedly liberated souls.

42. Just as the fire when touched with or without knowledge burns the body so does the ash worn consciously or unconsciously sanctify the man.

43. No man shall drink or eat even a bit without applying Bhasma or wearing Rudrākṣa. If he eats or drinks, whether he is a householder or Vānaprastha or an ascetic, a man of the four castes or of mixed caste, he becomes a sinner and goes to hell. If a man of the four castes repeats Gāyatrī[9] or if an ascetic repeats the Praṇava he shall be liberated.

44. Those who censure Tripuṇḍra actually censure Śiva. Those who wear it with devotion actually wear Śiva.

45. Fie upon the forehead that is devoid of ash. Fie upon the village that has no Śiva temple. Fie upon that life that does not worship Śiva. Fie upon the lore that does not refer to Śiva.

46. Great indeed is the sin accruing even from the sight of those who censure Śiva who is the support of three worlds and those who censure the man wearing Tripuṇḍra on his forehead. They are on a par with pigs of rubbish heap, demons, donkeys, dogs, jackals and worms. Such sinful persons are hellish fiends even from their very birth.

47.[10] They may not see the sun during the day and the moon during the night. They may not see them even during sleep. They may be freed by repeating the Vedic Rudra Sūkta. Those who censure a person wearing the Tripuṇḍra are fools. A mere talk with them may cause the fall into hell. There is no way of saving then.

48. O sage, tāntrika is not authorised in a Śivayajña nor a person having Ūrdhvapuṇḍra (worn on the forehead by vertical mark by a Vaiṣṇava). A person marked with a heated wheel (a mark of a Vaiṣṇava) is excluded from Sivayajña.

49. There are many worlds to be attained as explained in Bṛhajjābāla Upaniṣad; taking that into consideration a man shall be devoted to the ashes (bhasma).

50. Just as sandal paste alone can be applied over sandal paste, so also only the ash shall be applied over the sacred mark on the forehead. A sensible person will not apply anything over the forehead that wears the ornamental mark of ashes on it.

51. The Tripuṇḍra shall be applied upto the forelocks by women. Brahmins and widows shall apply the ash also. Similarly it shall be applied by persons of all Āramas. Thus it bestows salvation and destroys all sins.

52. He who makes Tripuṇḍra duly with the ash is freed from groups of great as well as small sins.

53-54. A Brahmacārin, a householder, a forest-dweller or an ascetic, brahmins, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, śūdras, the low and the base people become pure by means of Tripuṇḍra and Uddhūlana applied according to the prescribed manner and get their heaps of sins destroyed.

55. A person regularly applying the ash (bhasma) is freed of the sins of slaughter of women and cows and that of heroes and horses. There is no doubt about it.

56-60. By means of Tripuṇḍra, the following and similar others of innumerable sorts are destroyed immediately:—Theft of others’ wealth, outraging the modesty of other men’s wives, censuring others, usurping and forcibly occupying others’ fields, harassing others, theft of plants, parks etc, incendiarism, acceptance from base people of the gifts of cow, gold, buffalo, gingelly seeds, blankets, cloths, cooked rice, food-grains, water etc; sexual intercourse with prostitutes, women of the tribal castes, fisher women, slave women, actresses, widows, virgins and women in their menstrual periods, selling of flesh, hides, gravy etc. and salt, calumny perjury, deceitful arguments and utterance of falsehood.

61. The theft of Śiva’s property, censure of Śiva in certain places and the censure of the devotees of Śiva can be dispelled by the rites of expiation.

62. Even a Cāṇḍāla who wears Rudrākṣa over his body and the Tripuṇḍra on his forehead, is worthy of respect. He is the most excellent of all castes.

63. He who wears the Tripuṇḍraka on his forehead gains the same merit as one who takes his bath in the sacred rivers like Gaṅgā and whatever other sacred ponds, lakes and holy centres there are in the world.

64. The five-syllabled mantra which grants Śiva Kaivalya is on a par with seven crores of great and many crores of other mantras.

65. O sage, mantras of other deities bestowing all blessedness are easily accessible to the devotee who wears the Tripuṇḍra.

66. He who wears Tripuṇḍra raises a thousand predecessors and a thousand successors in his family.

67. In this life he will enjoy all worldly pleasures and live long without any disease. At the end of the span of his life he will have a peaceful death.

68-70. He will assume then a divine auspicious body endowed with eight accomplishments. He will travel by a divine aerial chariot attended by celestial gods. He will enjoy the pleasures of Vidyādharas, powerful Gandharvas, in the worlds of Indra and other guardians of the quarters and those of Prajāpatis and finally reach Brahmā’s region where he will sport with a hundred virgins.

71. He will enjoy different kinds of pleasures there for the full period of the span of life of Brahmā. He will then enjoy the pleasures in the Viṣṇuloka till hundred Brahmas die.

72. Thereafter he will attain Śivaloka and enjoy everlasting bliss there. Finally he will attain Śivasāyujya. No suspicion need be entertained in this matter.

73. After going through the essence of all Upaniṣads again and again, this is what has been arrived at that the Tripuṇḍra is conducive to great excellence.

74. A brahmin who censures the ash is no longer a brahmin but of another low caste. He will undergo the tortures of terrible hell for the period of the span of life of the four-faced Brahmā.

75. A man who wears the Tripuṇḍra while performing Śrāddha, Yajña, Japa, Homa, Vaiśvadeva and the worship of the deities is a purified soul and he conquers even death.

76. When impurities are evacuated, a bath with water shall be performed; a bath with the ash (bhasma) is always purificatory; a bath with mantras removes sin and if a bath with knowledge is taken, the greatest goal will be reached.

77. A man who takes the bath of ashes derives that benefit which all holy centres accord. He gets the merit thereof.

78. Bath with the ash is a holy centre where Gaṅgā Snāna is possible every day. Śiva is represented by the ash which directly sanctifies the three worlds.

79. Infructuous is the knowledge, meditation, gift and japa if these are performed by a Brāhmaṇa without wearing Tripuṇḍraka.

80. A forest-dweller, virgins and men without initiation shall apply the ash pasted in water upto the midday and thereafter without water.

81. He who wears Tripuṇḍra like this regularly with a pure controlled mind must be considered a true devotee of Śiva. He derives worldly pleasures and salvation.

82. If a person does not wear a bead of Rudrākṣa which accords many merits, if he is devoid of Tripuṇḍra as well, his life becomes futile.

83. Thus I have briefly told you the greatness of Tripuṇḍra. This is a secret to be safely guarded by you from all living beings.

84. O leading sages, in the different parts of the body as the forehead etc. three lines constitute the Tripuṇḍra.

85. The Tripuṇḍra on the forehead extends from the middle of the eyebrows to the tips of the brows on either side.

86. With the middle and the ring fingers a line drawn in the opposite direction is called Tripuṇḍra.

87. With the three middle fingers, take the ashes and apply the Tripuṇḍra on the forehead. It would give worldly pleasures and salvation.

88. For each of the three lines there are nine deities everywhere in the body. I shall mention them. Listen attentively.

89-90. The nine deities of the first line are:—The syllable “A”, Gārhapatya fire (sacrificial fire), Earth, Dharma, the attribute Rajas, Ṛgveda, Kriyāśakti (the power to do), Prātaḥsavana (morning rituals) and Mahādeva. O foremost among sages, this shall be carefully understood by those who are initiated in the cult of Śiva.

91-92. The nine deities of the second line are:—The syllable “U”, Dakṣiṇā fire (sacrificial fire), the principle of Ether, Attribute Sattva, Yajurveda, Mādhyandina Savana midday rituals), Icchāśakti (the will-power), the Antarātman (the immanent soul) and Maheśvara. O foremost among sages, this must be carefully understood by those who are initiated in the cult of Śiva.

93-94. The nine deities of the third line are:—The syllable “M”, Āhavanīya (sacrificial) fire, the supreme soul, the attribute Tamas, heaven, Jñāna Śakti, Sāmaveda, the third Savana (evening rituals) and Śiva. O foremost among sages, this must be carefully understood by those initiated in the cult of Śiva.

95. Thus making obeisance to the deities of the different parts with devotion, one shall apply the Tripuṇḍra. One will become pure and derive worldly pleasures and salvation.

96. Thus I have mentioned, O lordly sages, the deities of the different parts of the body. Now please listen to the different parts connected with them.

97. These lines are to be made either in thirty-two places, or half of that—in sixteen places, or in eight places or in five places.

98-102. The thirty-two places are:—head, forehead, two ears, two eyes, two noses, mouth, neck, two arms, two elbows, two wrists, chest, two sides, navel, two testicles, two thighs, two knees, two calves, two heels and two feet. The names of the following shall be uttered when the Tripuṇḍra is applied:—Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, the quarters, the guardians of the quarters, the eight Vasus.[11] The eight Vasus are Dharā, Dhruva, Soma, Āpa, Anila, Anala, Pratyūṣa and Prabhasa.

Or the devotee shall apply the Tripuṇḍra in sixteen parts of the body.

103-109. The sixteen parts mentioned before are:—head, forehead, neck, two shoulders, two arms, two elbows, two wrists, chest, navel, two sides and back. The names of the deities presiding over them and which are to be worshipped are:—two Aśvins, Dasra and Nāsatya, Śiva, Śakti, Rudra, Īśa, Nārada, and nine ŚaktisVāmā etc., or the sixteen parts are:—Head, hair, two eyes, the mouth, two arms, chest, navel, two thighs, knees, two feet and the back. The deities are:—Śiva, Candra, Rudra, ka (Brahmā), Vighneśvara, Viṣṇu, Śrī in the heart, Śambhu, Prajāpati in the navel, Nāga, Nāgakanyās, Ṛṣikanyās in the feet and the ocean of vast expansion in the back. Now the eight parts are mentioned.

110. The private parts, forehead, the excellent pair of ears, two shoulders, chest and navel—these are the eight parts of the body.

111. The presiding deities are Brahmā and the seven sages.[12] O lordly sages, this is what has been mentioned by those who know about the efficacy of the ashes (bhasma).

112. Or these five parts are to be used for applying ashes as mentioned by those who know more about the efficacy of the ashes. They are:—forehead, two arms, chest and navel.

113-114. Considering the place and time whatever possible shall be done by the devotee. If incapable of dusting the whole body with the holy ashes he shall have the Tripuṇḍra on the forehead alone, remembering lord Śiva, the three-eyed, the support of the three Guṇas and the progenitor of the three devas by repeating Namaḥ Śivāya (obeisance to Śiva).

115. He shall have Tripuṇḍra in the sides saying Īśābhyāṃ Namaḥ (obeisance to Śiva and the goddess) and in the forearms by saying Bījābhyām Namaḥ (obeisance to the generating seeds).

116. He shall apply the ashes beneath by saying Namaḥ Pitṛbhyām (obeisance to the manes) and above by saying Namaḥ Umesābhyām (obeisance to Umā and Īśa), on the back and the back of the head by saying Namaḥ Bhīmāya (obeisance to Bhīma).

Footnotes and references:


Compare Bhasmajābālopaniṣad. The mantras referred to are: (l) “agniriti bhasma”, (2) “vāyuriti bhasma”, (3) “jalamiti bhasma”, (4) “sthalamiti bhasma”, (5) “vyomiti bhasma”, (6) “devā bhasma”, (7) “ṛṣyo bhasma” |


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) 3.62.


Ibid. 16.16.


Ibid. 3.60.


Namaś śivāya.


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) 29.11.


Ibid. 3.60.


Ibid. 162.


Ibid. 16.


The text is corrupt and the English rendering is not certain.


The eight Vasus mentioned in this verse differ in certain names from those in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa: Cp.

pṛthivī ca vāyuścāntarikṣaṃ cādityaśca dyauśca candramāśca nakṣatrāṇi caite vasava |



Seven sages, viz. Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vasiṣṭha are represented by a group of seven stars called Ursa Major.

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