The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes The Application of Tripundra which is chapter 2 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the second chapter of the Margashirsha-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 2 - The Application of Tripuṇḍra

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: Tripuṇḍra is a mark on the forehead. Among Śaivites, it consists of three horizontal parallel lines of sacred ash on the forehead. Their procedure is given in HD II, i.673-74. As prescribed in the next chapter, vv 2-13, Vaiṣṇavas use Gopīcandana, clay from roots of Tulasī or Haricandana, for a vertical three-lined mark on the forehead—the whole procedure is described in this chapter.

Brahmā said:

1. It has been said by you that Mārgaśīrṣa (rite) duly performed in accordance with the prescribed procedure is conducive to attaining you. O Lord of Devas, what is the procedure therein? O Keśava, tell me everything.

Śrī Bhagavān said:

2. The devotee should get up towards the close of the night and duly perform the daily routine of duties such as rinsing the mouth, teeth etc. He should then bow down to his preceptor and remember me without any slackness (with concentration).

3-8. He should restrain his speech and remain pure. Then he should glorify me devoutly by reciting my Thousand Names[1] (called Viṣṇusahasranāma). He should go out of the village to discharge faeces and urine duly. After cleansing the parts in the manner stipulated, he should perform the rite of Ācamana (sipping the water). Cleansing his teeth he should duly take his bath. Then he should take some clay from the foot of a Tulasī plant along with a few of its leaves. While plucking the leaves he should utter the Mūlamantraoṃ namo nārāyaṇāya (i.e. Oṃ. Obeisance to Nārāyaṇa) or the Gāyatrī Mantra (RV III.62.10), O highly intelligent one. He should apply the clay all over his body reciting the Mantra and then take bath in water. He should recite the Aghamarṣaṇa Mantra (RV X.190). It is laid down that while taking bath, the devotee may take water and pour it over his body or he may immerse himself under water.

The learned devotee conversant with the Mantras should convert the (ordinary) water into a Tīrtha by the following Mantra. “Oṃ. Obeisance to Nārāyaṇa” is cited as the Mūla Mantra. With great purity he should at the outset perform the rite of Ācamana and then take up Darbha grass in his hand. All round him the clever person should make a square with sides of four Hastas each and then invoke Gaṅgā by means of these Mantras.

9. “O Jāhnavī, you are born of the feet of Viṣṇu. You are a Vaiṣṇavī (devotee of Viṣṇu). Viṣṇu is your deity. Save us from the sins committed from birth till death.

10. Vāyu (Wind-god) has said that there are thirty-five million Tīrthas in the firmament, earth and heaven. O Jāhnavī, all these are present in you.

11. Your names among the Devas are Nandinī, Nalinī, Dakṣaputrī and Vihagā. For Yogins you are Viśvagā.

12. You are Vidyādharī, Suprasannā, Lokaprasādinī, Kṣemā, Jāhnavī, Śāntā and Śāntipradāyinī.”

13. At the time of bath he should recite all these names always. Gaṅgā that flows in three streams will always be present there.

14. The Mantras shall be repeated seven times. Joining the palms together and placing them over the head he should take three, four, five or seven plunges and bathe. Similarly after reciting the following Mantra he should take bath with clay in accordance with the injunctions.

15. “O Vasundharā, traversed by horses, traversed by chariots and measured by Viṣṇu[2], O clay, dispel my sin; dispel the misdeeds (done by me).

16. You were lifted up by the hundred-armed Kṛṣṇa (in the form of a Boar); obeisance to you, the source of origin of all living beings, O pious one.”

17. Thus he should take bath and thereafter perform the Ācamana rite in accordance with the injunctions. He shall then come out of the water and wear white clothes on the bank.

18. After the Ācamana rite he should offer libations to Devas, Pitṛs and Sages. After squeezing out the water from the wet clothes, he should perform the Ācamana rite and put on washed garments.

19. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, he should take beautiful pure clay and charge it with the Mantras. Then the Vaiṣṇava should apply vertical sacred marks on the forehead and other parts of the body in the proper order and number carefully.

20. O Brāhmaṇa, a Brāhmaṇa should always have twelve Puṇḍras.[3] O son, Kṣatriyas should have four. It is prescribed (in Smṛtis) that Vaiśyas should have two Puṇḍras. It is laid down that women and Śūdras should have only one Puṇḍra.

21. The following are the parts of the body where a Brāhmaṇa should have his twelve sacred marks: forehead, belly, chest, hump of the neck, arms, ears, back, right side and lower part of the spine, and head, O sinless one.

22. A Kṣatriya should have the sacred marks on his forehead, chest and the arms; a Vaiśya on his forehead and chest and a Śūdra and women should wear the sacred mark on the forehead.

23-25. He shall have Nyāsa[4] rite as follows: Keśava on the forehead, Nārāyaṇa is to be meditated on the belly, Mādhava on the chest, Govinda on the hump of the neck, Viṣṇu on the right side of the belly, Madhusūdana on the right arm, Trivikrama at the root of the ears. Vāmana on the left side, Śrīdhara on the left arm, Hṛṣīkeśa on the ear, Padmanābha on the back and Dāmodara on the lower spine.

26-29. With the water for washing, Vāsudeva should be installed on the head. This is to be done by a Brāhmaṇa.

Know what is to be done by a Kṣatriya. He should meditate on Keśava on his forehead and on Mādhava in the chest. O dear one, he should remember (for Nyāsa) Madhusūdana on boṃ the arms. The procedure for a Kṣatriya has been spoken.

Listen to the duty of a Vaiśya. He should meditate on Keśava on the forehead and on Mādhava on the chest.

Women and Śūdras should remember Keśava on the forehead.

The devotee should apply the Puṇḍra marks in accordance with this procedure for propitiating me.

30. A dark-coloured Tilaka is said to be conducive to peace; a red one is the cause of winning over others. They say that a yellow one is conducive to prosperity and glory. A white one brings about salvation and is auspicious.

31. Those fortunate persons who are exclusively attached to Viṣṇu (or the followers of Pāñcarātra sect) and are engaged in the welfare of all the worlds should make their Puṇḍra in the shape of the foot of Hari with a gap in the middle.

32. It must leave a hole (blank space) in the middle. Indeed this is the abode of Hari. Above, it is straight and gentle. It is subtle, very charming, with well-defined sides.

33. He is a base Brāhmaṇa who makes (applies) the Puṇḍra mark devoid of any gap (in the middle). For he drives me away along with Lakṣmī who reside there (in the gap of the Puṇḍra mark).

34. The base Brāhmaṇas who make the vertical Puṇḍra mark without gap within, really place (the imprint of the) the foot of a dog on their foreheads. There is no doubt about this.

35. Hence, for the achievement of Sālokya with Hari (residence in Hari’s world) a Brāhmaṇa should always have a Puṇḍra with a gap in the middle. The Puṇḍra mark with a big gap within is very auspicious.

Footnotes and references:


Viṣṇusahasranāma: For the list of 1000 names of Viṣṇu and its meritoriousness see Mbh, Anuśāsana, Ch. 149.


This refers to Viṣṇu’s Vāmana incarnation when he measured (covered) the whole earth in one step. (Mbh, Sabhā, 38.29)


VV 20-22 prescribe the caste-wise numbering of Puṇḍra-marks and the parts of the body to be so marked.


Nyāsa is the mental assignment of the various parts of the body to one’s deities. VV23-29 prescribe the caste-wise Nyāsa procedure. Puṇḍra is to be marked along with the Nyāsa.

It should be noted that there must be some gap in the Ūrdhva-Puṇḍra-mark for applying Tilaka therein (vide vv 30-35).

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