Hindus prefer to wear red tilak and sandal wood tilak on foreheads.

Also Lord Shiva wears Bhasma(Vibhuthi). Many of his followers do the same. How did this practice originate?

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    Are you actually asking for a scientific justification? There almost certainly isn't one (and if there is one, it will be retrospective at best). There will certainly be religious justifications, though.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 18:41
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    Sandalwood definitely has cooling effect (not only literally but it tehsir is cool).
    – user115
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 18:50
  • I wanted to discuss on the scientific reasons mainly,but want to know about religious justifications too.
    – user11
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 19:32
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about human biology, not Hinduism. Your question may be on-topic at Biology, or possibly Skeptics or Physics (but check those sites' help centers to be sure).
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 21:35
  • 1
    @Shog9 If you wouldn't mind, could you provide some input on this meta discussion, which pertains to this question?
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 23:30

6 Answers 6


One of the most visible external symbols of Hindu identity is the mark that many of us wear on our forehead. Origin of this practice is unclear. But, in ancient times, when the Varna system predominated, people used to apply tilaks differently that represented their Varna. Brahmins applied a white chandan mark signifying purity. Kshatriyas wore a red tilak that signified their valour. Vaishyas wore a yellow (usually turmeric) tilak which signified prosperity as they were traders. The Sudras applied a black tilak representing their service to all the above three Varnas.

But later, the tilaks were used to denote which Sampradaya one belongs to. The worshippers of Lord Vishnu wore a tilak in the shape of 'U' (also called Naamam). The worshippers of Lord Shiva wore Bhasma/Vibhuthi in three horizontal lines (also called Tripundra). The lines and the color used may vary from region to region and from sect to sect.

The area in which the mark is applied is between the eyebrows, called the Ajna Chakra. This is the point that most schools of Hinduism consider the entry and exit point of our jivaatma (soul). Scientifically, this Ajna Chakra area is often cited as the seat of thinking, concentration and memory. It is also the area which gets heated during stress and tension. Applying the tilak (generally using Chandan) has a cooling effect and aids concentration.

In modern time, red tilak (Kumkum) is widely used by women. Considered a symbol of Goddess Parvati, it signifies female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands.

There is an interesting incident in the Ramayana regarding the significance of Kumkum. One day as Sri Jankidevi, wife of Lord Rama, was adorning her forehead with Sindur, Hanuman asked her, "Mata, why do you put this red thing on your head?" Sri Jankidevi replied, "By applying this, my swami (husband) will live long." Since Hanuman is a Parama-bhakta of Sri Rama, he thought that if a pinch of Sindur could make his master’s life long, a whole lot of it would make him live much longer. So he rubbed it all over his gigantic body!

Well, even if the origin of the practice is unclear, the above incident in Ramayana makes it clear that the practice existed even during (or may be, well before) the Treta-yuga, in which Sri Rama lived.


  • It will be helpful if you can include some references if possible.
    – user11
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 18:06
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    @Dharmaputhiran- please provide thevreferences from valid scriptures. It mere foolishness to divide the wearing tilak or namam or bhasmam class wise or caste wise. These kinds of illogical and foolish statements will alienate the society further.#
    – user808
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 10:07

Tilak, a mark of Hindu Sanatan Dharma, comes from the Sanskrit word ‘til’ which means sesame seed. The sesame seed has great importance in yagnas and charity. A tilak is imprinted on a person’s forehead because it is the location through which one can channel Divinity, thus enhancing the spiritual character of an individual.

Wearing Tilak (and/or Chandalo) has been a tradition of Hindu Sanatan Dharma. Every individual used to apply it on Forehead based on sect they follow. With time it has changed and now you see very few follow this practice. I still see followers of Swaminarayan, ISKCON, Varkari and few other sects do strictly apply tilak during their morning prayer.

Different sects within Hindu Sanatan Dharma have different representation of Tilak: enter image description here


While engaging myself in reading Kalki Purana as my favorite pastime under the three modes of material nature of Prakriti, I stumbled upon the following verse which will be said by Kalki (supposedly upcoming incarnation of Vishnu)

It is the duty of those who are twice-born to mark the forehead with tilaka made of clay, ash, or sandalwood paste. Marking the body with tilaka is a limb of devotional service. The brahmanas decorate their foreheads with tilaka, beginning from the nose up to the hair line. 4.19
The length of one's tilaka should be three fingers. It is said that Brahma, Visnu and Siva reside withm the marking of tilaka. Therefore, simply byseeing a person's tilaka, one becomes freed from sinful reactions. 4.20

So as you can see trinity gods dwell within the marking of Tilak along with devotion can be the reason (which a normal Hindu rarely knows).

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    Many Hindus wear Tilak. They are totally unaware of these verses from Kalki Purana or its results. It has become culture and a part of their life. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 17:19

The tilak on the forehead symbolizes the importance of the third-eye or the Ajna Chakra:

Q: Gurudev, what is the significance of applying tilak on the forehead (referring to the portion of the forehead between the eyebrows)? What does it represent? Married women in our country also apply the tilak. What is the reason behind it?

A: The third eye is present there (referring to the center associated with alertness or awareness). So there is a custom of applying sandal paste or other things at the location of pineal and pituitary glands which have a great effect on our body and mind. One reason for applying the paste is to give respect to that portion of the forehead. It stimulates our attention.

Whenever you think, what do you do? Your hand automatically goes at this place. When you make a mistake, your hand goes at the head. When you think or deeply ponder over something or some problem comes then too you keep your hand like this. If you go to any country or any corner of the world, you find that everywhere people think like this. This is the seat of wisdom. It is the peetha (seat) of knowledge. That is why chandan (sandal paste), kumkum or sindoor (vermillion powder) is applied there. It is symbolic.

From a Q&A with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: http://qnawithsrisri.artoflivinguniverse.org/2014/11/qna-with-sri-sri_26.html


Shiva, vaishnava, shakthi, ganapathi, surya, skanda are the most popular gods of worship. Each of their ways of worship, rituals slightly differ and different types of tilaks symbolically represent the same.

In my opinion, wearing tilak enhances the spiritual well being of the follower, noticing tilak on one's forehead head promotes dharmic feeling and fear of doing sin. tilak on starting point of womens' hair starting hair junction says she is married and her husband is alive.


The Red Bindu is the red ocean of ananda - Bliss yes Bliss, it is a realization of unity of essence, all that is, is in essence the Bindu. It is only when the 5 chakras - the three lower gross chakras and the 2 subtle chakras above them have been transcended that enables Maha Kundalini Sakti to rise to the opened Ajna chakra and drink - yoke with Prakriti the essence of creative bliss. Today the Bindu is worn only as a symbol of this long forgotten realization.

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    Welcome! Can you please provide references from scriptures? @FrankHestermann
    – YDS
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 10:16
  • Thanks YDS, I can not find any satisfactory answers in the scriptures, that being the case I can only share with you my witness of this realization. I hope it sounds logical and enables you to realize this experience for yourself. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 8:52
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    Personal experiences are not valid sources on our site as they are not verifiable. Please add some verifiable reference.
    – User9125
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 10:40
  • Thanx user 9125 if you know of any, can you please direct me to some scriptures that are not personal experiences that explain the kshetra ajna bindu and I will add them as verifiable reference. Thanx for the help Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 11:59
  • It's only sriman Madvacharya relates urdhva pundra kundaluni Sakthi and infant desist thus wearing tripundra dharana as stoping the kundalini flow to shasrarara as stated by bannaje govindacharya in his lectures I'm quite surprised westerners are aware of this but I don't have scriptural references because I'm lay person @FrankHestermann
    – Prasanna R
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 5:03

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