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Most of the saints I have seen like Vishwamitra, Gautama Maharshi, Sri Madvirat Pothuluri Veerabrahmendra Swamy, Shirdi Sai Baba, Adi Sankaracharya etc put Shiva Namam on their forehead.

  • Is it because they are saivites?
  • Is it because Lord Shiva gives powers faster than Lord Vishnu?
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    Some saints put shiva namam (vibhuti) on their forehead, while some put lord vishnu namam on their forehead. It is just that their Ishta Deva is Shiva and their Ishta Deva is Vishnu. As for "Is it because Lord Siva gives powers faster than Lord Vishnu". Let me assure you Sir, the saints whom you mentioned, do not wear any 'namam' for the sake of obtaining some kind of 'powers' from God. They are wearing it as a symbol of their devotion. they do not seek any return from God, except for God Himself. They are not after fulfillment of any material desires.
    – Sai
    Nov 14, 2014 at 20:39
  • It is vibhUti, not necessarily Shiva nAmam. viBHuti dhAraNa is prescribed by the vEdas. Not just by or for a religious sect.
    – user1195
    Dec 22, 2014 at 2:12

2 Answers 2

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Of all the great saints that you have listed, Shankaracharya Bhagavatpada is considered an avatar of Shiva and hence it is quite natural that he would have had the shiva namam(vibhuti as three horizontal lines) on his forehead.

  • As for Shirdi sai baba, he lived his life as a muslim fakir and it is his Hindu bhaktas who prefer to put the mark on his forehead. You can have a look at his photos.
  • As for all other saints, none of us have seen them in person hence it is difficult to determine whether they did put the mark of shiva on their forehead.
  • As for your second question, Shiva is known to be easily pleased but that may not be the only reason for their applying vibhuti. But it is very common for proponents of Advaita to be devotees of Shiva externally as in the case of Shankaracharya Bhagavatpada. So maybe the saints you mentioned fit into this category.
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  • why is to common for the proponents of Advaita to be devotees of Lord Shiva?
    – user12458
    Dec 11, 2014 at 16:35
  • @JavaTechnical Advaitins by definition are devotees of all deities. It is a sin for an advaitin to see distinction between Shiva and Vishnu.
    – user1195
    Dec 22, 2014 at 2:11
  • @moonstar2001 you have misunderstood the comment.I just pointed to an observation that Shankara was considered an incarnation of Shiva and taking a leaf out of him many advaitins seem to worship shiva "externally" like going to a cemetery,manifesting lingas,invoking Kali(Shiva's consort-as in the case of Ramakrishna) etc
    – S Raghav
    Dec 25, 2014 at 11:34
  • @RaghavSubramanian Nope. A typical advaitin and a follower of Sankaracharya practises samayAchara, studies and adopts vEdAnta. The others that you mention are usually sAktEyAs or vAmAcAra practitioners.
    – user1195
    Dec 25, 2014 at 11:57
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Srimad Devi Bhagwatam 11.12.:

1-20. Śrī Nārāyaṇa said :-- O Devarṣi Nārada! Hear now the great secret and the fruits of besmearing one’s body with ashes, yieding all desires.

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He can never expect to get liberation even after koṭi births who does not besmear his body with ashes devotedly and who does not hold the Tripuṇḍras. O Nārada! The vile man who does not hold Bhaṣma duly, know the birth of that man as futile as is the birth of a hog. Consider that body as a burning ground which does not bear the Tripuṇḍra marks. The virtuous man should not cast a glance at him even. Fie on that forehead which does not carry the Tripuṇḍra! Fie on that village which has not a single temple of Śiva! Fie on that birth which is void of the worship of Śiva! Fie on that knowledge which is void of the knowledge of Śiva. Know them to be the slanderers of Śiva who mock at Tripuṇḍra. Those that put on the Tripuṇḍras, bear Śiva in their forehead. The Brāhmin who is Niragnik (without the holy fire) is not nice in every way. So if the worship of Śiva be not done with any Tripuṇḍra is not praiseworthy, even it be attended with abundance of other offerings. Those who do not besmear their bodies with ashes or who do not use the Tripuṇḍras, get their previous good deeds converted into bad ones.

21-42. Unless the Tripuṇḍra mark is taken up according to the Śāstras, the Vaidik Karmas (works) or those performed according to the Smritis prove injurious; the good works whatsoever done by any man count for nothing; the holy words heard seem as if unheard and the study of the Vedas counted as if not studied.

I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..

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