Tilak - Tilaka
(symbol on forehead or between eyebrows)

The tilak (Sanskrit tilaka, "mark") is a mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body for spiritual reasons.

On a man, the tilak takes the form of different lines, indicating his religious affiliation. On women, a tilak usually takes the form of a decorative dot (or Bindi), which usually denotes marriage and auspiciousness, but which has its own symbolism. In a woman's case a Tilaka is a sign of her being in wedlock Among men, the Tilaka has been traditionally interpreted as a good luck charm.

The tilak is worn every day by sadhus and pious householders, and on special occasions like weddings and religious rituals. A tilak is also applied by a priest during a visit to the temple as a sign of the deity's blessing, for both men and women (and western tourists, too). Tilak marks are applied by hand or with a metal stamp. They might be made of ash from a sacrificial fire, sandalwood paste, turmeric, cow dung, clay, charcoal, or red lead. In addition to its religious symbolism, the tilak has a cooling effect on the forehead and this can assist in concentration and meditation. A dot between the eyebrows symbolizes the third eye of Lord Shiva.

Saivites (followers of Shiva) wear a tilak of three horizontal lines across the forehead, with or without a red dot. Sometimes a crescent moon or trident is included. The devotees of Shiva usually use sacred ashes (Bhasma) for the tilak.

Among Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu), the many tilak variations usually include two or more vertical lines resembling the letter U, which symbolizes the foot of Vishnu. There is sometimes a central line or dot. Most Vaishanative tilaks are made of sandalwood paste (Chandan). The worshippers of the goddess Devi or Shakti apply Kumkum, a red tumeric powder.

Usually Tilak is worn on religious occasions, its shape often representing particular devotion to a certain main deity: a 'U' or 'V' shape stands for Vishnu, a group of three horizontal lines for Shiva. It is not uncommon for some to meld both in an amalgam marker signifying Hari-Hara (Vishnu-Shiva indissoluble).

The Tilaka is normally a vermilion mark applied on the forehead. This mark has a religious significance and is a visible sign of a person as belonging to a particular religious faith. The Tilaka is of more than one colour although normally it is vermilion. It is applied differently by members of different religious sects and sub-sects.

It is applied as a 'U' by worshippers of lord Vishnu and is red, yellow or saffron in color. It is made up of red ochre powder (Sindhura) and sandalwood paste (Gandha). Worshippers of lord Shiva apply it as three horizontal lines and it consists of ash (Bhasma).

Thus there is a variety of pigments; red, yellow, saffron, white, grey and black, etc. These pigments are not only applied on the forehead but in some cases they are applied also on the forearms and the abdomen.

Hindu women have been using Tilaka in form of a red dot "Bindi" for many millennia. The tilaka are worn as a beauty mark by women of all faiths, with no adherence of Hindu belief. They generally use dots (bindi) rather than the lines and larger marks worn by men. The term "Bindi" seems to be more often used for beauty marks. Sometimes the terms sindoor, kumkum, or kasturi are used, by reference to the material used to make the mark. Married Hindu women may also wear additional Tilaka between the parting of the hair above forehead. This mark serves to indicate marital status.

Bindi can usually be described as a traditional red circular mark or dot which can vary from small to large. When this is accompanied by a vermillion mark on the parting of hair just above the forehead, it indicates that the particular lady is married. The term 'bindi' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'bindu' meaning "a drop or a small dot or particle". Even though traditionally, bindi is a red colored dot, it can be worn in other colors also, like yellow, orange and so on. The shape and size of the bindi can also vary.

Conventionally, it's the Hindu married women who wear bindi. But, this mark can have several meanings and so, you may also see unmarried girls and even children wearing it. It's the occasion, the color of the bindi and its shape that determines what it denotes. The customary bindi is made with red sindoor powder. The bindi is called the tilak when it's applied on the forehead of a person, at the conclusion of a religious function or havan.

The purpose of wearing a bindi can also vary. If it covers the entire forehead in three horizontal lines, then it denotes the wearer is an ascetic or belongs to a particular sect (like Brahmin). Sometimes, the bindi is used for mere beautification purpose by females. In this case, you may also find her wearing a small jewelry instead of the typical red dot. Though in India, a widow cannot wear a vermillion, she is free to sport a bindi.

Bindi is called by different names in different languages of India and is also know as Tika. Thus, alternative names for bindi is Pottu in Tamil and Malayalam, Tilak in Hindi, Bottu or Tilakam in Telugu, Bottu or Tilaka in Kannada and Teep meaning "a pressing" in Bengali. Sometimes, the terms sindoor, kumkum, or kasturi are used depending upon the ingredients used in making the Bindi mark.

Tilaka on Sadhu Tilaka on Elephant


How to apply Vishnu Tilaka (urdhva-pundra) on one's body

Vishnu-Tilaka refers to clay markings (Gopi-chandan) that are worn on the forehead and other parts of the body by Vaishnavas, signifying their devotion to Lord Krishna or Vishnu. These symbolic markings consecrate the body as the Lord’s temple. The U-shaped mark represents the heel of Lord Visnu, and the oval part represents the Tulasi leaf.

Ragupati prabhu decorated with TilakaTilaka, the mark on the forehead, is said to be urdhva-pundra. Pundra means "lotus". In this context, it refers to the lotus-feet of Shri Hari. Urdhva means "upward". The lotus- feet of Shri Hari viewed from the heel resemble lotus flowers with five petals. The tilaka mark is therefore a symbol for the imprint of the lotus-feet of Shri Hari. It is the mood of a Vaisnava, in an attitude of reverential submission, that he desires to place his head beneath the lotus feet of his Beloved.

Tilaka is applied to twelve parts of the body, and the twelve names of the Lord are recited with each application. "When putting the twelve tilaka marks on the twelve places of the body, one has to chant the mantra consisting of the twelve Vishnu names. After daily worship, when one anoints the different parts of the body with water, these names should be chanted as one touches each part of the body." [Caitanya-caritamrita Madhya 20.202]

To apply tilaka, start with a little Ganges or Yamuna water (if you don't have any, get some water, and stirring it with your right middle finger, chant:

ganga cha yamune chaiva
godavari saravati
narmade sindho kaveri
jale 'smin sannidhim kuru

"O Ganges, O Yamuna, O Godavari, O Saravati, O Narmada, O Sindhu, O Kaveri, please become present in this water."

Put the water in your left hand, and rub the hard clay of tilak into the water, creating a wet paste out of the clay. Begin by putting your ring finger of the right hand into the clay, and starting between the eyebrows, bring the finger straight up to the hairline, making two straight lines. It should look like a long, narrow U-shape. Then use some more tilak to make the Tulasi leaf on your nose, it should extend about 3/4 of the way down your nose.

Chant the following verses while rubbing gopi-candana (sacred yellow clay) in your right palm;

lalate keshavam dhyayen / narayanam athodare
vakshah-sthale madhavam tu / govindam kantha-kupake

vishnum ca dakshine kukshau / bahau ca madhusudanam
trivikramam kandhare tu / vamanam vama-parshvake

shridharam vama-bahau tu / hrishikesham tu kandhare
prishthe ca padmanabham ca / katyam damodaram nyaset

While marking the body with tilaka, one should chant the following mantra, which consists of the twelve names of Lord Vishnu.When one marks the forehead with tilaka, he must remember Keshava. When one marks the lower abdomen, he must remember Narayana. For the chest, one should remember Madhava, and when marking the hollow of the neck one should remember Govinda. Lord Vishnu should be remembered while marking the right side of the belly, and Madhusudana should be remembered when marking the right arm. Trivikrama should be remembered when marking the right shoulder, and Vamana should be remembered when marking the left side of the belly. Shridhara should be remembered while marking the left arm, and Hrishikesha should be remembered when marking the left shoulder. Padmanabha and Damodara should be remembered when marking the back." [Caitanya-caritamrita Madhya 20.202]

As you apply the tilak to your body, chant the following mantras:

  forehead om keshavaya namah
middle belly om narayanaya namah
chest om madhavaya namah
hollow of throat om govindaya namah
right side belly om vishnave namah
right upper arm om madhusudanaya namah
right shoulder om trivikramaya namah
left side belly om vamanaya namah
left upper arm om shridharaya namah
left shoulder om hrishikeshaya namah
upper back om padmanabhaya namah
lower back om damodaraya namah

The shikha (hair-tuft or ponytail) area is not marked with tilaka; rather, after washing the right hand, wipe the remaining water on your shikha while chanting om vasudevaya namah.

The Nectar of Devotion (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu of Shrila Rupa Gosvami) stresses the importance of tilaka (urdhva-pundra)

different tilakas

Vaishnava Temple Tilakam
Vainava Tilakam

In the Padma Purana there is a statement describing how a Vaishnava should decorate his body with tilaka and beads: "Persons who put tulasi beads on the neck, who mark twelve places of their body as Vishnu temples with Vishnu's symbolic representations [the four items held in the four hands of Lord Vishnu-conch, mace, disc and lotus], and who have Vishnu tilaka on their forehead, are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Vishnu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain they make that place as good as Vaikuntha."

A similar statement is in the Skanda Purana, which says: "Persons who are decorated with tilaka or gopi-candana [a kind of clay resembling fuller's earth which is produced in certain quarters of Vrindavana], and who mark their bodies all over with the holy names of the Lord, and on whose neck and breast there are tulasi beads, are never approached by the Yama-dutas." The Yama-dutas are the constables of King Yama (the Lord of death), who punishes all sinful men. Vaishnavas are never called for by such constables of Yamaraja. In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, in the narration of Ajamila's deliverance, it is said that Yamaraja gave clear instructions to his assistants not to approach the Vaishnavas. Vaishnavas are beyond the jurisdiction of Yamaraja's activities.

Always remember Vishnu. While decorating the body with tilaka, we give protection to the body by chanting twelve names of Vishnu. Although Govinda, or Lord Vishnu, is one, He has different names and forms with which to act differently. But if one cannot remember all the names at one time, one may simply chant, “Lord Vishnu, Lord Vishnu, Lord Vishnu,” and always think of Lord Vishnu. Vishnor aradhanam param: this is the highest form of worship. If one remembers Vishnu always, even though one is disturbed by many bad elements, one can be protected without a doubt. The AAyurveda-shastra recommends, aushadhi cintayet vishnum: “even while taking medicine, one should remember Vishnu”, because the medicine is not all and all and Lord Vishnu is the real protector. The material world is full of danger (padam padam yad vipadam). Therefore one must become a Vaishnava and think of Vishnu constantly. This is made easier by the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Therefore Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended, kirtaniyah sada harih [Cc. adi 17.31] param vijayate shri-krishna-sankirtanam, and kirtanad eva krishnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet.



Gopi-chandana Mahatmya
The Glories of Gopi-candana

According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, gopi-candana, or the sacred clay from Dvaraka, is applied on the body in twelve places while reciting mantras to Lord Vishnu. This process purifies one's body, designating it as a temple of the Lord. Besides purification, the tilaka also offers the wearer protection from ghosts, evil influences, bad dreams, accidents and many other things. It keeps one's mind calm and allows one to constantly remember Lord Krishna.

The following story from the Garga Samhita describes the wonderful glories of the sacred clay known as gopi-candana.

From Garga Samhita, Canto Six, Chapter Fifteen,
Translation by Sri Kushakratha Das

Text 15
yasya sravana-matrena
karma-bandhat pramucyate
gopinam yatra vaso 'bhut
tena gopi-bhuvah smrtah

Simply by hearing about Gopi-bhumi, which is so named because the gopis resided there, one become free from the bondage of karma. 

Text 16 
gopi-chandanam uttamam
ganga-snana-phalam labhet

In Gopi-bhumi gopi-chandana was manifested from the gopis' cosmetics. A person who marks his limbs with gopi-chandana tilaka attains the result of bathing in the Ganga. 

Text 17 
maha-nadinam snanasya
punyam tasya dine dine
mudrito yah sada bhavet

A person who daily wears gopi-chandana tilaka attains the pious result of daily bathing in all sacred rivers. 

Text 18 
rajasuya-satani ca
sarvani tirtha-danani
vratani ca tathaiva ca
krtani tena nityam vai
sa krtartho na samsayah

A person who daily wears gopi-chandana tilaka attains the result of performing a thousand asvamedha-yajnas and a hundred rajasuya-yajnas. He attains the reusult of giving charity and following vows at all holy places. He attains the goal of life. Of this there is no doubt. 

Text 19 
ganga-mrd-dvi-gunam punyam
citrakuta-rajah smrtam
tasmad dasa-gunam punyam
rajah pancavati-bhavam

Twice as sacred as the mud of the Ganga is the dust of Chitrakuta. Ten times more sacred than that is the dust of Panchavati-tirtha. 

Text 20 
tasmac chata-gunam punyam
gopi-chandanakam rajah
gopi-chandanakam viddhi

A hundred times more sacred is the dust of gopi-chandana. Please know that gopi-chandana is equal to the dust of Vrindavana. 

Text 21
yadi papa-satair yutam
tam netum na yamah sakto
yama-dutah kutah punah

Even if in the past he has committed hundreds of sins, if a person wears gopi-chandana tilaka, then Yamaraja cannot take him away. How, then, can Yamaraja's messengers touch him? 

Text 22
nityam karoti yah papi
sa prayati harer dhama
golokam prakrteh param

A sinner who daily wears gopi-chandana tilaka goes to Lord Krishna supreme abode, Goloka, which is beyond the world of matter. 

Text 23 
sindhu-desasya rajabhud
dirghabahur iti srutah
anyaya-varti dustatma
vesya-sanga-ratah sada

In Sindhu-desa there was a king named Dirghabahu. He was cruel and sinful and he was addicted to visiting prostitutes.

Text 24 
tena vai bharate varse
brahma-hatya-satam krtam
dasa garbhavati-hatyah
krtas tena duratmana

While he was on the earth this cruel sinner murdered a hundred brahmanas and ten pregnant women.

Text 25 
mrigayayam tu banaughaih
kapila-go-vadhah krtah
saindhavam hayam aruhya
mrgayarthi gato 'bhavat

One day he mounted a sindhu horse and went hunting. With a flood of arrows he accidentally killed with a brown cow in that hunt. 

Text 26 
ekada rajya-lobhena
mantri kruddho maha-khalam
jaghanaranya-dese tam
tiksna-dharena casina

One day, greedy to get his kingdom, with a sharp sword his angry minister killed him in the forest. 

Text 27 
bhu-tale patitam mrtyu-
gatam viksya yamanugah
baddhva yama-purim ninyur
harsayantah parasparam

Seeing him fallen to the ground and dead, the Yamadutas came, bound him, and, joking as they went, took him to the city of Yamaraja.

Text 28 
sammukhe 'vasthitam viksya
papinam yama-rad bali
citraguptam praha turnam
ka yogya yanatasya vai

Seeing this sinner brought before him, powerful Yamaraja said to his scribe Chitragupta, "What is the proper punishment for him?" 

Text 29
sri-chitragupta uvaca

narakesu nipatyatam
nihsandeham maha-raja
yavac candra-divakarau

Sri Chitragupta said: O great king, he should be thrown into eight million four hundred thousand hells for as long as the sun and the moon shine in the sky. 

Text 30
  anena bharate varse
ksanam na su-krtam krtam
kapila-go-vadhah krtah

On the earth he did not perform a single pious deed. He killed ten pregnant women. He killed a brown cow.

Text 31
tatha vana-mriganam ca
krtva hatyah sahasrasah
tasmad ayam maha-papi

He killed thousands of deer in the forest. He offended the demigods and the brahmanas. He is a great sinner. 

Texts 32 and 33

sri-narada uvaca
tada yamajnaya duta
nitva tam papa-rupinam
tapta-taile maha-khale

sphurad aty-ucchalat-phene
kumbhipake nyapatayan
pralayagni-samo vahnih
sadyah sitalatam gatah

Sri Narada said: Then, by Yamaraja's order, the Yamadutas took that sinner and threw him into a terrible, eight-thousand mile wide cauldron of bubbling boiling oil in the hell of Kumbhipaka. The moment that sinner came to it, the boiling oil, which was as hot as the great fires at the time of cosmic devastation, suddenly became cool. 

Text 34
vaideha tan-nipatanat
prahlada-ksepanad yatha
tadaiva citram acakhyur
yama-duta mahatmane

O king of Videha, as Prahlada was unhurt in the same situation, that sinner was not hurt by the boiling oil. Then the Yamadutas described that great wonder to noble-hearted Yamaraja. 

Text 35 
anena su-krtam bhumau
ksanavan na krtam kvacit
citraguptena satatam
dharma-rajo vyacintayat

Yamaraja and Chitragupta carefully reviewed the sinner's case and concluded that while he was on the earth the sinner had not for a moment performed even a single pious deed. 

Text 36 
sabhayam agatam vyasam
sampujya vidhivan nrpa
natva papraccha dharmatma
dharma-rajo maha-matih

Then Vyasadeva arrived in that assembly. Bowing down before Him, and carefully worshiping Him, saintly and noble-hearted Yamaraja asked Vyasadeva the following question. 

Text 37  
sri-yama uvaca

anena papina purvam
na krtam su-krtam kvacit
kumbhipake maha-khale 

asya ksepanato vahnih
sadyah sitalatam gatah
iti sandehatas cetah
khidyate me na samsayah

Sri Yamaraja said: When a certain sinner, who had never performed even a single pious deed, was thrown into the terrible boiling oil of Kumbhipaka, the oil suddenly became cool. Because of this my mind is now tortured with doubts. 

Text 39 
sri-vyasa uvaca

suksma gatir maha-raja
vidita papa-punyayoh
tatha brahma-gatih prajnaih
sarva-sastra-vidam varaih

Sri Vyasadeva said: O great king, the intelligent sages, who have studied all the scriptures, know that the ways of piety, sin, and spiritual progress are very subtle and difficult to understand. 

Text 40 
daiva-yogad asya punyam
praptam vai svayam arthavat
yena punyena suddho 'sau
tac chrnu tvam maha-mate

Somehow or other, by destiny, this sinner did perform a pious deed, and by that deed he became purified. O noble-hearted one, please hear the story of this. 

Text 41 
kasyapi hastato yatra
patita dvaraka-mrdah
tatraivayam mrtah papi
suddho 'bhut tat-prabhavatah

That sinner died in a place where from someone's hand some gopi-chandana from Dvaraka had accidentally fallen. Dying in gopi-chandana, that sinner became purified.  

Text 42 
naro narayano bhavet
etasya darsanat sadyo
brahma-hatya pramucyate

A person who wears gopi-chandana tilaka attains a spiritual form like that of Lord Narayana. Simply by seeing him one becomes free of the sin of killing a brahmana.  

Texts 43 and 44
sri-narada uvaca

iti srutva dharma-rajas
tam aniya visesatah
vimane kama-ge sthapya
vaikuntham prakrteh param

 presayam asa sahasa
evam te kathitam rajan
gopi-chandanakam yasah

Sri Narada said: Hearing this, Yamaraja, who understands the glories of gopi-chandana, took the sinner, placed him a an airplane that goes anywhere one wishes, and sent him to Vaikuntha, which is above the worlds of matter. O king, thus I have described to you the glories of gopi-chandana. 

Text 45 
yah srnoti narottamah
sa yati paramam dhama
sri-krishnasya mahatmanah

One who hears this account of gopi-chandana's glories becomes exalted. He goes to the supreme abode of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Kumkum Vendor

Quotes on Tilak: Urdhva Pundra Vidhi

1. Atharvana Upanisad: Anyone who marks his body with the tilak which resembles the lotus feet of Lord hari becomes dear to the Paramatma. He becomes fortunate and attains liberation.

2. Maha Upanisad: One gets released of all the bondage of samsara when one marks his body with the tilak markings and knows Narayana who is known by karma, jnana and bhakti yogas. Ultimately, he attains Lord Visnu.

3. Agni Purana: A brahmana should not wear the three lined tilak across (tiryak pundra) even for as a joke or play. One should mark his body with the vertical tilak only according to the prescribed rules.

4. Brahmanda Purana: A brahmana should wear urdhva pundra; a ksatriya ardha candrakara (half-moon) pundra; vaisya round shaped pundra; and a sudra tri pundra (horizontal tiryak pundra). A brahmana should never wear the horizontal tilak. He is to be considered a sudra if he wears it.

5. Brahmaratra: One should meditate on Me by chanting Om and should mark his body with vertical tilak daily. Anyone who marks thus attains sayujya liberation.

6. Vasista smrti: One should mark the tilak on his forehead as follows: he should start from the nose tip and go till his kesa (hair). The width should be one angula (circa 1 inch). This is urdhva pundra laksana.

7. Sanat Kumara Samhita: Urdhva pundra should be worn with clay and should be worn with a gap inbetween and nicely. In between the two lines, one should mark Sri or Laksmi in the form of Haridhra curna. One should not mark anything else inbetween. Anyone who marks like this is freed from all sinful reactions. Anyone who marks the tilak without any gap is condemned.

8. Padma Purana: Those devotees on whose neck tulasi kanti mala and lotus seed kanti malas are hanging and on whose shoulders there are the markings of conch and cakra and on whose body there are 12 tilak markings, they purify the entire universe immediately.

9. Isvara samhita: Anyone who marks his body with the clay which has touched Lord Visnu's body attains the benefit of an asvamedha sacrifice and is glorified in Visnu's abode. One should mark inbetween the vertical lines mother Laksmi with the help of yellow curna or powder.

Pope with Tilak

Jahnava Nitai das: The tilak is an external symbol of our surrender to Krishna, or to our object of worship. The shape and material used may differ according to the particular process of surrender the sampradaya follows.

In the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya the tilak is made out of the white mud found in anthills. The scriptures tell us that the mud from the base of a Tulasi plant and the white mud from within the ant hill are both pure and best for making tilak. The Sri Vaishnavas will draw two lines representing the feet of Sri Narayana, and in the middle they will put a red line to represent Lakshmi Devi. The red line was originally made from a red stone found within the ant hill. The ants would usually make their ant hill on top of these red stones. When you rub the stone in water, a red color paint is formed. The category of Shakti is generally represented with the color red in all lines, both Vedic and Tantrik. Because the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya begins with Sri Lakshmi Devi, and because they approach Narayana only through Lakshmi, their tilak reflects this process of surrender. The tilaks of each sampradaya actually depict the siddhanta of the sampradaya.

In the Vallabha sampradaya the tilak worn is generally a single vertical red line. This line represents Sri Yamuna Devi. The form of Krishna worshiped in the Vallabha line is Sri Nathji or Govardhana. The consort of the Govardhana hill is the river Yamuna. Their process of surrender goes through Sri Yamuna Devi.

In the Madhva sampradaya the tilak is made out of Gopichandana mud from Dwaraka. Two vertical lines are made out of Gopichandana to represent the feet of Lord Krishna. This gopichandana tilak is nearly identical to that used in the Gaudiya sampradaya. In between a vertical black line is made from the daily coal of the yajna-kunda. In their sampradaya, the process of worship involved nitya-homa, or daily fire sacrifices to the Lord. The remnant coal of the puja was taken each day to mark the forehead. Underneath the black line, a yellow or red dot was put to indicate Lakshmi or Radha. Those who did not perform daily fire sacrifice would only put the simple gopichandana tilak.

In the Gaudiya sampradaya the tilak is usually made out of the Gopichandana mud. Some lineages prefer to use the mud from Vrindavana. The main tilak is basically identical to the Madhva tilak. The slight difference arises due to the emphasis on nama-sankirtana, or the chanting of the Lord's names. In Sri Chaitanya's line, nama-sankirtana is the yajna to be performed in kali yuga, and not the daily fire sacrifice performed in the Madhva sampradaya. As such, the black line made from the ash of the fire sacrifice is not applied in the Gaudiya sampradaya. The second difference arises due to Sri Chaitanya's process of approaching the Lord. In the Gaudiya line one does not approach Srimati Radharani directly, but always indirectly through the servant. To indicate this, the red dot representing Radha is replaced with a tulasi leaf offered at the base of the Lord's feet. Only with the mercy of Tulasi Devi can we develop pure devotion to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

In the scriptures there are very general descriptions of the procedure for applying tilak. For example it is mentioned that the tilak should be urdhva-pundra, or vertical lines; the body should be marked in twelve locations, etc. But these instructions are very general and leave a lot of the details to the acharyas. Even in a simple point, such as the location of the tilak, one person may interpret the 'shoulder' to start from the arm, where as another may interpret it to start higher up near the neck. This is actually the case in the two branches of the Sri Vaishna sampradaya.

The actual design of the tilak will manifest either through divine revelation or through scientific study. An example of divine revelation is the Gaudiya lineage of Sri Shyamananda. Radharani revealed a portion of her broken bangle to Sri Shyamananda, which he used in applying tilak to his forehead. As a result, his followers apply a unique design of tilak from other branches of the Gaudiya sampradaya.

In other cases, an acharya may scientifically analyze the sampradaya siddhanta and compare its compatibility with the tilak they wear. The external purpose of the tilak is to differentiate the followers of a sampradaya from other classes of philosophers, just as one branch of the armed forces wears a uniform to differentiate itself from the other branches. In such a case, the tilak may change when there occurs a shift or branching of the sampradaya due to philosophical views. The newly formed branch may re-analyze the tilak in connection with its siddhanta and make changes that fully reflect their process of surrender. Such is the case among the two branches of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya. Due to a difference of opinion in regards to the process of surrender, two distinct tilaks emerged.

In any case, the ultimate purpose of tilak is to sanctify oneself and mark the body as the temple of the Lord. The scriptures do not specify in detail the manner that this should be done, and as such it is the acharyas who crystalize the procedures while adhering to the general prescriptions given in the scriptures.

urdhvapundra (Vaisnava) symbolism:

1. U = foot of Visnu and Tulasi leaf on His foot, in "U" place between leave empty (it is meant for Visnu) 2. two lines = Brahma and Siva

tripundra (Saiva): three horizontal lines (Padma Purana)