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Vibhuti (vibhūti Sanskrit: विभूति; Bengali: বিভূতি ; Kannada: ವಿಭೂತಿ; Telugu: విభూతి), also called Bhasma (ash), "Viboodhi" (Telugu: విబూది) or Thiruneeru (Tamil: திருநீறு), is a word that has several meanings in Hinduism. Generally, it is used to denote the sacred ash which is made of burnt dried wood in Vedic rituals. Hindu devotees apply vibhuti traditionally as three horizontal lines across the forehead and other parts of the body to please the god Shiva. Vibhuti smeared across the forehead to the end of both eyebrows is called Tripundra.
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Vibhuti is the sacred ash used in religious worship in Hinduism. The main ingredient of Vibuthi is a special kind of wood. It is burned in a sacred fire (Homa) to form white ash. Vibhuti is placed on the forehead as it is considered sacred and holy.
They are Vibhuti, Tulsi (holy basil) leaves, Sacred Deepa (lamp), Sacred Thread, due to their sacredness. So,they are kept over an Asanam (throne) to give respect to those articles. They are not kept on the floor directly.
The ash has several symbolic meanings:
- It serves as a reminder to the believer to cast away selfish and worldly desires that wrap the self in maya, meaning worldly illusion and distractions, and calls to mind the legend of how Shiva burned Kama (the god of desire) to ashes when Kama attempted to break Shiva's meditation. This incident is recorded in the contents of Shiva Purana which entails the history of Shiva and his family.
- Normally worn along with red tilaka(red dot). Vibhuti relates to Shiva and Red tilaka to Shakti(his consort Parvati). It is a constant reminder that Shiva and Shakti form the universe and everything is into being through, the union of Shiva and Parvati.
Vedic scriptures say as follows "Lalaata Shoonyam Smashaana Tulyam", which means that "an empty forehead is comparable to a cemetery". So,upper caste Hindus pay special attention that their forehead is smeared with vibhooti and it remains all the time over their body in a day. Even the Almighty Lord Shiva who sports vibhuti all the time stands as an example to his followers that however one be considered as great person in this mortal world, he needs to smear his forehead and the body with holy ash prepared from a special kind of wood as he does (Lord Shiva) in the Immortal abode of Kailasa. So,it is considered by vedic scholars that even great saints, seers, yogis and the like should wear vibhuti all the time over forehead and other parts of the body in form of three lines to make a Tripundra. Vibhuti smeared horizontally to make three parallel lines with forefinger, middle finger and ring finger across the forehead and other parts of the body like chest, stomach, arms, elbows, wrists etc. is called as Tripundra. It is mandatory for the devotees of Lord Shiva to have Tripundra over their body all the time. This is a quality among classifications of Shaivites. Those who do not wear vibhuti on forehead are wearing it on their chest and stomach, upper arms, next to the shoulders. People who smear Vibhuti purify themselves from sins and also remove the sins of people who look at them besmeared with Vibhuti.
The great saint Thiru Gyaana Sambandar did many wonders with Vibhuti and he expounds the greatness of Vibhuti in one of his Pathigams called "Thiruneetru Pathigam" as follows:
- Mandhira maavadhu neeru / Vaanavar meeladhu neeru
- Sundhara maavadhu neeru / Thudhikkap paduvadhu neeru
- Thandhira maavadhu neeru / Chamayaththil ullaadhu neeru
- Senthuvar vaayumai pangan / Thiruaalavaayaan Thiruneerae
("Mantra is the ash; Higher than heavenly people is the ash; Beauty is the ash; Praised is the ash; Technique is the ash; In the religion is the ash; The Lord of Thiruaalavaay (Lord Sundareshwarar, Madurai) who share the body with the red lipped Parvathi - His Holy Ash.)
Panchakshara mantra and the above Pathigam are generally recited by devotees while smearing Vibhuti. Winning the Jains in the challenge on fire Thirugnana Sambandhar sang the above marvelous hymn Thiruppaachuram explaining the king and the world the limitless grace and glory of Lord Shiva and won the Jains in the water challenge. Thiru Gyana sambandar won the Jains and re-converted the king and his people back to Shaivism by Vibhuti reciting the above Pathigam.
Preparation of Vibhuti
The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash; Vibhuti (also known as Bhasma, Thiruneeru or "the holy ash") is the ash from the Homa.
Vibhuti is traditionally prepared either from ash from cremation grounds, used by ascetics, from cowdung, or from rice husks. In an age-old practice is made out of dried cow dung cakes in a Vaideeka mode during the annual Maha Sivarathri festival. In what is typically described as Sivarathiri Muttan, the cow dung cakes are prepared and dried and placed in layers in a pyramidal formation made out of Karukkai (not Kadukkai. Karukkai is semi grown paddy). On the morning of Sivarathiri, Viraja homam is performed. Then after homam, the fire is placed on the muttan and it burns out after some days and the cakes of cow dung burnt are to be used as Vibhuti. The cow dung from Indian breed cows(Bos indicus) are best used and foreign cows like Jerseys or mixed breeds are to be avoided.
Vibhut is generally applied between the eyebrows, at the pit of the throat and on the chest at the point where the ribcage meets. Some apply it on other parts of the body, like the knees, toes, scalp. It is considered very auspicious for the Hindus especially people of the shaiva sect to smear vibhuti all over the body.
- ApasmAra kushta kshayArsha prameha
- JvaronmAdha gulmAdhi rogA mahAntha
- PishAchAshcha sarve bhavatpatra bhoothim
- Vilokya kshanAth tArakAre dravanthe (Shloka no.25)
("Oh Conqueror of Taraka! Severe epilepsy, leprosy, consumption, lung diseases, venereal diseases, fevers, mental diseases of all types, they run away the moment they see Thy Vibhuti contained in a leaf.")
The word bhasma means “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered". ”Bha” implies Bhartsana (“to destroy”) and “sma” implies smaranam (“to remember”). The application of Bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called Vibhuti (“glory”) as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. It also reminds us that the body is perishable and shall one day be reduced to ashes. Ash is undecaying and stays in a form that cannot change. Thus it is a symbol of pure constant, beyond time and change. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death, but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide are under the dominion of lord who is eternal. Formless, yet, ever present.
Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva, who applies it all over His body. According to Hindu legends Vibhuti or Bhasma is said to be favorite to Lord Shiva and that's why He is often called Vibhuti Bhushan (the one having ash as his ornament). Shiva devotees apply bhasma as a tripundra (the form of three lines).
Ash is what remains when all the wood is burnt away and it does not decay. Similarly, the Lord is imperishable Truth that remains when the entire creation of innumerable names and forms is dissolved by him.
Bhasma is believed to have medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches. The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead, thus:
- “Om Tryambakam yajaamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam Urvaarukamiva bandhanat mrutyor muksheeya maamritaat !!”
- “We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spreads fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death effortlessly, like the fall of a ripe cucumber from its stem !!”
In yajna, vibhuti is considered very sacred, Agni (lord of fire) who conveys the offerings during invocations, to the respective deity, the remainder of which is a partake, sharing with the aspect of divine. The residue left over which is off white in color is considered as vibhuti and is given to the devotees as an offering for daily use to please Lord Shiva.
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- Vibhuti in Lingayat Religion
- Greatness of Vibhuti Importance of Vibhuti in Shaivism
- Vibhuti preparation process
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola