Thiruman — No Mere Mark But A Hallmark Of Srivaishnavam
‘Thiruman’ — as ‘Oordhva Pundram’ is known in Tamil — is not merely a mark that is worn by Srivaishnavas but is also a hallmark of Srivaishnavam itself. This ‘Pundram’ is the second constituent of the Pancha Samskaaram, popularly known as Samaasrayanam (the others are Thaapam, Naamam, Manthram, Yaagam, in that order). The fact that it is taught by the Acharya catapults its significance to great heights.
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit term ‘Oordhva Pundram’ is ‘upward mark’ (‘Oordhva’ is ‘upward’ and ‘Pundram’ means ‘mark’). Seemingly, there exists a lack of clarity or even big differences of opinion as to the details regarding it. There is even a perception that the concept itself is of a recent origin and was started by Sri Ramanuja, drawing from only the Paancharaathra Aagama texts. But, in reality, we have all kinds of other legends as authorities such as the Vedas, Smruthis, Puraanas, Saasthras laid down by great sages, works of Azhwars and Acharyas.
Based on these scriptures, Sri Ramanuja, a traditionalist that he was, propounded the import of Thiruman to the value of our Sampradaya and streamlined the practice of wearing it. And Swami Desika carried it forward, emphasised its greatness and established Ramanuja’s ideology through his work ‘Sachcharitha Rakshai’, extensively quoting from the said legends.
Sachcharitha Rakshai is a philosophical work that comprises three sections, namely, Sudharsana Paanchajanya Vidhi (deals with the procedures relating to Samaasrayanam), Oordhva Pundra Dhaarana Vidhi (deals with the procedure of preparing and applying the Thiruman) and Bhagavan Nivedhitha Upayoga Vidhi (deals with the procedure of offerings made to the Lord).
Sachcharitha Rakshai is such a legendary work by itself that it delves deep into the issue and answers all the questions — the five ‘W’s and the ‘H’ (What, Who, Why, When, Where and How) — that might arise about Thiruman. We shall take a look at some important points under each of the heads.
- The Thiruman is a mark which all Srivaishnavas should apply/wear (only) facing up in the middle part of the forehead. It is a daily-routine which has to be adhered strictly.
- Even for other Brahmanas, the mark should face up. Irrespective of the Varna or Asrama, the Oordhva Pundram is the ideal one.
- Not only literally does it go upward, but figuratively also it has the power to lift us.
- The shape of the Thiruman denotes the Lord’s foot. The bottom semi-circle is akin to His heel and the outline of the top portion resembles the toe.
- Wearing it is called ‘Thiruman Kaappu’ in Tamil. ‘Kaappu’ denotes ‘applied paste’ (as in Chandana Kaappu – Sandal paste). Also it aptly means ‘protection’ as it protects those who wear it from bad things and provides auspiciousness.
- There are mentions about other types of Pundram — Three-fold and across, Thilakam-like, in Circular and Half-moon shapes, but these are not regarded highly by the Saasthras itself.
- All, especially Srivaishnavas, should wear the Thiruman.
- “நீறு செவ்வே இடக்காணில் நெடுமால் அடியார் என்றோடும் (Thiruvoymozhi 4-4-7) — Seeing men who have worn the Thiruman upward, (She) will run to them saying “they are the Lord’s devotees”.
- Ladies should also wear the Thiruman, only that it is customarily done from the level of the eye-brows and shorter as compared to Sri Choornam.
- Wearing the Thiruman invokes the Lord’s grace for now and will lead to Moksham in due course.
- It cleanses the body and mind; creates peace, purity and devotion.
- Yama’s servants are scared of those who wear it.
- No ritual will be valid or complete if done without the Thiruman. It will, in fact, be a total waste.
- Doing a ritual without the Thiruman is akin to doing it without the sacred thread; effectively invalid.
- It is a sin even to see someone without the Thiruman. If one happens to see someone like that, he should make amends by seeing the Sun.
- The body without the Thiruman is similar to a burning-ground.
- The Thiruman has to be worn after taking bath in the morning.
- It has to be there on the forehead at all times — not only while worshipping, but while eating, reading and sleeping too.
- It has to be intact mandatorily when doing the daily chores, the Vedic rituals and those related to the ancestors.
All points discussed hitherto relate to the Thiruman on the forehead. However, it has been categorically laid down in the Saasthras that 12 have to be worn representing the 12 Vyuha forms of the Lord in different places of our body. Additionally, one for Vasudeva has also been provided for.
The tabular column given below lists the respective places, the Manthras for Vyuha forms of the Lord and their corresponding Consorts. Even as we wear these, we should meditate upon them and chant these names. It should be noted that the Pranavam should be prefixed to each Naama.
Chanting Swami Desika’s Prabandham ‘Panniru Naamam’ when applying the Dwaadasa Pundrams (the 12 Thirumans) is considered special in our Sampradaya.
|S. No.||Place||Manthra for Thiruman||Manthra for Srichoornam|
|1||Forehead||Kesavaaya Nama:||Sriyai Nama:|
|2||Stomach||Narayanaaya Nama:||Amruthodhbhavaayai Nama:|
|3||Chest||Madhavaaya Nama:||Kamalaayai Nama:|
|4||Neck||Govindaaya Nama:||Chandrasodharyai Nama:|
|5||Right stomach||Vishnave Nama:||Vishnupathnyai Nama:|
|6||Right arm||Madhusudhanaaya Nama:||Vaishnavyai Nama:|
|7||Right neck||Thrivikramaaya Nama:||Vararohaayai Nama:|
|8||Left stomach||Vamanaaya Nama:||Harivallabhaayai Nama:|
|9||Left arm||Sridharaaya Nama:||Saarnginyai Nama:|
|10||Left neck||Hrishikesaaya Nama:||Devadevikaayai Nama:|
|11||Bottom of the back||Padmanabhaaya Nama:||Surasundharyai Nama:|
|12||Back neck||Damodaraaya Nama:||Mahalakshmyai Nama:|
|13||Above forehead||Vasudevaaya Nama:||Sarvaabhishta Phalapradhaayai Nama:|
- Ideally, the Thiruman has to be white, symbolising the ‘Sathva’ quality.
- It should be soft, soluble, wearable on the skin and not smelly.
- One should apply it for himself, not by others; should be applied with the right hand only under normal circumstances. Should use the ring finger ideally; the nail should not be used.
- It should be reasonably broad, long, straight and neat.
- There should be gap between the flanks. The space is said to be the dwelling place of Lakshmi. It is symbolized by the Srichoornam.
- The curvy part should start from the root of the nose and drawn upward on both sides till the top of the forehead.
- The material for Thiruman should be gathered from places like hills, river banks, sea shores, anthills and below the Thulasi plant. It should be a clean place nevertheless.
- Taking the material from a Divyadesam is preferable. Pushkarinis (sacred ponds of temples) is a prescribed source.
Swami Desika concludes the treatise with the following Sloka:
|ஸ்ரீமத் வேங்கட நாதேந ச்ருதிஸ்ம்ருதி சதைரிதி!|
|விதாநம் ஊர்த்வ புண்ட்ரஸ்ய விஸ்தரேண நிரூபிதம்!!|
“(The concept of) The upward mark, that is, Thiruman, has been thoroughly proved by Venkatanatha, on the basis of hundreds of references drawn from the Vedas and Smruthis.”
Let us bow our heads in salutation to the great Acharya who, with tremendous foresight, took pains to show us the perfect path as regards the Thiruman with this monumental work.
Meet you in the next Note.
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