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Forehead Marks On Hindu Women – Source In Hindu Scriptures

Auspicious marks worn by Hindu women on their foreheads are symbols of wellbeing. The marks are also believed to protect the forehead from injury. Here is a look at the mention of forehead marks on Hindu women in Hindu scriptures. Reference to the use of sindoor, saffron etc on the forehead is found in the descriptions in the Puranas like the Brahma Vaivarta Purana.

Vedic literature makes no mention of forehead marks of Hindu women.

Valmiki Ramayana (II. 95a. 18) mentions that it was originally used as a charm to win over the affection of a person loved by a woman. Later, it came to be regarded as a mark of beauty.

Sanskrit literary works describe the materials used to make forehead marks. They include:
  • Chandana (Sandalwood paste – white and red)
  • Kasturi (Musk)
  • Sindhoora (red lead) and
  • Kumkuma (red powder)
Puranic literatures have several references of the forehead marks. It refers to the material used for making auspicious marks on the forehead for different purposes.

Panchagavya is associated with prosperity and health. This mark is the favorite of Goddess Lalitha (Matsya Purana 61.6).

The wearing of the mark on the forehead and other parts of the body is stated to be obligatory while performing a rite. (Brahma Vaivarta Purana I.26, 72-73)

In the context of the worship of Savitri, Sindura is offered to the Goddess, stating that it enhances the beauty of the forehead. (Brahma Vaivarta Purana I.23, 72)

It is described that the beautification mark on forehead was made by Sri Krishna on the forehead of Radha by placing a circular mark on the forehead with Sindura and a bright sandal mark below, along with a dot of musk. (Brahma Vaivarta Purana IV.53, 19)

It is enjoined in the practice of Lalita Vrata that Sindura and other unguents are to be placed on the head of women who have husbands (Matsya Purana 61, 20).

A tilaka prepared from Sandal, saffron and cow’s milk in equal proportion is to be applied on the forehead of the Goddess Lalita with the repetition of the mystic formula one hundred and eight times. (Brahmanda Purana II. 4.41.37)

The Gopis who worshipped Sri Krishna wore a special kind of mark on their foreheads (Brahma Vaivarta Purana IV. 27, 128). They had a mark with red lead and a dot of sandal paste below that. The use of the dust from cow’s fee is also mentioned.

Adi Shankara in his Anandalahiri and Saundaryalahari makes references to these marks.
We find similar references in case of Goddess Lalita in tantric ritual favoring fulfillment of one’s desires.

Literary works of Kalidasa and other Sanskrit works have countless references to the practice of wearing marks on the forehead.

Kalidasa presents a beautiful imagery of the blooming of flowers in spring. He fancies them encircled by honey bees as the mark on the forehead of the “lady spring” made beautiful by the dots of collyrium around (Kumarasambhava V.30).

The decorative sandal paste on her forehead dried up on account of bodily heat and rendered purple the curls on her forehead when she was love sick (Kumarasambhava V.55).

Kumkum is to be place in between the eyebrows to be effective as an antibody. This also helps the wearer from being hypnotized or mesmerized as per tantric literature.

Notes taken from - Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV – India Heritage Research Foundation – Page no 160