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- Hindu Traditions : The Tillak on the Forehead
One of the most reinforced images of hindutva is the the tillak on the forehead of the priest or pundit. Every picture of a holy man is reinforced by the red tillak made of rolli or the white lines made up of chandan. In some cases there is a combination of the chandan marks along with the red rolli tillak. The colour and the size and shape of the tillak may differ depending on many different factors. The main reason was to protect the Third Eye on the forehead with the tillak.
Traditionally the type of tillak you wore was based on which one of the four castes you belonged to. In case you did not learn about the caste system in school here are the details. The four castes were Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras. This caste system was based on your profession. Only later did it become hereditary or inherited from the parents as it is practiced today. So what was the type of tillak worn by the four castes?
The Brahmins wore a white chandan mark. White is said to symbolize purity. This is in keeping with his academic and priestly occupation. The Kshatriya was supposed to sport a red kumkum mark. Red was the colour of valor and bravery. Again in keeping with his warrior profession. The Vaishya was to wear a yellow tillak which could be made from turmeric (haldi) or kesar. As a businessman or trader who was dealing with the yellow gold on a daily basis. The Sudra had to wear a black tillak made of ashes or bhasma, or kasturi or even charcoal.
This is not in evidence today as most Indians do not wear a tillak on a daily basis. The most commonly used tillaks are now the ones seen on Brahmins. Here too the Vaishnavites or worshippers of Vishnu use the chandan mark in the shape of a “u”. The Shaivaites or worshippers of Shiva use the trishul shape on their foreheads. The worshippers of Shakti or Devi are used to using red kumkum marks.
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