The Srivaishnava concept is that our body is like a temple. The Lord resides along with his consort in Vyooha and upavyooha forms in different parts of our body. The Srivaishnava marks are only external display if the upavyooha forms of the Lord. This is known as Pundra samskara.
PuNdra is an abbreviated form of the word Urdhva PuNdra means the wearing on the forehead the symbolic mark in the shape of the Lord’s Lotus Feet with white clay. Though it is a common practice among Srivaishnavas including those who are not initiated, to war the creed mark as a daily routine , the formal ceremony of applying it on the face and other selected parts of the body, twelve in all is observed at the time of initiation. An orthodox Srivaishnava is expected to wear the 12 puNdras [ThirumaN] with the chanting of the names of 12 forms of VishNu. The significance of wearing the Urdhva puNdra with the chanting of the names of the Bhagawaan is to purify the body.
The upavyUha forms of NArAyanA also represent the twelve suns in the Universe corresponding to the twelve zodiacs of the universe. KeSavA is the presiding deity of month MArghazhi, NArAyanA is the presiding deity of month ‘thai’ and so on. They are the presiding deities of the twelve AdityAs. Thus, the sishyA gets the unique previlege to wear the Thiruman kAppu. So, only after SamAshrayanam should one wear the dvAdasa Urdhva pundram. From then onwards, the sishyA withour fail should wear them. All the evils fly away on seeing the thiruman kaapu (kaapu => protection).
Materialistic people apply powder, cream etc to their faces, hands etc. They keep on polishing this temporary body with their deep materialistic attachment towards it. They more over put many more ornaments over the lump of flesh(body) and foolishly think that they look beautiful. The very basic understanding is that one is a jIvAtmA (soul) who is ever subservient to the Divya Dampati, and not the lump of matter surrounding it.
The best ornament for the body is Thiruman Kappu. This should be applied with great humility, thanking the achAryA and Sriman NArAyanA for their mercy. One should be really proud of the fact that he is a servant of NArAyanA. He should be highly enthusiastic to wear the thiruman kAppu for the reason that it reminds him of the servant – master relationship eternally existing between himself and the Supreme Master Sriman NArAyanA.
Materialistic people take pride in identifying themselves as a fan of some other materialist (cinema star, sports hero etc), who is also a jIvA suffering in this whirlpool of samsArA. These so-called ‘stars’ of the material world are going to take bodies like donkey, cat etc in their future births. They are followed by thousand fools who are also going to take such bodies in the next births. Materialists are highly ignorant fools because, their level of understanding that someone is ‘great’ is highly limited. Once one becomes a fan of the greatest of all greats ‘Sriman NArAyanA’, he cannot become a fan of any other person (except NArAyanAs staunch devotees). Even the greatness of demigods like BrahmA, SivA, IndrA in comparison with the greatness of nArAyanA is like the brightness of a small spark of light in front of the brightness of billions of suns.
A Sri VaishnavA is thus never attracted to even any of the demigods (what to speak of tiny materialists in earth). One who gets attracted to NArAyanAs divya mangala vigraha; kalyAna gunAs; avatAra lIlAs as in NrusimhA, RAmA and KrishnA avAtAra; Holy Names etc can never turn back to anything short of it. It is furthermore a duty of a Sri VaishnavA to follow what the AchAryA has taught him during samAshrayanam. Some may feel that they are ignorant about these facts. But, they also see so many Sri VaishnavAs, wearing the thiruman kaapu and thus should automatically enquire into it. But, there are some who even after knowing that they should wear the DvAdasa Urdhva pundram daily, doesn’t wear them out of shyness. Actually,this is due to their ignorance. Any devotee of Sriman NArAyanA is never a cheap personality. He is the most glorifiable one. So, one should wear them with love and enthusiasm without any hesitation. Once one understands about the glories of Sriman NArAyanA and the eternal connection existing between himself and the Lord, he will automatically wear the dvAdasa Urdhva pundram.
One can talk a lot about VedAs, upanishads etc. If he doesn’t put them into practice, there is no use in learning them. NArAyanA gets pleased when one follows the sAstrAs. Moreover, if it is a upadeshA from an AchAryA and is followed by the sishyA, NArAyanA gets pleased to a much greater extent. At the same time, if a sishyA doesn’t follow the AchAryA, NArAyanA will never be pleased with him. So, if a Sri VaishnavA doesn’t wear the Urdhva pundrams, he is obviously not following the AchAryA and thereby becomes avaishnavA in practice. In extreme circumstances, when one is not able to wear the dvAdasa Urdhvapundrams, salutations to Sriman NArAyanA with Anjali MudrA, should be performed without fail as explained above (AchAryAs Upadesam). The katA portion in YajurvedA says”One who prays to the Supreme Lord Vishnu by wearing the Urdhvapundram and by accepting the hot chakrA on the shoulder, reaches the Supreme Lord Himself”. Such is the glory of pundram and thApa samskAram.
rakshaartham aghanaakshaartham mangaLArtham cha bhAmini : |
dhArayEth oordhva pUndram thu sirasaa aharnisam sadaa ||
Swamy Desikan explains the saasthra pramANam of the same in crystal clear terms in His Saccharitharaksha,which is divided into three parts with the titles:
- UrdhvapuNdra dhAraNa vidhi
- BhagavannivEdhithOpAyOga vidhi
Swamy Desikan starts the Sacharitharaksha which establishes the absolute and prime need of Pancha samskaram:
(meaning of 1st sloka): Let us carry the people on our head who bear the mark of Sudharsana and Paanchajanya;who wear the UrdhvapuNdra (ThirumaN kaappu) on foreheads; who consume only the food offered to the Lord and by virtue of the above who are saluted even by NithyasUris.
All of us have these doubts as to where the saasthrAs says that one should wear Thiruman kappu. Swamy Desikan has beautifully explained it in this work.
Vedic authority of Urdhva puNdram dhAraNam is:
GruthOdhvapuNdra: paramESithAram nArAyaNam saankhya yOgAdhi gagyam |
jnAthvA vimuchyEtha nara: samasthai: samsaara paaSairiha chaiva vishNu: ||
MahOpanishad statement above says: One who wears Urdhva puNdra and meditates on Lord Sriman Narayanan and realizes Him through his mind gets liberated from the bondage of samsaara.
In Paancharaathra samhitha it is said:
yagnO dhAnam thapou hOma: bhOjanam pithru tharpaNam
sarvE bhavanthi viphalaa: Urdhva puNdram vinAkruthA:
Yaga, charity, penance, daily sacrifice, taking food,offering of water to manes (argyam) etc., is all null and void if one does without wearing Urdhva pUndram. Libations means pouring of water in honour of God. Manes means spirit of the dead (deceased Father,Mother. Grand father, Grand mother, Great grand father, Great grand mother et al). pithru tharpaNam means offering water with sesame seeds to those twelve Pithru dEvathAs. Hence, wearing Urdhva pUndram is essential. The shape of Urdhva pUndra should be in the shape of HaripAdakruthi (in the shape of the Lotus Feet of Sriman Narayanan).
In Varaaha pUrAna Lord says:
yEkAnthina: mahAbhAgA: math swarUpa vidha: amalA:
sAntharAlAn prakurvIran puNdrAn *mama padhaa kruthin*
As per Brahmaanandha purAna, in the middle of every Urdhva puNdra, which is wide and good looking, Lord Sriman Narayanan stays with His Consort Goddess Mahalakshmi. The symbol of Mahalakshmi is Sri choorNam which may be either in red or yellow colour.
Thus, Swamy Desikan in the three chapters, establishes by his beautiful and inimitable style and power of arguments based strictly on scriptures, the three important customs and rituals of Srivaishnavas which are Pancha samskaram, UrdhvapuNdradhAraNam and partaking of the food offered to the Lord Sriman Narayanan in archa form.
Incidentally, Urdhva Pundram is associate with Urdhva Rethas celebrated in the Vedic Passage “Urdhva Retham virupaksham Viswaroopaya Nama:” Urdhva Pundaram is also symbolic of Sattvika Guna by Lord Krishna In Bhagavat Gita (Urdhvam Gacchanti Satttwasthaa:. Reference to this is from Naaradheeyam. In this context, this source says that the Vishnu Bhaktaas should not wear Tiryak Pundram(cross,horizontal wearing of the Pundram) even as a playful matter.
Vishnu Dharmottaram establishes guidelines as to which finger to use in applying ThirumaN. Pavitram wearing finger and the middle finger are taboo. One should apply ThirumaN , while sitting. The Thirucchornam used must be sanctified.
Any vermillion paste wont do. The thirumaN wearing has to have the White two lines and the Red or yellow line at the center, housing the Divine couple, who are never separated. The two white lines are like temple for them. Lord Himself says that he and His consort love to reside in the temple created by the two broad white lines of ThirumaN with SrI ChoorNam inside. Narrow crowding of the two lines are not desirable to him.
In this connection, a fervent appeal is made to every Srivaishnava to Strictly adhere to the above customs and eschew any contact or worship of any deities other than Lord VishNu. More important: Do Not Wipe-off your Thiruman Kappu when you step out of the house. The sikhs do not remove their turbans; the arabs not their head ring.. But why should we? That is as bad as not wearing it, if not worse.
Writeup: Thanks to Sri Madhavakkannan
If you would like to have a detailed insight about Thiruman Kappu, one has to read this wonderful book “Thiruman Kaappu” written by Sri U.Ve. Dr. Navalpakkam Vasudevachar Swami, which has all the details and pramaanams. One could buy this book with the address provided in this link: http://anudinam.org/2012/12/10/thiruman-kaappu/