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     * Subject: Re: Meaning Behind Various Signs or Marks on Face
     * From: "Ray R. Ward" 
     * Date: 7 Dec 1995 02:28:15 GMT
     * Approved: srh 
     * Article: 671 of soc.religion.hindu
     * Newsgroups: soc.religion.hindu
     * Organization: Alcatel Network Systems
     * References: <4a2cgr$>

Maridel Crawford-Brown <> wrote:
>I would like to know the meaning behind the various signs or marks
>Hindus sometimes paint on their faces. Do they wear them all the time or
>only for holy reasons or special reasons? Do different castes have
>different marks? I am doing a paper on Hindu art but so far can't find
>this covered. Any help appreciated.

The most common facial markings in Hindu culture are lines or a dot
on the forehead.

The dot, or bindu, originated with the red powder offered to God,
frequently in the feminine aspect, the Mahadevi, and received back
by the worshipper as a dot of the powder applied to their forehead,
between the eyebrows, by the priest, or pujari.  This holy practice has
degenerated, for some women, into cosmetic dots worn as makeup or
as a statement of ethnic or cultural identity.

The lines still retain their original significance, to indicate the
spiritual tradition of the wearer.  Three vertical lines indicate a
devotee of Vishnu, three horizontal lines, a devotee of Shiva.  The
lines representing Shiva may be straight or curved upward at the ends,
rather like a smile, to indicate the crescent of the new moon.  These
usually are ashes of incense offered to God in the function of Destroyer
and Renovator, which is personified as Shiva, meaning Benevolence.  The
lines representing Vishnu are frequently painted on, and may sometines
be joined at the bottom.

I find it charming, and significant, that the word used for devotion to
God, bhakti, means in its original sense, marked by striations, stripes.
This word encompasses both horizontal and vertical lines, devotees of
God in the role of Sustainer (Vishnu) and in the role personified as
Shiva.  It also encompasses, by implication, all those who worship
God, and so devote their lives, whatever their favorite or prescribed
divine function or image of God.  A devotee is a bhakta.

Hope this helps,



Ray Ward
Moderator: Ajay Shah Submissions:

     * Meaning Behind Various Signs or Marks on Face
          + From: Maridel Crawford-Brown <>
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