facial markings
   Various facial markings are used in India to denote sectarian affiliations or to serve other ceremonial purposes.
   The most common Vaishnavite (see VAISH-NAVISM) forehead marking is a large U-shaped mark with a vertical dot or line placed precisely in its center, not touching the bottom of the U. Variations include a more square U, and different placement of the center vertical line (which is sometimes made of a series of dots). Some Vaish-navite markings show only two parallel, vertical lines with or without a center dot, or three parallel vertical lines, sometimes with a dot placed on the middle line, or just above or below it.
   Shaivite (see SHAIVISM) facial markings are most commonly three, equidistant, parallel lines on the forehead in varying patterns.
   A dot or line of red saffron or ash might be placed on the forehead by anyone after a PUJA to mark an enhanced devotional state, or by a GURU or teacher at all times as a sign of devo-tion. In either case, the dot represents the open-ing of the third eye, which indicates heightened consciousness.
   Women in India often wear a dot on the fore-head, sometimes as a conventional decoration, but sometimes as protection from the evil eye. It might also be interpreted as a recognition of the existence of the third eye of consciousness.
   Some women in North India put a mark of red saffron on the part of the hair to signify that they are married.
   Further reading: Eva Rudy Jansen, The Book of Hindu Imagery: The Gods and Their Symbols (Havelte, Holland: Binkey Kok Publications, 1993).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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