- 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. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.