Significance of the Tilak

Hare Krishna! I keep seeing devotees wearing tilak on their forehead. Could you please let me know what is teh significance of wearing that and is it necessasry for everyone to do so. Please help me.

YOur Servant

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  • Hare Krishna !

    I have a question.  Is wearing a tilak only for those who are initiated by their diksha guru ? or  those who are not initiated also can wear it? 

    should one wear on all 12 parts of the body or can it be worn only on forehead?  Dear devotees, please  help me clear my confusion.  Thanks!

    • E-Counselor

      Hare Krsna,


      There is no requirement of initiation for wearing tilak. Every vaishnava must wear a tilak at all times. If you are going to places where you may consider wearing tilak inappropriate, then wear water tilak. But tilak has to be worn.

      Tilak has to be applied to all 12 parts of the body, saying the respective mantra while touching the particular part of the body. This is so because by applying tilak, we are acknowledging our body to be temple of God, we are acknowledging the presence of supersoul with the soul. 


      Your servant,

      Radha Rasamayi DD

  • Volunteer

    Hare Krishna, mataji!! Sorry I can't put any light on this point for I'm not an initiated disciple,you see. Even I don't put the tilaka. Only a disciple of ISKCON can help you on this matter.

  • Volunteer

    Hare Krishna ,mataji!! 

    The different Vaishnava sampradayas each have their own distinctive style of Tilak which depict the siddhanta of their particular lineage:

    In the Vallabha, Rudra-sampradaya the tilak worn is generally a single vertical red line. This line represents Yamuna devi. The form of Krishna worshiped in the Vallabha line is Sri Nathji or Govardhana. The consort of the Govardhana hill is the river Yamuna. Their process of surrender goes through Yamuna devi.

    The Madhva sampradaya mark two vertical lines representing Krishna's 'lotus feet'. In between a vertical black line is made from the daily coal of the yajna-kunda (fire sacrifice). In their sampradaya, the process of worship involves 'nitya-homa', or daily fire sacrifices to Narayana or Krishna. The remnant coal of the puja (worship) is used each day to mark the forehead. Underneath the black line, a yellow or red dot is added to indicate either Lakshmi or Radharani. Those who did not perform daily fire sacrifice wear the simple two line tilak only.

    In the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya the tilak is usually made out of mud from Vrindavan. The main tilak is basically identical to the Madhva tilak. The slight difference arose due to the emphasis on the chanting (japa and kirtan) in the Gaudiya tradition. In Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's line, chanting is given as the essential devotional (bhakti) activity to be performed in Kali yuga in preference to fire sacrifices. As such, the black line made from the ash of the fire sacrifice is not included. The second difference arose due to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's process of approaching Krishna. In the Gaudiya line devotees do not approach Radha and Krishna directly, but always indirectly through their servant. To indicate this, the red dot representing Radha is replaced with a tulsi leaf offered at the base of Krishna's feet. In Gaudiya belief only through the mercy of Tulsi Devi (or another pure devotee) can pure devotion to Radha & Krishna or Krishna & Balarama be awakened.

    Members of the Sri Vaishnava tradition form tilak with two lines representing the feet of Narayana, with a red line in the middle which representing Lakshmidevi. Because the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya begins with Lakshmi, and because they approach Narayana through Lakshmi, their tilak reflects this process of surrender. A variant to this is found within the Ramanandi sect, begun by Ramananda, who wear a similar tilak design but in reference to Sita and Rama (whom their devotion is focused upon) rather than Lakshmi and Narayana.

    In Nimbarka Sampradaya, the tilak is made of Gopi-Chandana (the clay from Gopi Kunda lake in Dwarka, Gujarat), as described in the Vasudeva Upanishad. It starts at the bridge of the nose and continues as two vertical lines to the top of the forehead. This is said to represent the temple of God. Within these lines, between the eyebrows is a black dot, made from the slate found in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, the sacred birthplace of Radha. This is said to represent God as Radha and Krishna together. This tilak personifies the tenets of the Sampradaya, that God is Radha and Krishna together, none else. It is supposed to have been first given to Nimbarka at the time of his initiation to the Sage, Narada. The tilak is first given to an initiate by their guru at the time of initiation, and after this, daily the devotee will remember his guru before he adorns the tilaka on his head.

    • Thank you so much prabhuji. You have given me such an elaborate explanation and now I could understand the importance of Tilak worn by devotees. Can you please tell me how it is drawn? The lines drawn are thin, so an assumption came to my naive mind that it must not be drawn with hand but using something else. Could you please clarify me on this matter, prabhuji? I am really sorry if I have bothered you or irritated you with my stupid questions. Please forgive me if I have done so.

      • Volunteer

        Hare Krishna dear Devotees, please accept my humble obeisances! all glories to Srila Prabhupada!

        usually we put Tilak for 12 places in the body. As we know from lecture of Srila Prabhupada human body is a tiny copy of a universe. And in 12 places resides different Avatars of Lord Vishnu like Vamana, Vasudeva, Narayana, Hrishikesha... in this way in our body also in 12 places we put Tilak calling Those Names.

        When we put on our forehead we say Om Keshavaya Namah.

        we have to put some water on our palm and take chandan, then make a porridge like mixture in our palm. then with the finger of a right hand we take chandan and apply to our forehead from down to up. when we apply it pressing it automatically makes two lines in two sides.

        then again take some chandan and apply as a Tulasi leaf. the two long lines represent the Lotus Feet of Krishna and the Tulasi leaf should touch His Feet.

        Very simple :-)

        Your servant, 

        • Thank you mataji for such a lovely procedure of applying tilak. Thank you so much.

  • Volunteer

    Hare Krishna, mataji!!! Here is a nice article on the significance of tilak-

    Vaishnava Tilak–Marking your body as the temple of God


    In the Vaishnava tradition devotees wear the urdhva pundra made of gopi chandan commonly known as tilak. 

    "Tilaka means victory personified." (SPL to Tilaka devi dasi,)

    By wearing tilak not only does one identify ones body as the temple of the Lord but also one is blessed by the auspicious protection of the Lord.  Not only is the wearer immensely benefited but even those who see the tilak marks are benefited.

    “In Kali-yuga one can hardly acquire gold or jeweled ornaments, but the twelve tilaka marks on the body are sufficient as auspicious decorations to purify the body. “  SB 4.12.28 Purport 

    Srila Prabhupada emphasized that tilak was part of the essential dress of a devotee. 

    “I have no objection if members of the Society dress like nice American gentlemen; but in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilaka, flag on head (shikha) and (tulasi) beads on the neck. These are the essential features of a Vaisnava." (SPL to Brahmananda, 14th October, 1967)

    Tilak is applied with the Lord’s holy names thus giving protection to the whole body.

    AGYNESS%2BDEYN%2BTILAKA.jpg“While decorating the body with tilaka, we give protection to the body by chanting twelve names of Vishnu. Although Govinda, or Lord Vishnu, is one, He has different names and forms with which to act differently.” SB 10.6.27-29 Purport ACBSP

    "Persons who are decorated with tilaka or gopī-candana [a kind of clay resembling fuller's earth which is produced in certain quarters of Vrindāvana], and who mark their bodies all over with the holy names of the Lord, and on whose necks and breasts there are tulasī beads, are never approached by the Yamadūtas." The Yamadūtas are the constables of King Yama (the lord of death),  - Nectar Of Devotion Ch. 9

    Srila Prabhupada has given the example of a policeman.  He can be identified by his dress.  Downing the dress, the policeman is also reminded that his behavior should honor his position. 

    Simply by seeing someone wearing tilak, people are induce to utter the words, “There is a Hare Krishna” and thus they immensely benefit thus we should not see it as something external.

    “Just like sometimes on the street some outsider, seeing you, they chant Hare Krsna only by the symbolic, sānketya. Because they see: "They have got tilaka, kunti." Therefore these things are required. Don't become immediately paramahamsa—no tilaka, no kunti and no bead bag. This is not good. Sānketya. So that others may understand, "Here is a Vaisnava. Here is a Krsna devotee..." And if he is simple, he'll chant, "Hare Krsna." This chance should be given. Therefore it is necessary, how people can utter. That chanting may save him from the greatest danger. Therefore it is said, sānketyam pārihāsyam. If somebody jokes... Sometimes they do that. "Hare Krsna" means he is not seriously chanting, but he is trying to joke the other party who is engaged in chanting. And that is also good, pārihāsya.”  - Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.2.13 -- Vṛndāvana, September 15, 1975


    • hari bol

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