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bottu and its importance

From: Manjula V Vangipuram (
Date: Mon Oct 16 1995 - 10:43:52 PDT

I posted this on the news and Eshwar J recommended that I circulate it to the
group here.  This is what I tell when someone asks me about my bottu.
It happens everyday so this lecture something I give everyday.

Hope this helps.  
Any additional information will be greatly appreciated.
Manjula Vangipuram


	What is this red mark on your forehead?
	What does it stand for?
	Why do you put it on?
	Are you bleeding?

	Those are some of the questions asked by non-Hindus out of curiosity.
	Hindus also ask some of those fundamental questions themselves.
	It seems they do not have answers for them or they may get partially
	satisfactory answers.  We ignore this topic as if we have the answers.

	According to Brown "boTTu" means "a drop" as in "neeTi boTTu".
	But the Bottu we refer to is that "kumkuma boTTu" or "tilakam boTTu".
	Brown explains that "nudiTi boTTu" in the following line --

	"A sectarian mark on the forehead, white, yellow, black, or scarlet,
	long or round."

		       Hinduism has several tokens of imitation or provisions
	or signs or indicative gestures which are strictly followed by the
	practising Hindus.  These externally visible indicative gestures are one
	way highly essential in the Hindu society and do some good.  Some of
	these indicative gestures of Hinduism appear as useless customs but if
	one applies his/her deep sense of understanding, it will be clear that
	they are highly benificial to the individual and society, ultimately.
	Another important aspect of adhering to these indicative gestures is the
	scientific side.

		      A commonly seen "nuduTipai tilakamu" (a mark or beauty
	spot, made on the forehead with black, scarlet, or gold paint) indicates
	auspiciousness (good omen, happiness, prosperity, good fortune, welfare
	and overall it is mamgaLam).  People wear camdanam (sandalwood powder)
	or viBooti (ash or calcium salts) or kumkuma (a plant dye mixed with
	turmeric powder) as boTTu on the forehead.  Shivites wear viBooti boTTu.
	Vishanvites wear camdanam boTTu.  Worshipers of Devi and Sakti wear
	kumkuma boTTu.  Shiva loves the burial ground (SmaSa'nam) and the ash is
	the only one available there.  In fact, our mythology depicts Shiva as
	one who applies the ash all over his body.  Probably this viBooti (ash)
	has a cooling effect.  Shiva is a radiant God with full of energey.  In
	order to cool himself down, he puts on the viBooti. In fact Shiva is the
	source of all energies.  Going back to the science of viBooti, viBooti
	is nothing but either anhydrous calcium chloride or calcium sulfate.
	The ash one finds in the burial ground is wood ash mixed with calcium
	salts from the bones.  In hot summers Indians sweat a lot and this
	viBooti na'mam or coating on the forehead will absorb the moisture from
	the sweat and cools the person.  On the otherhand Vishnumoorty's
	camdanam boTTu signifies the peaceful nature of maha'vishNu.  camdanam
	has also body cooling properties.  Ugranarasimhamoorty of Simhachalam is
	cooled year around by applying a thick plaster of camdanam all over the
	idol and once a year the camdanam that was applied for the entire past
	year will be removed (done during the camdana ya'tra festival).  The
	master gland of the human body which regulates the homeostasis and
	time-keeping is the pineal gland which is also known as the third eye,
	located exactly behind where Hindus wear the boTTu (nuduru).  There may
	be a direct effect of the compounds present in viBooti or kumkuma or
	camdanam on the pineal gland in Hindus (positive effects like
	maintaining the psychological balance).  The blood red kumkuma of Sakti
	or Devi worshipers clearly indicates the omnipotent nature of the Godess
	they worship.  a'Dadi a'diSakti - the saying becomes more powerful when
	the woman wears a kumkuma on her forehead.

		      Is this boTTu only restricted to married women?  No.
	Even men put on this boTTu - camdanam or viBooti or kumkuma.  Married
	women (while husband is alive) wear the kumkuma boTTu (prosperity).
	This is another indicative gesture of Hindu culture.  tilakam is a
	liquid form of red paint that is sold in the market (It is some
	synthetic dye dissolved in organic solvents. Some times it causes severe
	irritation of the skin).  Vermilion (simdhooramu or imgiliikamu) is also
	a well-known agent used as boTTu (simdhooram is nothing but red lead.
	Red lead is a heavy metal and is extremely neurotoxic.  Who knows what
	it does at low doses to the brain and nervous system?  Are there any
	benificial effects or red lead simdhooram while applied on forehead as
	boTTu?).  Kings used to mix musk (from deer; for scent and fragrance)
	with vermilion and put it on the forehead as boTTu - adding musk is the
	sign of aristrocracy.  Can not Hindu widows wear kumkuma or any kind of
	boTTu?  Why not!  They can wear kumkuma boTTu.  Our religion does not
	forbid Hindu widows from not putting on the kumkuma boTTu on the
	forehead.  Remember one thing - boTTu is not an essential item of Vedas
	or dharma Sa'stra's.  The post-vedic ta'mtric period brought boTTu into
	Hindu religion and culture.

		      Sivananda Saraswati says "a'~na' cakram is located
	exactly in the center in between the eyebrows and the tilakam should be
	put there.  This sort application on the a'~na' cakram has tremendous
	cooling effect.  In addition to spiritual fulfilment, camdanam has other
	benificial effects as boTTu."

		      Concentration (between the eyebrows - Bhroo) causes
	enoromous energy dissipation and camdanam is supposed to cool the heat.
	Tilakam indicates the hidden eye of the human.  Shiva has the third eye
	located in between the eyebrows (Bhroo) and when he opens that third eye
	all the locas will be destroyed.  If Shiva's third eye is closed, all
	the bondages will be destroyed (the sins will be destroyed).  If one
	wears the tilakam boTTu on the forehead he or she feels "I am the
	Brahma; I am not different from Brahma and I am a liberated soul."

		      There are different ways and procedures of putting on the
	boTTu (tilakam).  Shivites draw 3 viBooti lines horizontally on the
	forehead (aDDa na'ma'lu).  Vishnavites wear 3 perpendicular na'ma's
	(also vRutta'ka'ra tripumDam).  Vishnavites also pray to Vishnu saying
	"Please rescue us from the bad elements" while applying the niluvu
	na'ma'lu.  The pamgana'ma'lu is well known na'madha'raNa in Andhra.
	There may be differences in the application of nama'lu but there are no
	differences between Shivism and Vishnavism. The Vishnava boTTu is also
	called "soga boTTu" or "niluvu boTTu".  The Shivite boTTu is called
	"niluvu boTTu".  ta'Li boTTu is another boTTu (mamgaLa sootram) that
	Andhra married women adore.  gaTTi boTTu is nothing but a zero in
	Telugu.  nEti boTTu is a drop of ghee.

		      One finds the following in Hinduism:

		   1) A forehead without boTTu
		   2) A mamtra japa without knowing the meaning
		   3) A head that does not pay respects to great souls
		   4) A heart without compassion
		   5) A house without a well
		   6) A village without a temple
		   7) A country without a river
		   8) A society without a leader
		   9) A wealth without offering donations
		  10) A teacher without a student
		  11) A king without an efficient minister
		  12) A country without justice
		  13) A wife who does not respect the husband
		  14) A well without water
		  15) A flower without fragrance
		  16) A soul without purity
		  17) A land without rainfall
		  18) A wisdom without clear thought
		  19) A student who does not respect the teacher
		  20) A body striken with diseases
		  21) A tradition without purity
		  22) Praying to God and not being considerative
		  23) A talk without truth
		  24) A land without good people
		  25) A job without salary
		  26) A hermit without doing sacrifices
		  27) A pair of feet without experiencing piligrimage
		  28) A decission without wisdom
		  29) A knife without sharpness
		  30) A cow which does not give milk
		  31) A fishing pole without hook

		  Should be ignored and relinquished.  Look at this list and
		  decide where boTTu stands.

	amga'ru is a black boTTu made out of saggu biyyamu or biyyamu.  The
	saggu biyyamu or biyyamu are charred and converted into a black
	(charcoal colored) paste.  Infants are decorated with amga'ru on their
	foreheads.  This is supposed to protect the infants from the disTi.
	Like everything else now one can get a variety of stickon boTTus.  They
	are different shapes and in different colors.  They match with the dress
	and shoes.  They come in packages.  You wear one and throw it.  Over the
	years, boTTu has become an ornament and an ingredient of the makeup.
	The kumkam boTTu is prepared with turmeric, alum and lime juice.  Some
	times certain natural dyes (seeds with dyes) are also added while making
	the powder.  Safron is well known as kumkumaoojiTTa.  Occassionally
	scents are also added to kumkuma.  If wives do kumkuma pooja, the Devi
	will bless the whole family with good health and a lot of wealth.
	Whatever the boTTu is made up of, the girl looks beautiful with the
	boTTu on!  kalakalla'Dina kaLa!!!



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