Being in Babaji’s ashram, the day starts with applying Chandan after bathing. Chandan means sandalwood and is the main ingredient of the paste that is applied to the forehead. Often a bit of yellow coloring mercury chrome is added. Originally the yellow color was done with (expensive) Saffron flower. Chanda can contain quite a few ingredients. Nowadays ready made potions named Ashtagandha Chandan, meaning 8 ingredients, are readily available. Unfortunately with the enormous amounts of materials (some costly) required to satisfy the market you can be quite sure that profit enhancing practices have considerably lowered its purity. When Man Singh was preparing his supreme paste for Babaji it was sandalwood, a little mercury chrome, a bit of camphor, a pinch of saffron and occasionally a bit of deer horn, all ground into a fine paste on a stone and a bit of rose water for fine measure. If it is worked well on the grinding stone it applies like cream. The camphor provides a fresh tingling feeling and together with the cooling properties of sandalwood it has a calming effect on the mind in the early morning.
The red dot is prepared with kumkum also named roli. Originally it is made from turmeric, which, with a bit of slaked lime, turns it’s golden yellow colour into a deep red.
The original kumkum of quality is not so easy to find nowadays and is usually only found it spiritual towns and centres. All the rest is made with highly chemical colouring agents. It is sadly ironic that what is now mostly applied on the third eye, where we can envision the Divine, is often toxic. At our ashrams we mostly still apply the original one but even the shop there has resorted to the chemical stuff. Kumkum is also worn by married woman at their hairline to show that they are married. The red dot in our tripundra is dedicated to The Divine Mother.
The rice that is applied should not be broken. A small but at times tedious job for the pujari is to separate the broken grains from the whole ones.
It represents abundance, amongst other things.
There are several ways that it can be applied. Babaji mostly applied the tripunt that symbolises being a devotee of Lord Shiva. To a few devotees Babaji applied a Vaishnav (Vishnu devotee) design perhaps connecting something for those with a distant past. To Kali Shanni He applied something only for him and decorated his temples also with a yellow and red line. In the last months Babaji played often with Kharku and myself and gave both designs like a cross on our heads or played around with us creatively.
In the first years of Babaji’s presence He gave ‘chandan’ very early and not at a set time. But as years went by it was always close to 05.00 in the morning and soon after He would conduct His small fire ceremony next to His kutir. More or less in the last year Babaji required that everybody had to ask Him at the evening darshan before if they could come for Chandan. It was required to ask this in a rather complicated Hindi sentence, which for foreigners was rather difficult ; Sri Sri Maha Prabuji, apke agya se kal mein chandan ke liye aa sakta hun ? Babaji would have fun with the foreigners trying say it and would then play with what ever intensions or emotions we would have in our minds by allowing or refusing access.
On Yatra’s to Bombay, Babaji used to give chandan twice a day at times with lines of people seemingly without end. That was really hard work for the Lord. As if only yesterday, I still feel His fingers drawing those 3 lines on my forehead. I remember it felt like the reorganisation of my mental disorders. Scary to imagine what I would have been without that considering my present mental disorders. It was the most quiet event of the day and also the moment that touched deepest, with His magic fire to top off the days start.
The three lines of the Tripundra that Babaji mostly applied and we still do in ashrams and at festivals signifies the 3 guna’s. Tri means three, pundra means one which is released. The 3 guna’s are the Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas gunas. Below a picture that says it all.
The idea is to transcend three ‘worlds’, which in Babaji’s case is certainly befitting. The rest of us, with few exceptions, are still working at it. In a society like India, the chandan sign also clearly shows the dedication of devotees. In today’s world, it is not so common, apart from the sadhu’s and ascetics, but wearing a yellow and red dot is still very common. Although we worship Babaji generally as Shiva MahaAvatar, He also really represents Lord Vishnu and the Divine Mother. In His last manifestation he spoke often of the great revolution, the Kranti. From this we can understand that this is Lord Shiva who has come to destroy the evil in this world and set things right. You want to dissolve yourself and become one with Him because Shiva is the destroyer. As His devotees we therefore proudly wear the tripundra and repeat Om Namah Shivaya as often as we can.