ThirumaN (Oordhva puNdram)
(by Sri Oppiliappan Koil Varadachari Sadagopan, USA)

This is an article about the Vaishanavite wearing ThirumaN, Ramunuja's role in it, The differences in the shape of the ThirumaN worn by the Thenkalai and Vadakalai sects , Why ThirumaN is seen on the forehead of Archa Murthys in recent notes of Prapatti Group members.

I will share my views on this : First of All , there is a lot of history to it. Vangipuram Nambi , one of the 74 Simhasanaathipatis summarized Ramanuja's views on Sadaachaaaras regarding this practise and Swami Desilkan later elaborated on this in his Saccharitra Raksha and linked the sources of his views to Paarameshtya Samhita,Brahmaraatra Samhita et al. Other granthas like Sacchaaritra Sudha Nidhi and the 800 page Monograph approved by the 44Th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt known as "Sri Vaishanava Sadaachara Nirnayam" by Vidwan Villivalam Krishna Dasa (Krishnamacharya) have detailed references to the mantras that go with this daily observance , the right way to apply the ThirumaN and other daily observances by Vaishanavites..

The Vaishnavite Paribhasha(colloquial) for wearing ThirumaN (Auspicious Clay) is ThirumaN Kappu Saatal. The key word here seems to be Kaapu or Protection. That protection is achieved thru the Lord"s weapons celebrated in Panchaayudha Sthotram. Like Dig Bhandhanam before Mantra recitation, the request for protection of the limbs of one body and protection from above, behind, sides etc is a well known practise in Ahnikaas (Performance of Daily rituals prescribed).Hence , ThirumaN Kappu can be viewed as a Kavacham , that confers protection on the Vaishanavaas wearing that by invoking the weapons and the power of the Lord. The freedom from fear of the ThirumaN kappu wearing Vaishnavas referred to in Eswar's note relates to the Mahaviswasam of the Vishnu Bhaktas in Lord's protection from the three kinds of afflictions of life.

The 12 names associated with 12 Urdhva Pundarams have been elaborated upon by Swami Desikan in his work known as "Panniru Thirunaamam" dedicated to the celebration of the holy feet of Kanchi Perumaal.

Examples of that are: Forehead, Presiding lord is Kesavan. His color is invoked as Golden. His weapons are 4 Chakrams. The direction assigned to him is East.` Centre Portion of Stomach, the next site to wear Urdhva Pundram has Sriman Narayana as the presiding deity. His Color is visualized as Blue.His Weapons are 4 Conches .The direction of protection offered by him is West.Thus it goes on for the rest of the 10 Urdhva Pundram.

Incidentally, Urdhva Pundram is associate with Urdhva Rethas celebrated in the Vedic Passage "Urdhva Retham virupaksham Viswaroopaya Nama:" Urdhva Pundaram is also symbolic of Sattvika Guna by Lord Krishna In Bhagavat Gita ( Urdhvam Gacchanti Satttwasthaa.Reference to this is from Naaradheeyam.In this context, this souce says that the Vishnu Bhaktaas should not wear Tiryak Pundram(cross , horizontal wearing of the Pundram) even as a playful matter. Vishnu Dharmottaram establishes guidelines as to which finger to use in applying ThirumaN. Pavitram wearing finger and the middle finger are taboo. One should apply ThirumaN , while sitting. The Thirucchornam used must be sanctified. Any vermilion paste wont do. The people , who have had Bharanyaasam should wear the Yellow choornam and others the Vermilion version. The thirumaN wearing has to have the White two lines and the Red line at the centre, housing the Divine couple, who are never separated. The two white lines are like temple for them. Lord Himself says that he and His consort love to reside in the temple created by the two broad white lines of ThirumaN. Narrow crowding of the two lines are not desirable to him, In my other note, I will speculate on the Neuroanatomical significance of the shape of the thirumaN and suggest a reconciliation between the Tenkalai and Vadakalai versions of wearing the ThirumaN.

On the Sampradhayam(tradion) side, there are number of mantras to create the paste of clay with water in one"s palm.Nrsimha Beejam is to be drawn at the center after completing the preparation of the paste.The Veda Mantras used in the preparatory rituals are 7 in number.Panchopanishad Mantra, Ashtaaksharam,Vishnu Shadakshara Mantram, Dwaadasaaksharam, Dwayam(Mantra ratnam), Vishnu Gayatri are to be included in the appropriate phases of the Pundram wearing ceremony. In between the 12 Names of the Lord to be recited at the time of the decoration of the individual parts of the body, the 12 names of Sri Devi are to be added. They are: Sriyayai nama:., Amrutothbhavaayayai Nama:, Kamalaayayai Nama:,Chandra Sodharyayai nama:, Vishnupatnyayai nama:, Vaishnavyayai nama:, Varaarohayayai nama:,Harivallabhyayai Nama: , Saarnginyayai nama:, Devadevikaayayai nama:, Surasundaryayai nama:. Maha Lakshmyayai Nama:, Sarvaabhishtapalapradhaayayai nama:. Guru vandanaams are also involved. I have seen my grandfather take a minimum of 30 minutes to perform this ThirumaN ceremony sitting at the abnk of Cauvery river after his morning bath. Even today, we can see in the Toopul House Remains of Swami Desikan , the section, where he sat and applied ThirumaN prior to his Abhigamana Araadhanas( Act of Going near the Lord and His consort with Humility and reverence) prescribed by Ramanuja in one of his nine works.
Neuroanatomical speculation on ThirumaN

This is fairly fanciful, but please view it a light hearted manner after the heavy traditional intrepretation fro "co(s)mic relief:. Our Central nervous system and its "gray" matter is packed in 3 coverings (dura, Pia etc). for protection against accidents of Life.Theree are a dense arterial and veinous circulation of the fluid of life thru them in a intricate fashion reaching out to all nooks and corners of the brain and its centres , which control every motor , thought processes as long as we live.

he brain has two hemispheres connected by the collosoal fibre bundle known as corpus collosum, which cross connects the left and the right brain, each odf which have special functions revealed from the Caltech Scientist et al. The cutitng of the Corpus Collosum and its consequences in terms of the calamities in the coordinated functioning of the Brain has also been detailed by the Caltech pioneer. We can view the two lines of the Thiruman connected by the U shaped line as the two lobes of the brain connected by the Corpus collosum.

The frontal lobes and the feeling states and the emotional aspects they symbolize come closest at the forehead in the area of the Ajna Chakram.That region is covered by the U shaped or the Y shaped portion of the ThirumaN. The Central nervous System (CNS) really extends as we know down to the tip of the spinal chord and the Dura matter covers it as a Sac all the way down to Mooladharqa Chakram. The Vada kalai version might be an abstracted version of the all powerful version of the CNS to remember and retain Bhagavan and the Tenkalai Version the full representation of the CNS . The Cranial Nerves control thru the Sensory and Motor branches the functioning of the limbs in our daily activities. The presence of ThirumaN on the upper limbs can in this model be associated with the Control thru the Cranial Nerves.

This allegory is mostly for semi-serious Consumption.

Questions: 1. Why Lord Wears ThirumaN / Why Ramunuja or others applied ThirumaN to The Lord of Thiruvenkatam? He surely does not need it.

2. Why Ramanuja was not welcome at Siva temples ?

Ramanuja Related Questions:

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It is said that Ramanuja requested ThiruVekatamudayan to wear the Sanka and Chakra after entering His Sanctum as a Serpent(Adi Sesha) thru the water hole . The hagiographic account refers to the Archa at Thirupati being that of Sankara or Subramnaya . In this context, One of the Azhwar refers to the blending of the Body of Siva and Vishnu in one at Thirumalai( Third Thiruvanthadhi: Verse 63). Peyazhwar is the One great Azhwar, who saw the form of Divine couple and cried out in Thirukkovalur " Thirukkanden, ponmeni Kanden--". Even today, Bilvarchana at Thirupathi and the nonremoval of the Golden Kavacham for the two weapon-bearing hands of Thiruvekatamudayan even during Thirumanjanam and Adi sankara"s establishment of Dhanaakarshana Yantra at Thirupathi are mysteries. Regarding Ramanuja, There is no reason for him to be unwelcome at Siva Temples, except that he had no reason to go there.

Why the Lord Wears ThirumaN?

Ramanuja is also known as Godhagraja or the elder to Andaal based on an incident that happpened at Thirumaaliruncholai ( Offering of the 1000 vessels of Akkaravadisal on behalf of Aandal). Ramanuja is also known as Thiuppavai Jeeyar, because of the joy that he experienced in reciting Thiruppavai Verses and the reverence he had for the Philosophy of Aandal. She , unlike other Azhwars reminded Her Lord of his duties and awakened from his slumber (Yoga nidra). She reminded her Lord about his sworn duties to rescue the tormented Jeevans and interceded on their behalf. Ramanuja in the spirit of Andaal might have put the ThirumaN on the Lord to remind Him of His duties to use his weapons to come to the rescue of the Jeevans. I think however the practise of wearing ThirumaN goes to a time much before Ramanuja.

In conclusion, it can be said that Lord wears Thiruman not as His Lotus feet on His forehead , but as an indication of the power of his weapons and His presence in every one of the directions to protect His devotees. When the Vaishnavas wear the Pundrams , they consider their body as being protected by His weapons and as a temple for the Divine Couple. Thus , there are two separate reasons for the ThirmaN wearing by the Lord and His devotees.