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On the symbols and practices of Vaishnavism

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śiṣṭācāra vivecanam: On the symbols and practices of Vaishnavism (Urdhva Pundra and other topics)


“vidyāvinayasampannā brāhmaṇā vedapāragāḥ ।
mayi bhaktiṃ na kurvanti ye te caṇḍālatāṃ gatāḥ ॥
brāhmaṇo vaiṣṇavo jñeyo na hyasmādanyadevatā ।
mātṛvat parirakṣantaṃ jagatsraṣṭāramīśvaram ।
yo hi nārcayate mūḍhastamāhurbrahmaghātakam ॥
vṛthā japtaṃ vṛthā dattaṃ vṛthā ceṣṭaṃ vṛthā hutam ।
vṛthā tapyaṃ ca taptañca yo na bhakto mayi dvijaḥ ॥
yatkṛtaṃ hutañcāpi yadiṣṭaṃ dattameva vā ।
avaiṣṇavakṛtaṃ sarvaṃ rākṣasā eva bhuñjate ॥”
“विद्याविनयसम्पन्ना ब्राह्मणा वेदपारगाः । मयि भक्तिं न कुर्वन्ति ये ते चण्डालतां गताः ॥
ब्राह्मणो वैष्णवो ज्ञेयो न ह्यस्मादन्यदेवता । मातृवत् परिरक्षन्तं जगत्स्रष्टारमीश्वरम् । यो हि नार्चयते मूढस्तमाहुर्ब्रह्मघातकम् ॥
वृथा जप्तं वृथा दत्तं वृथा चेष्टं वृथा हुतम् । वृथा तप्यं च तप्तञ्च यो न भक्तो मयि द्विजः ॥
यत्कृतं हुतञ्चापि यदिष्टं दत्तमेव वा । अवैष्णवकृतं सर्वं राक्षसा एव भुञ्जते ॥”
“vidyAvinayasampannA brAhmaNA vedapAragAH |
mayi bhaktiM na kurvanti ye te chaNDAlatAM gatAH ||
brAhmaNo vaiShNavo j~neyo na hyasmAdanyadevatA |
mAtRRivat parirakShantaM jagatsraShTAramIshvaram |
yo hi nArchayate mUDhastamAhurbrahmaghAtakam ||
vRRithA japtaM vRRithA dattaM vRRithA cheShTaM vRRithA hutam |
vRRithA tapyaM cha tapta~ncha yo na bhakto mayi dvijaH ||
yatkRRitaM huta~nchApi yadiShTaM dattameva vA |
avaiShNavakRRitaM sarvaM rAkShasA eva bhu~njate ||”
Meaning: Those brAhmaNas who are not devoted to Me must be considered fallen to the state of outcastes. It does not matter if such persons are thorough experts in the Vedas, endowed with learning and qualities such as humility. A Vaishnava must be considered a brAhmaNa. There is no devatA to be worshipped other than such a Vaishnava. I create, protect and rule this universe like a mother. Therefore, a person who does not worship Me is a fool and a killer of brAhmaNas. If a Vedic rite is performed by a person who is not devoted to Me -- whether it is chanting (japa), gifting (dAna), sacrificial offering (iShTam), oblations (hutam), austerity performed and yet to be performed -- all of it will go in vain. Vedic rites performed by a non-Vaishnava will only nourish evil beings like rAkShasas.

Thus says bhagavAn shrI kR^iShNa to yudhiShThira. (This shloka is quoted in the Adyar library edition of Shankara’s Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya).
As we have seen in our previous articles, the entire body of the apauruSheya Vedas proclaim Sriman Narayana as the Supreme Deity. He is superior to jIvAtmas who occupy the body of brahma, rudra, and other devatas, all the way down to the meekest organism. He controls the whole universe as the antaryAmin inside all sentient beings and insentient objects. Naturally, all offerings to various devatAs in nitya/naimittika Vedic karmas are ultimately intended as worship of Vishnu, the in-dweller of the other devatAs. This is what Sri Krishna, the gItAcArya, says:
“ahaṃ hi sarvayajñānāṃ bhoktā ca prabhureva ca ।
na tu māmabhijānanti tattvena ataḥ cyavanti te॥”
“अहं हि सर्वयज्ञानां भोक्ता च प्रभुरेव च ।
न तु मामभिजानन्ति तत्त्वेन अतः च्यवन्ति ते॥”
“ahaM hi sarvayaj~nAnAM bhoktA cha prabhureva cha |
na tu mAmabhijAnanti tattvena ataH chyavanti te||”
Meaning: Indeed, I alone am the enjoyer and Lord of all yaj~nas. Those without this knowledge, not knowing Me truly and hence devoted to other devatAs, will fall after enjoying the fruits of their activity.
Rishis such as Manu, Atri, Harita, etc., who authored the Smriti canon in the Vedic tradition, who themselves the ones who revealed the Vedas, have explained this truth to us unambiguously. There is hence no doubt that Vishnu alone is worshipped through these Smritis that determine the conduct and practices fit for various varNas and Ashramas. One who does not realise this is not a brAhmaNa.
Even Sri Kamban, the ancient poet who penned the Ramayana story in Tamil, mentions this point emphatically in his poetry. During the Rama-Ravana war, Ravana used his powers to summon darkness and venomous serpents to engulf the battlefield and to snarl Rama’s army. Kamban says that the thick darkness that engulfed the directions was like the hearts of those who do not acknowledge Lord Vishnu to be the purpose behind all Vedic/Smriti injunctions:
“vāḻiya vetam nāṉkum, maṉu mutal vanta nūlum,
veḽviyum, mĕyyum, tĕyva vetiyar viḻaiyum ākum,
āḻi am kamalak kaiyāṉ āti am paramaṉ ĕṉṉā
eḻaiyar uḽḽam ĕṉṉa iruṇṭaṉa ticaikaḽ ĕllām”
(Yuddha kANDa, nAga pAsha paTalam)
Meaning: All the directions became dark, just like the darkness in the hearts of those destitute humans who do not realise the supremacy of Sriman Narayana -- the bearer of sudarshana chakra in His lotus-like hands, whose forms are the four Vedas, the dharma shAstra texts beginning with Manu, Vedic sacrifices, the truth, and the goal desired by the true followers of the Veda.
Hence, it is no surprise that the practices and conduct of Vaishnavas, such as wearing Urdhva puNDra (thirumaNkAppu/thirunAmam or simply nAmam), the manner of worshipping Vishnu, and partaking of his prasAda are very well enshrined in these texts authored by Rishis who are great jnAnis and bhaktas.

Anti-Vishnu and pro-Shaiva tendencies in modern-day smArtas

From time immemorial, the followers of the path of the Vedas recognised Vishnu as supreme due to the reasons we have mentioned in the previous section. This includes followers of the Advaita Vedanta system, up to the time of Vidyaranya and Appayya Dikshita.
One may ask: Is it not quite popular that Shankara, the great AcArya of the Advaita Vedanta school, wrote various texts like “shivAnandalahari” and “soundaryalahari” where devatAs other than Hari are praised as supreme? Is he not popularly called ShaNmata-sthApanAcArya who accepted six deities including Vishnu, Shiva, Skanda, Parvati, Vinayaka, and Surya as equally supreme? The truth is that these various stories have been propagated by bogus texts and modern-day blind “followers” of Shankara. A clear admission of all this can be seen here.
One can see more of our proof under the articles in the “Advaita” section of our site, accessible through the sitemap here.
Why then does today’s smArta community not recognise Vaishnavism? The answer lies in the rise of the Sringeri mutt in the 14th century due to Vidyaranya (who is very likely its founder and NOT shaN^kara as popularly believed), which created a wave of change in the smArta tradition. This maTha created satellite institutions in pUri, dvAraka, and joshi mutt (and perhaps in kumbhakonam later which became Kanchi Kamakoti peetham). Shankaravijayam texts were written around this period (14th/15th centuries) to claim that these four mutts were established by Shankara himself, even though there is zero historical evidence for their existence before Vidyaranya.
The foundations of this mutt has had tight connections to Veerashaivism, a religion based on Shaiva Agamas rather than the Vedanta. The gurus of the Sringeri mutt did not follow the yati-dharma tradition of ancient advaitins,  which we shall make clear soon in this article.
The Veerashaiva connection to the founding of the Sringeri mutt is alluded to in many of the mutt’s own writings. The chandramaulIshvara linga worshipped by Sringeri gurus as the central deity seems to have been gifted by a Veerasaiva. Moreover, early patrons of this maTha were also veerasaivas. Both are clear from their own admission:
The Saivization of the Sankaran tradition is a complex issue, on which my thoughts would run into pages, so I will not get into that here. As for a Chandramoulisvara linga at Sringeri, the above is not just a Virasaiva claim. Sringeri's own Guruvamsakavya, probably an 18th century text, itself says that Renukacharya/Revana-siddha gave a Sivalinga to one of the Sringeri mathadhipatis. The poet does not seem to have seen this as an indication of Sringeri recognizing Rambhapuri as superior. Perhaps he meant to indicate the opposite.

Even in later times, the Virasaiva Nayaka rulers of Ikkeri/Bednur were patrons of the Sringeri matha.
Another statement of admission is seen here:
“Meanwhile, advaitins and Saivas found common cause in various social, religious and political issues, which is reflected in appayya's works.”
It does not take much to see that Virasaiva literature is actually opposed to that of the vaidikas. This is shown by (i) their denigration of Vishnu as inferior to Shiva, (ii) their denigration of the UrdhvapuNDra, among others. See for example in the work of Palkuriki Somanatha, a Veerasaiva from Andhra:
“If one sees a person wearing urdhva pundra he must perform candrayana vrata for purification.”
“The author... gives importance to the mahatmya of vibhuti, rudraksha, sivalinga darana,
padodaka, prasada, virasaivacara, discardence of other devatas, discardence of Narayanopasana”
“Lord Siva is the supreme soul and is Pasupati and all the others including deities like Brahma and Visnu are his subordinates.”
All this, in spite of the fact that ancient and medieval dharma shAstra experts routinely condemned shaivas and praised the wearing of Urdhva puNDra. The ‘evidences’ against Vaishnavism, quoted by these Veerashaivas writing in the 12th century, were not even considered worth the attention by vaidika experts and vedAntins writing in the two or three centuries that followed.
Hence the religion of Veerasaivas who were instrumental in the founding/patronization of the Sringeri maTha, is poles apart from that of Shankara bhagavatpAda and other vedAntins.
In addition, the likes of appayya dIkShita wrote works such as shiva-tattva-viveka to influence the smArta community by showing Vishnu and Vaishnavism in poor light. His disclaimer that he supports equality of Vishnu and Shiva (Hari-Hara abheda), and only opposes those who ‘hate’ Shiva is just an eyewash. Today, many advaitins in South India openly say that Shiva is superior to Vishnu, and in other times don the mask of Hari-Hara abheda when countered with pramANas.
In any case, appayya dIkShita did not have a steadfast conviction on any darshana, as shown by the collection of his works which ranges from supporting shiva paratva, to hari-hara aikyatva, to those supporting dvaita and vishiShTAdvaita. Thus, the people who praise him as a great scholar today are too confused between Vaishnava hatred and Hari-hara abheda vAda, though their default state is “Shiva is higher than Vishnu”.
Appayya Dikshita and his followers were also instrumental in bringing radical changes to the smArta community’s identity. They introduced practices from Shaiva Agama tAntric texts and justified them as Vedic by various newly devised arguments that were unheard of in ancient times. In his work ‘vAdana kShatra mAlA’, appayya dIkShita says bhasma and rudrAkSha dhAraNa is essential for all brahma vidyA, a claim that was unprecedented in ancient Advaita literature (proof). If such a practice is ancient and established in shAstras, one can only wonder how a luminary like Vishveshvara Sarasvati, Madhusudana Sarasvati’s own guru, missed such practices ‘indispensable to brahmavidyA’ while writing about the conduct of advaitic yatis (in “yatidharmasaMgraha”).
These relatively recent developments show why vaidika smArtas stopped wearing UrdhvapuNDra and started donning bhasma. It is quite likely that mutts such as sringeri and kAnchi were instrumental for this. In the wiki article on the vaDamA sect, we find the following casual remark that corroborates our stance:
“While it was more common in former times, the use of Gopi Chandanam continues, being replaced by Vibhuthi otherwise. Some Vadamas also sported the Vaishnavite namam. They were known as kutthunamakarar.”
In addition, the smArta community was influenced to develop contempt for UrdhvapuNDra. Take a look also at how the wearing of the Vaishnava mark by the minority of smArtas who favor Vishnu is dismissed with high-handedness in this Kamakoti Mandali article:
[Query] Though I am a smartha, my ishta deivam is krishna. Can I wear thirunama?
namaH shrIpurabhairvyai
Of the various pending questions [apologies to those who are still awaiting answers], this one starts with the dvyakShara mahAmantra kR^ishNa. That indeed seems to be a sign of blessing from the Lord ahead of his janmAShTamI. It is always best to follow one's tradition in relation to shrauta smArta karma. Moreover, does mere UrdhvapuNDra bestow upon one the grace of shrImannArayaNa if other expected qualifications are absent? Or, does absence of UrdhwapuNDra alone result in the loss of the kR^ipA of bAlagopAla even if other guNa sampatti is present?
According to such people, the wearing of UrdhvapuNDra by smArtas is a violation of family pracice (kulAcAra). However, if a person born in a UrdhvapuNDra-wearing family (such as Srivaishnava or Madhva) starts sporting bhasma tripuNDra, they will say call him “broad-minded”. Such are the double standards!
In addition to all this, concepts such as kula-devatA (which has no sanction in smR^itis) and notions of bad omen arising out of not worshipping this and that deity (mostly shiva, durgA, skanda, and gaNapati -- none of them really cares if Vishnu is not preferred for worship) have been thrust upon them to keep them ignorant of the true tradition.
Though political exigency may have been the cause for this shift from Vaishnavism to Shaivism in the smArta sampradAya, it certainly did result in the violation of shaN^kara bhagavatpAda’s teachings, and has now spun into hatred of Vishnu and Vaishnavas. The late “mahA periyavA” of Kanchi is notorious of this, and his UrdhvapuNDra debacle that we will expose here shortly is just one such example. The sad fact is that people quote his utterings as if they are prime pramANas, and believe in them. This is why we have today the despicable situation where the name “Govinda” is taken to mean ‘gone to the dogs’ and “nAmam (UrdhvapuNDra)” is considered fit for a naive person who can be cheated easily!
All this is in spite of the fact that Shaivas are traditionally no allies of Advaitins, and have condemned advaita using the strongest terms. One Umapati Shivacharya, who is worshipped in every Tamil Saivite temple, says thus:
“O mAyAvAdi ghost! Even if everyone dies and one of your own attains birth as a deva, he cannot save you from the cruel hell that is otherwise attained very rarely.”
Coming to the matter of modern-day “shAstris” who hold various titles such as “mahAmahopAdhyAya” etc. and are supposed to be experts in Advaita Vedanta, most of them are also Vishnu/Vaishnava haters. Their Hari-hara abheda vAda is only a thin veil to cover it up. Herebelow, we provide an example of such a “shAstri” who casually remarks that smArtas should only worship Shiva and should not equate Vishnu with Shiva. This person, “Panditaraja Sambasri K. Balasubrahmanya Sastrigal” was the principal of the Sanskrit college, Mylapore. Extracts from his writing (in commentary to Haradatta’s “Shruti Sukti Mala”) are shown below (Links 1, 2):
சிவபெருமானையும் விஷ்ணுவையும் கூடச்சேர்த்து ஸமமாக பாவிப்பவன் சண்டாள துவ்யனாகிறான். அவன் ஸங்கர ஜாதியைச் சேர்ந்தவனென்பது அனுமானம் செய்யப்படலாம். சூர்யனுக்கும் மினுமினுப் பூச்சிக்கும் போல, சிவனுக்கும் விஷ்ணுவிற்கும் வித்தியாசமுளது என்றெல்லாம், தத்வம், சிவதத்வ நிரூபணம், ஆதித்ய புராணம், பராசர புராணம், ஸ்காந்தம் ஹூத ஸம்ஹிதை முதலிய க்ரந்தங்களில் விவரிக்கப்பட்டிருப்பதை காண்க. ஸ்ரீமத் பாகவத்தின் 3, 4, 8-வது ஸ்கந்தத்தில் விஷமுண்டு உலகனைத்தையும் காத்த சிவபெருமானுக்கு நிகரான தெய்வம் கிடையாது என்று தெளிவாகக் கூறப்பட்டிருப்பதை, வைஷ்ணவர்களும் (முக்யமாக வைஷ்ணவப் பற்றுதல் உள்ள ஸ்மார்த்த ப்ராம்மணர்களும் தி.வி.அ) நன்கு கவனித்து தத்துவறிய வேண்டிய விஷயமாகும்.

The one who thinks that Vishnu and Shiva are equal and worship him together is equal to a chandala. It can be inferred that such a person is born out of an illicit mixture of varNas. Many scriptures like siva-tattva-nirUpaNam, Aditya purANam, parAshara purANam, skAnda purANa sUta samhitA, declare that the difference between Shiva and Vishnu is akin to that between the sun and the firefly respectively. The 3rd, 4th, and 8th skandhas of Srimad Bhagavata clearly show that there is no deity equal to Shiva who swallowed the Kalakuta poison to save the universe. This must be noted carefully by Vaishnavas and especially by Smarta Brahmins who have fondness for Vaishnavism.

ப்ராம்மணர்கள் தேவர்களுள் பிராம்மணராகிய பரமேச்வரனைத்தான் உபாஸிக்க வேண்டும். தேவர்களுள் க்ஷத்ரியனான விஷ்ணுவை க்ஷத்ரியனல்லவோ உபாஸிக்க வேண்டும் என்று, யுக்தி ந்யாயம் கூறப்படுகிறது.
Brahmins should worship only Shiva, who alone is brahmin among the devas. Only kShatriyas are fit to worship Vishnu, who is kShatriya among devas. This is yukti-nyAya.
வேதங்களை வகுத்தவரும், பத்து சைவ புராணங்களை யெழுதியவருமான வ்யாஸரே, பரமேச்வரன் அடக்கியாளும் மாயையின் வசப்பட்டு, ஒரு ஸமயம் காசி விச்வேசர் ஸந்நிதியில் தன்னிரு கைகலையும் உயரத்தூக்கி, கோவிந்த்னைக்காட்டிலும் உயர்ந்த தெய்வம் வேறில்லை என்று சொல்ல வாயெடுத்த போது, நந்திகேசருடைய ஹூங்காரத்தில் வ்யாஸருடைய கைகளும் நாக்கும் ஸ்தம்பித்துப்போயின. இந்த வரலாறு கந்தபுராணத்தில் இருக்கிறது....
வேதவ்யாஸரே – மயங்கினாரென்றால், இந்த காலத்தில் ஸாமான்ய ஜனங்கள் விஷ்ணுவிற்குப் பரத்வம் கொடுப்பதும், விஷ்ணுவும் பரமேச்வரனும் ஒன்று என்று சொல்வதும் ஆச்சர்யமில்லை!

Even vyAsa who compiled the Vedas and wrote the 10 Shaiva purANas was once deluded by the mAyA controlled by parameshvara (Shiva), and claimed with raised hands in the sannidhi of kAshi vishvanAtha temple that there is no deity higher than Govinda. His hands were then numbed by the “humm” sound raised by Nandi. This story appears in skanda purANa. If even vyAsa can be deluded, it is no surprise that the lay people of the current day claim Vishnu as supreme, or say Vishnu is equal to Shiva!

விஷ்ணுவின் அவதாரங்களில் பத்து மிக ப்ரஸித்தம். முதல் ஐந்து அவதாரங்களில் அவதரித்த கார்யம் முடிந்த பிறகு விஷ்ணுவானவர் தன் நிலை மறந்து கர்வம் கொண்டு, உலகத்தைப் பீடிக்கிறார்.(ஜனார்த்தனன் என்ற பதத்திற்கு உலகத்தைப் பீடிக்கிறவன் என்றும் அர்த்தம் உண்டு).

Ten of the avatAras of Vishnu are popular. In the first five, after serving the purpose of the avatAra, Vishnu, forgetting his true self and blinded by pride, torments the universe (the name janArdana means ‘one who torments the universe’).

     ஆகாசாத் பதிதம் தோயம் யதா கச்சதி ஸாகரம் |
      ஸர்வதேவ நமஸ்கார: கேசவம் ப்ரதி கச்சதி ||
என்று ப்ரதிதினம் நாம் செய்யும் ஸந்த்யா வந்தன முடிவு சுலோகத்தில் மற்ற தேவதைகளின் நமஸ்காரங்கள், நதிகள் மழைஜலம் சமுத்ரத்தை அடைவதுபோல் விஷ்ணுவை அடைவதாகப் ப்ரசித்தமாகத் தெரிகிறது. ஆயினும் கீழ் சொல்லப்பட்ட மந்த்ரம் ஸோமம வ: ருக்வேதத்தில் உள்ளதால், இந்த சுலோகம் ஸ்ம்ருதி என்ற புராணவசன மாதலாலும் சுருதிக்கு முரண்பாடாக விருப்பதாலும் விரோதாதி கரண ந்யாயப்படி வேதம் சொல்லும் அர்த்தம் தான் கொள்ளப் பட வேண்டும். அதற்கு விரோதமான, இந்த ஸ்ம்ருதி (புராண) வசனம் தள்ளப்பட வேண்டியது.

The shloka “AkAshAt patitam toyaM yathA gacchati sAgaram, sargadeva namaskAraH keshavaM pratigacchati” that we recite daily at the end of sandhyA vandana appears to state that the namaskAra to other devatas attain Vishnu ultimately, like the water drops from the sky reaching the ocean. However, it is opposed to shruti that states “so mama vaH” (stating shiva’s supremacy), and must be rejected on account of it coming from a smR^iti/purANa as per the virodhAdhikaraNa of brahma sUtras. Hence, this Smriti should be rejected.

ஆதி ஸ்ரீசங்கர பகவத்பாதாள் சிவானந்தகஹரியில் (8-வது சுலோகம்) சொல்வதையும் கவனிக்க...
“ஜனங்கள் கிளிஞ்சலை வெள்ளி யென்று நினைத்தும் கணணாடி உடைசல்களை – ரத்னங்கள் என்றும் மாவுகரைத்த நீரைப் பால் என்றும் கானலில் நீர் என்றும் மயங்குகிறார்கள் எல்லாம் மாயை – அது ப்ரமை அஞ்ஞானம். அது போல் தான், ஹே மகாதேவ, பசுபதியே, நீர்தாம் முழுமுதற் கடவுள், பரதெய்வமென்று அறியாமல், மூட ஜனங்கள் உமக்கு அன்யமான விஷ்ணு, ப்ரம்மா முதலியவர்களை, ஈச்வரனென்று மயங்கி வழிபடுகிறார்கள்.” என்று ஆதி சங்கர மூட ஜனங்களில் மயக்கத்தைக் கண்டு, ஏங்குகிறார்.

One should note what Shankara says in Sivanandalahari -- “Men mistake seashells to be silver and glass shards to be precious stones and water mixed with rice flour to be milk, and mirages to be real.. All this is mAyA, and lack of knowledge. Similarly, O Mahadeva, O Pashupati! Not knowing that you are the supreme lord and parabrahman, fools think of Vishnu, Brahma and others who are different from you as Lords, and worship them”. Thus, Adi Shankara feels for such fools.

Such idiotic statements require no rebuttal as they are self-evident. We will later see another example in the form of S Subrahmanya Sastri, another “shAstra ratnAkara” who made irrelevant remarks against Vishnu and Vaishnavas in the footnotes of Shankara Bhashya editions. Other examples include one “polaham rAmashAstrigal” whose “scholarship” was exposed by Shri P B Annangaracharya Swami of Kanchi in his “Sri Ramanujan” monthly, and one “Varahur Shastri” who was conferred the “bhAShya bhAvaj~na” title by Kanchi Mutt and was taken apart  by Sri Puthur Swami in “Sankararum Vainavamum”. The vashiShTha smR^iti likens such “scholarly” Vishnu-Vaishnava haters to donkeys carrying precious gems as load. Just as the precious gems do not improve the donkey’s state, the scholarship of such people is in vain:
“caturvedī ca yo vipro vāsudevaṃ na vindati ।
vedabhārabharākrāntaḥ sa vai brāhmaṇagardabhaḥ ॥”
“चतुर्वेदी च यो विप्रो वासुदेवं न विन्दति । वेदभारभराक्रान्तः स वै ब्राह्मणगर्दभः ॥” “chaturvedI cha yo vipro vAsudevaM na vindati |
vedabhArabharAkrAntaH sa vai brAhmaNagardabhaH ||”
[Vasishtha Smrti, proof]
Meaning: The brAhmaNa who is well-versed in the four Vedas, but undevoted to Vasudeva, is a Veda-carrying donkey that happens to be a brAhmaNa.
One can only wonder about the plight of modern day advaitins who hold such people as “scholars” and learn Vedanta and Shankara Bhashyas from them! They fail to follow even a basic instruction of Sri Shankara in Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya: “yatra deśe vāsudevanindā tatra vāso na kartavyaḥ” (one must not tolerate residence in a place where Lord vAsudeva is ridiculed).
It is also being alleged by some, especially the erstwhile Chandrasekhara Saraswathi of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt and their followers, that the vaiShNava mark (Urdhva puNDra/thirumaN/nAmam) is an invention of Ramanuja, and that all vaidikas including Vishnu devotees wore tripuNDra/bhasma mark of the Shaivas originally:
“The practice of wearing 'nAmam' and in that, wearing with 'pAdham' and also with out it came in to vogue due to Vaishnava AchAryAs, who came later [*than Shankara*] is known from their guru parampara stories themselves, as retold by vaishnavAs. Later, when a separate religion and a sub sect were established based on Vishnu as the sole presiding deity, it became a necessity to give a new identity to the converts of this faith.
Similarly, 'gOpi chandhan' and 'chAndhu' were employed by mAdhwAs, when their new 'sampradhAyam' came into existence as a separate (social) group. For those, who didn't choose to follow any of these new faiths but continued to practice the original vEdic path as advocated by BhaghavadpAdhA, no new names such as vaishnavA or mAdhwA were given. The same old title, smArthAs, continued. Similarly, the practice - advocated by vEdAs from the very beginning and employed from generation to generation - of wearing vibhUthi (basma dhAranam) stayed back with smArthAs. A vEdic mantra for recitation exists, only for mixing vibhUthi with water and smearing.
Though a wrong impression that smArthAs are saivaites as they wear vibhUthi, has gained currency in present days, it can be said that, in reality the practice of vibhUthi dhAranam of smArthAs has got nothing to do with Shiva; but is based on its vEdic roots.
Before the establishment of vishistAdvaitam as a separate sampradhAyam by srI RamAnujar, even the vaidhIkAs who worshipped Vishnu with all devotion as their ishta dEvathA would have been smArthAs wearing only bhasmA. A SanyAsi does not have the right to conduct yajnas. Hence, he can not conduct a hOma and wear the resulting basmA. Even then, he will sport the vibhUthi.”
(See here. Original Tamil text here)
The purpose of such statements is to delude the masses by portraying Ramanuja and Madhva as petty minded since they allegedly changed a ‘long-established’ tradition. It also serves to diminish Vishnu bhakti among them, by claiming that Urdhva puNDra, an indispensable anga of Vishnu-bhakti, is a later-day invention arising out of political convenience. Such is the degradation of this age, that individuals who mislead the lay populace are given high praise like “walking god” by popular railway stand/corner shop “bhakti” magazines!!
Are Vaishnava practices inventions of Ramanuja/Madhva and the practices of kamakoti/sringeri mutt followers alone recommended by shAstras since time immemorial? We shall show in this article how the truth is in fact the opposite. First, we shall examine the yati dharma of ancient advaitins. Next, we shall show how UrdhvapuNDra alone is sanctioned in the shAstras, and not tripuNDra. Finally, we shall show that smR^itis recommend the worship of Vishnu as Supreme daily for vaidika brAhmaNas.

Vaishnavism as an essential part of yatidharma among Advaitins

We see today that most advaitic renunciates (yatis/sannyAsis) wear tripuNDra with bhasma and rudrAkSha, and perform pUja to Rudra primarily.
In contrast, the advaitic saint shrI vishveshvara sarasvati (15th/16th century), the preceptor of madhusUdana sarasvati, has shown that Vishnu Bhakti and Vaishnava conduct is essential for a yati, in his work “yati-dharma-saMgraha”. He has quoted from many works that he considered pramANas for yati dharma.
The highlights are:
  1. Yatis should wear UrdhvapuNDra.
  2. Yatis should be understood as Narayana in pratyakSha form.
  3. Pooja is primarily for Vishnu and Shiva; the reason is explicitly stated: The latter gives jnAna, and the former gives liberation.
  4. Sannyasashrama is basically offering oneself to the feet of Vishnu.
  5. Meditation on saguNa brahman is with Vishnu’s form.
  6. Vishnu is to be understood as the praNava-svarUpa, and hence OmkAra japa has to be done with this understanding.
In many places, the author also says “thus is the opinion of those who are well-versed in the sampradAya”, meaning it is a long-established tradition in advaita, prior to hijack by shaivas.
MadhusUdana sarasvati, his preceptor vishveshvara sarasvatI, and the likes of Maheshvara Tirtha etc. appear to have been a part of the last remaining flag-bearers of the original Shankara tradition. Of course, it has now been overrun by anti-vaiShNava pro-shaiva forces that contradict Shankara’s position on Vishnu in prasthAna trayI bhAShyas.
Let us shortly discuss the relevant portions of this work to see crystal-clear evidence of the above.
As part of the preparations by a Brahmin entering sannyAsAshrama, one must perform prayers to Vishnu. Yama smR^iti is quoted as shown below (proof). It is said that a renunciate has no refuge other than Lord Vishnu. In this prayer, the supremacy of Vishnu is quite apparent:
“dattvā toyāñjaliṃ vipro bhaktyā saṃprārthayeddharim ।
sarvadevatātmake toye toyāhutimahaṃ hare ॥
dattvā sarvaiṣaṇāṃ tyaktvā yuṣmaccaraṇamāgataḥ ।
trāhi māṃ sarvalokeśa gatiranyā na vidyate ॥
saṃnyastaṃ me jagannātha pāhi māṃ madhusūdana ।
trāhi māṃ sarvadeveśa vāsudeva sanātana ॥
saṃnyastaṃ me jagadyone puṇḍarīkākṣa mokṣada ।
ahaṃ sarvābhayaṃ dattvā bhūtānāṃ parameśvara ॥
yuṣmaccaraṇamāpannastrāhi māṃ puruṣottama ॥”
“दत्त्वा तोयाञ्जलिं विप्रो भक्त्या संप्रार्थयेद्धरिम् । सर्वदेवतात्मके तोये तोयाहुतिमहं हरे ॥
दत्त्वा सर्वैषणां त्यक्त्वा युष्मच्चरणमागतः । त्राहि मां सर्वलोकेश गतिरन्या न विद्यते ॥
संन्यस्तं मे जगन्नाथ पाहि मां मधुसूदन । त्राहि मां सर्वदेवेश वासुदेव सनातन ॥
संन्यस्तं मे जगद्योने पुण्डरीकाक्ष मोक्षद । अहं सर्वाभयं दत्त्वा भूतानां परमेश्वर ॥
युष्मच्चरणमापन्नस्त्राहि मां पुरुषोत्तम ॥”
“dattvA toyA~njaliM vipro bhaktyA saMprArthayeddharim |
sarvadevatAtmake toye toyAhutimahaM hare ||
dattvA sarvaiShaNAM tyaktvA yuShmachcharaNamAgataH |
trAhi mAM sarvalokesha gatiranyA na vidyate ||
saMnyastaM me jagannAtha pAhi mAM madhusUdana |
trAhi mAM sarvadevesha vAsudeva sanAtana ||
saMnyastaM me jagadyone puNDarIkAkSha mokShada |
ahaM sarvAbhayaM dattvA bhUtAnAM parameshvara ||
yuShmachcharaNamApannastrAhi mAM puruShottama ||”
Meaning: After giving anjali with water, the brAhmaNa entering sannyAsa should perform well the worship of Vishnu with devotion, saying “O Hari! In the water that is of the form of all devatAs, I offer the oblation of water. Having offered, giving up all desires, I have come to your feet for refuge. Protect me, O Lord of all worlds! There is no other path. O JagannAtha! Protect me, who has given up everything. O Madhusudana!  Lord of all devatas! Vasudeva! The Eternal One! Origin of all worlds! Lotus-eyed one! One who will grant liberation to me, a renunciate! Having granted beings protection in all ways, O Supreme Lord, I have attained your feet. Hence protect me, PuruShottama!
All this shows sannyAsis should be vaiShNavas.
In the daily conduct and duties (nityAcAra) of a yati, the author says one should perform bhasma snAna (cleansing the body with ashes), during which Lord Krishna should be meditated ( tato bhasmasnānaṃ kṛtvā vāsudevaṃ vicintayet, ततो भस्मस्नानं कृत्वा वासुदेवं विचिन्तयेत्, tato bhasmasnAnaM kRRitvA vAsudevaM vichintayet, proof). Moreover, the atharvashira upaniShad mantra “agniriti bhasma”, is prescribed here for bhasma snAna only. It is noted that the author interprets the purANic text “cintayet svātmāni īśānaṃ paraṃ jyotiḥ svarūpiṇam । eṣa pāśupato yogaḥ paśupāśavimuktaye ॥” “चिन्तयेत् स्वात्मानि ईशानं परं ज्योतिः स्वरूपिणम् । एष पाशुपतो योगः पशुपाशविमुक्तये ॥” “chintayet svAtmAni IshAnaM paraM jyotiH svarUpiNam | eSha pAshupato yogaH pashupAshavimuktaye ||” where shiva speaks as an injunction to meditate vAsudeva, based on the adjectives IshAna, paraM, jyotiHsvarUpI etc. This shows that the practice of citing atharvashira upaniShad for tripuNDra dhAraNa did not exist for this advaitic author.
Immediately after this, bathing with actual water is prescribed. From this too, we can infer that tripuNDra dhAraNa is not the intention of bhasma-snAna prescribed in smR^itis.
Snana should be performed with the understanding that it is Vishnu’s pAda-tIrtha. The following texts are quoted (proof):
pṛthivyāṃ yāni tīrthāni teṣāṃ snānasya yatphalam ।
viṣṇoḥ pādodakaṃ mūrdhnā dadhatsarvamāpnuyāt ॥
पृथिव्यां यानि तीर्थानि तेषां स्नानस्य यत्फलम् ।
विष्णोः पादोदकं मूर्ध्ना दधत्सर्वमाप्नुयात् ॥
pRRithivyAM yAni tIrthAni teShAM snAnasya yatphalam |
viShNoH pAdodakaM mUrdhnA dadhatsarvamApnuyAt ||
Meaning: The benefit of bathing in all puNya tIrthas on this earth is obtained by bearing viShNu’s pAda tIrtha (water collected after washing Vishnu’s feet) on one's own head
ayameva paro dharmastvidameva paraṃ tapaḥ ।
idameva paraṃ tīrthaṃ viṣṇupādāmbu yaḥ pibet ॥
sacaivāvabhṛthasnātaḥ sa ca gaṅgājalāplutaḥ ।
viṣṇupādodakaṃ kṛtvā śaṅkhe yaḥ snāti mānavaḥ ॥
अयमेव परो धर्मस्त्विदमेव परं तपः । इदमेव परं तीर्थं विष्णुपादाम्बु यः पिबेत् ॥
सचैवावभृथस्नातः स च गङ्गाजलाप्लुतः । विष्णुपादोदकं कृत्वा शङ्खे यः स्नाति मानवः ॥
ayameva paro dharmastvidameva paraM tapaH |
idameva paraM tIrthaM viShNupAdAmbu yaH pibet ||
sachaivAvabhRRithasnAtaH sa cha ga~NgAjalAplutaH |
viShNupAdodakaM kRRitvA sha~Nkhe yaH snAti mAnavaH ||
(skAnda purANa)
Meaning: Sipping the water endowed the touch of Vishnu’s feet is indeed is supreme dharma, it is indeed supreme austerity. It is indeed supreme purification. A man is considered as having done a purificatory bath only if he bathes with the waters of Vishnu’s feet collected in a conch shell. He is, in addition, considered to have immersed himself in River Ganga.
After that, UrdhvapuNDra alone is enjoined in three places in the body. The author quotes that “it is the opinion of those familiar with the sampradAya” ( tathā ca sampradāyavidaḥ तथा च सम्प्रदायविदः tathA cha sampradAyavidaH ) :
tata ācamya vidhivat prāṇāyāmānṣaḍācaret ।
ajñānakṛtahiṃsādipratyavāyanivṛttaye ॥
athordhvapuṇḍraṃ tarjanyā kuryātsthānatraye yatiḥ ।
prathamaṃ dhārayenmūrdhni praṇavasyādyamātrayā ॥
dvitīyayā lalāṭe tu hṛdaye ca tṛtīyayā ।
prāṇāyāmatrayaṃ kṛtvā ṛṣyādinyāsapūrvakam ।
praṇavārthānusaṃdhānaṃ pañcīkaraṇapūrvakam ।
तत आचम्य विधिवत् प्राणायामान्षडाचरेत् । अज्ञानकृतहिंसादिप्रत्यवायनिवृत्तये ॥
अथोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं तर्जन्या कुर्यात्स्थानत्रये यतिः । प्रथमं धारयेन्मूर्ध्नि प्रणवस्याद्यमात्रया ॥
द्वितीयया ललाटे तु हृदये च तृतीयया । प्राणायामत्रयं कृत्वा ऋष्यादिन्यासपूर्वकम् ।
प्रणवार्थानुसंधानं पञ्चीकरणपूर्वकम् ।
tata Achamya vidhivat prANAyAmAnShaDAcharet |
aj~nAnakRRitahiMsAdipratyavAyanivRRittaye ||
athordhvapuNDraM tarjanyA kuryAtsthAnatraye yatiH |
prathamaM dhArayenmUrdhni praNavasyAdyamAtrayA ||
dvitIyayA lalATe tu hRRidaye cha tRRitIyayA |
prANAyAmatrayaM kRRitvA RRiShyAdinyAsapUrvakam |
praNavArthAnusaMdhAnaM pa~nchIkaraNapUrvakam |
 (Proof: 1, 2)
Meaning: After that, having performed Achamana according to the rule, one should do six prANAyAmas. This is to atone for having inflicted injury to beings (such as tiny insects) unknowingly. Following that, a sannyAsi should wear the UrdhvapuNDra mark with the pointing finger in three places. The first is worn on the crown of the head, with the first mAtra of the praNava. The second one on the forehead, with the second mAtra of praNava. The third one on the chest, with the third mAtra of praNava. Having done prANAyAma thrice with the nyAsa of R^iShi, chandas, and devata, one should meditate on the meaning of OmkAra.
Note how the three UrdhvapuNDras are said to represent the three mAtras of praNava “Om” (a, u, and ma).
The present edition of the smR^itimuktAphalam changes this pramANa as follows, completely omitting the UrdhvapuNDra vidhi (proof): “tata ācamya vidhivat… nivṛttaye । puṇḍraṃ dhṛtvā tataḥ prāṇānāyamya nyāsapūrvakam । praṇavārthānusandhānaṃ pañcīkaraṇapūrvakam” “तत आचम्य विधिवत्… निवृत्तये । पुण्ड्रं धृत्वा ततः प्राणानायम्य न्यासपूर्वकम् । प्रणवार्थानुसन्धानं पञ्चीकरणपूर्वकम्” “tata Achamya vidhivat… nivRRittaye | puNDraM dhRRitvA tataH prANAnAyamya nyAsapUrvakam | praNavArthAnusandhAnaM pa~nchIkaraNapUrvakam” , in varNAshramakANDa, yatidharma prakaraNa. The aim seems to be to change “UrdhvapuNDram” with simply “puNDram”. One can only imagine why the author/editor felt the necessity for such a change.
Next, the japa of praNava followed by nyAsa, followed by meditation on Vishnu as saguNa brahman (proof) :
“praṇavaṃ tu japet paścāt prāṇāyāmatrayaṃ caret ॥
tato nyāsaṃ vidhāyāpsu padmamaṣṭadalaṃ likhet ।
saṃcintya saguṇaṃ viṣṇuṃ tatra pañcopacārataḥ ॥
saṃpūjya tarpayettatra tāreṇāṣṭottaraṃ śatam ।”
“प्रणवं तु जपेत् पश्चात् प्राणायामत्रयं चरेत् ॥ ततो न्यासं विधायाप्सु पद्ममष्टदलं लिखेत् ।
संचिन्त्य सगुणं विष्णुं तत्र पञ्चोपचारतः ॥ संपूज्य तर्पयेत्तत्र तारेणाष्टोत्तरं शतम् ।”
“praNavaM tu japet pashchAt prANAyAmatrayaM charet ||
tato nyAsaM vidhAyApsu padmamaShTadalaM likhet |
saMchintya saguNaM viShNuM tatra pa~nchopachArataH ||
saMpUjya tarpayettatra tAreNAShTottaraM shatam |”
Meaning: Afterwards, he should perform praNava japa and do prANAyAma thrice. In water, he should then perform nyAsa and draw an eight-petal lotus. After that, thinking of Vishnu endowed with attributes as saguNa (brahman) and worshipping him with five upacAras, he should perform tarpaNa 108 times.
After this, one must perform to pUjA to Vishnu, in the manner that the guru has advised (proof).
Some manuscripts of this work contain the statement that japa of praNava etc. should be dedicated to Vishnu (proof):
“oṃ puṇḍarīkākṣa viśvātmanmantramūrte janārdana ।
gṛhāṇemaṃ japaṃ nātha mama dīnasya śāśvata ॥” ityanena japam nivedayet ।
“ॐ पुण्डरीकाक्ष विश्वात्मन्मन्त्रमूर्ते जनार्दन ।
गृहाणेमं जपं नाथ मम दीनस्य शाश्वत ॥” इत्यनेन जपम् निवेदयेत् ।
“OM puNDarIkAkSha vishvAtmanmantramUrte janArdana |
gRRihANemaM japaM nAtha mama dInasya shAshvata ||” ityanena japam nivedayet |
Meaning: One should dedicate his japa in the following manner: “Om! Lotus-eyed one! Soul of the universe! One who has the vedic chants as His form! Janardana! Accept the japa of me who am poor, O Lord! Eternal One!”
The author then cites a nArada smR^iti verse, saying that “worship of devatas” enjoined refers to the worship of Shiva and Vishnu, the former for obtaining j~nAna and the latter for obtaining liberation. This is because it is enjoined so in shaunaka smR^iti, the author says:
nāradavacanam - नारदवचनम् - nAradavachanam-
“bhikṣāṭanaṃ japo dhyānaṃ snānaṃ śaucaṃ surārcanam ।
kartavyāni ṣaḍetāni yatīnāṃ nṛpadaṇḍavat॥”
“भिक्षाटनं जपो ध्यानं स्नानं शौचं सुरार्चनम् ।
कर्तव्यानि षडेतानि यतीनां नृपदण्डवत्॥”
“bhikShATanaM japo dhyAnaM snAnaM shauchaM surArchanam |
kartavyAni ShaDetAni yatInAM nRRipadaNDavat||”
surārcanamityanena viṣṇoḥ śivasyārcanamucyate । tayoreva jñānamokṣapradātṛtvāt । tathā ca śaunakaḥ -- वस्यार्चनमुच्यते । तयोरेव ज्ञानमोक्षप्रदातृत्वात् । तथा च शौनकः -- surArchanamityanena viShNoH shivasyArchanamuchyate | tayoreva j~nAnamokShapradAtRRitvAt | tathA cha shaunakaH --
“ārogyaṃ bhāskarāt iccet dhanam iccet hutāśanāt ।
jñānaṃ maheśvarāt iccet mokṣam iccet janārdanāt ॥”
“आरोग्यं भास्करात् इच्चेत् धनम् इच्चेत् हुताशनात् ।
ज्ञानं महेश्वरात् इच्चेत् मोक्षम् इच्चेत् जनार्दनात् ॥”
“ArogyaM bhAskarAt ichchet dhanam ichchet hutAshanAt |
j~nAnaM maheshvarAt ichchet mokSham ichchet janArdanAt ||”
Meaning: In nArada’s injunction that a yati should perform bhikShATana, japa, dhyAna, ritual bath, ritual cleansing, and archanam of sura-s, Vishnu and Shiva are meant by the word ‘sura’. This is due to the fact that they alone can grant j~nAna and mokSha. Thus says shaunaka: ‘one should ask sUrya devatA for health, agni for wealth, maheshvara (Rudra) for knowledge, and janArdana for liberation.’
This shows that only Lord Vishnu was considered granter of liberation from samsAra by the author.
The statement of kAtyAyana is also quoted here: “trikālam ekakālam vā pūjayet puruṣottamam” “त्रिकालम् एककालम् वा पूजयेत् पुरुषोत्तमम्” “trikAlam ekakAlam vA pUjayet puruShottamam” (thrice daily or even once, one should worship Sriman Narayana).
Vyasa’s statements are quoted next. These shlokas say that Hari should be worshipped with tulsi leaves and flowers. It also says that Shiva should be worshipped with the flowers of the mind (bhāvapuṣpa) or real flowers. Even so, the next shlokas single out Vishnu to extol His nirmAlya (garlands etc.), pAdodaka (water collected from feet), and neyvedya (prasAda food offered). See here for proof:
“viṣṇoḥ pādodakaṃ juṣṭaṃ naivedyasya ca bhakṣaṇam ।
nirmālyaṃ śirasā dhāryaṃ mahāpātakanāśanam ।”
“विष्णोः पादोदकं जुष्टं नैवेद्यस्य च भक्षणम् ।
निर्माल्यं शिरसा धार्यं महापातकनाशनम् ।”
“viShNoH pAdodakaM juShTaM naivedyasya cha bhakShaNam |
nirmAlyaM shirasA dhAryaM mahApAtakanAshanam |”
Meaning: The waters that wash the feet of Vishnu that are fit to be sipped, consuming what was offered as naivedya-prasAda, and nirmAlya (flowers etc.) that are to be borne on the head -- these are purifying and can save one from mahA pAtakas (grave sins).
Any defect arising out of incorrect pronunciation of mantras etc. can be annulled by Vaishnava mantras or simply worshipping Vishnu in one’s own mind:
yadi vāgyamalopaḥ syājjapādiṣu kathañcana ॥
vyāharedvaiṣṇavaṃ mantraṃ smaredvā viṣṇumavyayam ।
यदि वाग्यमलोपः स्याज्जपादिषु कथञ्चन ॥
व्याहरेद्वैष्णवं मन्त्रं स्मरेद्वा विष्णुमव्ययम् ।
yadi vAgyamalopaH syAjjapAdiShu katha~nchana ||
vyAharedvaiShNavaM mantraM smaredvA viShNumavyayam |
Meaning: Should there, by any means, a violation of pronunciation or sense-control in the performance of japa etc. occur, one should recite the vaiShNava mantra, or simply engage the mind in thinking of Vishnu.
Even sannyAsis should not perform any ritual bath after coming into contact with outcastes etc., if the latter were residing near Lord Vishnu’s temples out of desire to get His darshana:
kṛṣṇālaya samīpasthān kṛṣṇadarśanalālasān ॥
caṇḍālān patitān vrātyān spṛṣṭvā na snānamācaret ।
कृष्णालय समीपस्थान् कृष्णदर्शनलालसान् ॥
चण्डालान् पतितान् व्रात्यान् स्पृष्ट्वा न स्नानमाचरेत् ।
kRRiShNAlaya samIpasthAn kRRiShNadarshanalAlasAn ||
chaNDAlAn patitAn vrAtyAn spRRiShTvA na snAnamAcharet |
Meaning: One should not perform purificatory bath after touching outcastes, dvijas who have fallen from their status (due to violation of svadharma), or those such as vrAtyas (born of intermingling of varNas), if they are residing near Lord Vishnu’s temples out of desire to get His darshana.
There are many such statements in shAstras saying that a chaNDAla is to be respected if he is a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. We will see a couple more under the discussion of the UrdhvapuNDra mark. Compare this with statements in shAstras that one becomes unclean if he sees/touches shaivas, pAshupatas etc. irrespective of their caste  (we will detail them shortly), and that brAhmaNas who are not Vishnu’s devotees are chaNDAlas and brahmin-killers.
This shows the utkR^iShTatva (greatness) of the Vaishnava way and discourages shaivAgamas by showing their apakR^iShTatva (inferior nature).
Shlokas from pAdma purANa are next quoted to show that shAlagrAma worship yields liberation, while this is not possible with yaj~na, dAna, etc. It is said that those who perform shAlagrAma pUjA will reach vaikuNTha-bhuvana. One can read it in the last proof link. While all this is well known, what we have to remember is that our author is an advaitic sannyAsi.

In the section that deals with the bhikShA and the food that is fit to be consumed by yatis, the following shloka is quoted from an earlier work “yatidharma samuccaya” (proof):
“viṣṇoḥ naivedya saṃśuddhaṃ munibhir bhojyam ucyate ।
anyadevasya naivedyaṃ bhuktvā cāndrāyaṇaṃ caret ॥”
“viShNoH naivedya saMshuddhaM munibhiH bhojyam ucyate |
anyadevasya naivedyaM bhuktvA cAndrAyaNaM caret ||”
“विष्णोर्नैवेद्यसंशुद्धं मुनिभिर्भोज्यमुच्यते ।
अन्यदेवस्य नैवेद्यं भुक्त्वा चान्द्रायणं चरेत् ॥”
Meaning: The naivedya offered to Vishnu is extremely pure and fit to be consumed by sages. ****One must perform the expiatory rite of cAndrAyaNa on consuming the naivedya offered to other devatas****.

Next, in the prAyashcitta prakaraNa the various forms of prAyashcitta to atone for pApa karmas are elaborated. In the end, it is said that dhyAna is the highest form of prAyashcitta. The dhyAna on Vishnu removes all sins, it is said (proof):
“prāyaścitteṣu sarveṣu yaterdhyānaṃ viśiṣyate ।
praṇavasya japo vā'tha mūlamantrasya saṃsmṛtaḥ ॥
prādhānyaṃ śrūyate śrutyā praṇavasya japādiṣu ।
tasmātsarvaprayatnena praṇavaikaparo bhavet ॥
japājjñānāttathā dhyānānnānyadbhikṣostu śodhanam ।
tasmāttāni sadā kuryādyatiḥ śuddhyarthamātmanaḥ ॥
sarvapāpaprasakto'pi dhyāyannimiṣamacyutam ।
dvijastapasvī bhavati paṅktipāvana eva saḥ ॥
dhyānena sadṛśaṃ nāsti śodhanaṃ pāpakarmaṇām ।
śvapākeṣvapi bhuñjāno dhyāyī naivatu lipyate ॥
kṛṣṇānusmaraṇādeva pāpasaṃghātapañjaram ।
śatadhā bhedamāyāti girirvajrahato yathā ॥
yathā'gniruddhataśikhaḥ kakṣaṃ dahati sānilaḥ ।
tathā cittasthito viṣṇurnarāṇāṃ sarvakilbiṣam ॥
yathā viṣṇoḥ smṛteḥ sadyaḥ saṃkṣayaṃ yāti pātakam ।
tathā tannāśamabhyeti yadduḥkhaṃ vyādhito bhavet ॥
jñānahrade dhyānajale rāgadveṣamalāpahe ।
yaḥ snāti mānase tīrthe sa yāti paramāṃ gatim ॥
kalau pitrādidoṣādyo viṣayākṛṣṭamānasaḥ ।
kṛtvā'pi sakalaṃ pāpaṃ govindaṃ saṃsmarañcuciḥ ॥
śuciraprayato vā'pi sarvāvasthāṃ gato'pi vā ।
yaḥ smaret puṇḍarīkākṣaṃ sa bāhyābhyantaraḥ śuciḥ ॥
kalikalmaṣamatyugraṃ narakārtipradaṃ nṛṇām ।
prayāti vilayaṃ sadyaḥ sakṛdviṣṇorhi saṃsmṛteḥ ॥”
“prAyashchitteShu sarveShu yaterdhyAnaM vishiShyate |
praNavasya japo vA.atha mUlamantrasya saMsmRRitaH ||
prAdhAnyaM shrUyate shrutyA praNavasya japAdiShu |
tasmAtsarvaprayatnena praNavaikaparo bhavet ||
japAjj~nAnAttathA dhyAnAnnAnyadbhikShostu shodhanam |
tasmAttAni sadA kuryAdyatiH shuddhyarthamAtmanaH ||
sarvapApaprasakto.api dhyAyannimiShamachyutam |
dvijastapasvI bhavati pa~NktipAvana eva saH ||
dhyAnena sadRRishaM nAsti shodhanaM pApakarmaNAm |
shvapAkeShvapi bhu~njAno dhyAyI naivatu lipyate ||
kRRiShNAnusmaraNAdeva pApasaMghAtapa~njaram |
shatadhA bhedamAyAti girirvajrahato yathA ||
yathA.agniruddhatashikhaH kakShaM dahati sAnilaH |
tathA chittasthito viShNurnarANAM sarvakilbiSham ||
yathA viShNoH smRRiteH sadyaH saMkShayaM yAti pAtakam |
tathA tannAshamabhyeti yadduHkhaM vyAdhito bhavet ||
j~nAnahrade dhyAnajale rAgadveShamalApahe |
yaH snAti mAnase tIrthe sa yAti paramAM gatim ||
kalau pitrAdidoShAdyo viShayAkRRiShTamAnasaH |
kRRitvA.api sakalaM pApaM govindaM saMsmara~nchuchiH ||
shuchiraprayato vA.api sarvAvasthAM gato.api vA |
yaH smaret puNDarIkAkShaM sa bAhyAbhyantaraH shuchiH ||
kalikalmaShamatyugraM narakArtipradaM nRRiNAm |
prayAti vilayaM sadyaH sakRRidviShNorhi saMsmRRiteH ||”
“प्रायश्चित्तेषु सर्वेषु यतेर्ध्यानं विशिष्यते । प्रणवस्य जपो वाऽथ मूलमन्त्रस्य संस्मृतः ॥
प्राधान्यं श्रूयते श्रुत्या प्रणवस्य जपादिषु । तस्मात्सर्वप्रयत्नेन प्रणवैकपरो भवेत् ॥
जपाज्ज्ञानात्तथा ध्यानान्नान्यद्भिक्षोस्तु शोधनम् । तस्मात्तानि सदा कुर्याद्यतिः शुद्ध्यर्थमात्मनः ॥
सर्वपापप्रसक्तोऽपि ध्यायन्निमिषमच्युतम् । द्विजस्तपस्वी भवति पङ्क्तिपावन एव सः ॥
ध्यानेन सदृशं नास्ति शोधनं पापकर्मणाम् । श्वपाकेष्वपि भुञ्जानो ध्यायी नैवतु लिप्यते ॥
कृष्णानुस्मरणादेव पापसंघातपञ्जरम् । शतधा भेदमायाति गिरिर्वज्रहतो यथा ॥
यथाऽग्निरुद्धतशिखः कक्षं दहति सानिलः । तथा चित्तस्थितो विष्णुर्नराणां सर्वकिल्बिषम् ॥
यथा विष्णोः स्मृतेः सद्यः संक्षयं याति पातकम् । तथा तन्नाशमभ्येति यद्दुःखं व्याधितो भवेत् ॥
ज्ञानह्रदे ध्यानजले रागद्वेषमलापहे । यः स्नाति मानसे तीर्थे स याति परमां गतिम् ॥
कलौ पित्रादिदोषाद्यो विषयाकृष्टमानसः । कृत्वाऽपि सकलं पापं गोविन्दं संस्मरञ्चुचिः ॥
शुचिरप्रयतो वाऽपि सर्वावस्थां गतोऽपि वा । यः स्मरेत् पुण्डरीकाक्षं स बाह्याभ्यन्तरः शुचिः ॥
कलिकल्मषमत्युग्रं नरकार्तिप्रदं नृणाम् । प्रयाति विलयं सद्यः सकृद्विष्णोर्हि संस्मृतेः ॥”
Meaning: Of all the prAyashcittas that a yati can do, dhyAna is the best. Equally good are praNava-japa, or remembrance of the mUla mantra. In the performance of japa etc., the praNava is given importance, by Vedic injunction. Hence, praNava is to be resorted to in all efforts. There is no better way in which a yati who is a bhikShu is purified, other than japa, j~nAna, and similarly dhyAna. Hence, for self-purification, these three should be performed always. Even if there is a connection to all sins, meditation or dhyAna on Sri Acyuta (Vishnu) just for a moment, a twice-born man becomes a man of austerities and becomes very pure indeed. For those who have committed sins, there is nothing comparable to j~nAna as a remedy. Even if he partakes food in the company of chaNDAlas, a performer of dhyAna is not touched. From remembering Lord Krishna alone, the cage formed by one’s collection of sinful actions becomes shattered to a hundred pieces, like a hill struck by thunderbolt. Just as a fire with its flame stirred up consumes vegetation, so also Lord Vishnu seated in the mind destroys all sins. Just as remembering Lord Vishnu causes the gravest sin to be destroyed, sorrows caused by diseases are also destroyed. Bathing in this tIrtha of the mind that is called “dhyAna water”, which is conducive to j~nAna and destroys rAgadveShas, the Highest Goal (puruShArtha) is attained. In the Kali yuga, one who is inflicted by pitR^i doShas, uncontrolled mind, and who is even a performer of all possible sins, is pure if he remembers Sri Govinda.
After this, many shlokas are quoted from various pramANas (pages starting 124). These shlokas show that meditation on Vishnu is the highest form of atonement. There is even a quote from skAnda purANa. The quote must be from a sAttvika portion of this purANa:
“abhakṣyabhakṣaṇātpāpamagamyāgamanādijam ।
naśyate nātra saṃdeho govindasya ca kīrtanāt ॥
govindetyuktamātreṇa helayā kalivardhanaḥ ।
pāpaugho vilayaṃ yāti dānamaśrotriye yathā ॥
tannāsti karmajaṃ loke vāgjaṃ mānasameva vā ।
yattu na kṣīyate pāpaṃ kalau govindakīrtanāt ॥”
“अभक्ष्यभक्षणात्पापमगम्यागमनादिजम् । नश्यते नात्र संदेहो गोविन्दस्य च कीर्तनात् ॥
गोविन्देत्युक्तमात्रेण हेलया कलिवर्धनः । पापौघो विलयं याति दानमश्रोत्रिये यथा ॥
तन्नास्ति कर्मजं लोके वाग्जं मानसमेव वा । यत्तु न क्षीयते पापं कलौ गोविन्दकीर्तनात् ॥”
“abhakShyabhakShaNAtpApamagamyAgamanAdijam |
nashyate nAtra saMdeho govindasya cha kIrtanAt ||
govindetyuktamAtreNa helayA kalivardhanaH |
pApaugho vilayaM yAti dAnamashrotriye yathA ||
tannAsti karmajaM loke vAgjaM mAnasameva vA |
yattu na kShIyate pApaM kalau govindakIrtanAt ||”
Meaning: The sins caused by consuming prohibited food and illicit sex are cleansed by praising (kIrtana) of Sri Govinda. Even if the name “Govinda” is uttered as a joke, the flood of sins that nourishes the Kali Purusha becomes destroyed. There is no such sin in the universe, caused either by action, speech or mind in the Kali Yuga, that does not get destroyed by singing and praising Sri Govinda.
The next section we will consider is titled “yatisevA prashaMsA”, where smR^itis are quoted in which offering of services to a sannyAsin is hailed greatly. Here again, vaiShNava AcAra is emphasized. Note that the author says yatis are to be considered as moving forms of Lord Vasudeva, just as vigraha mUrtis in temples are considered His static forms. It is also said that yatis undertake the Vishnu’s insignia  ( viṣṇuliṅgāśrito vipraḥ विष्णुलिङ्गाश्रितो विप्रः viShNuliN^gAshrito vipraH ).
“sākṣādviṣṇvākṛtirvipro namasyo'yaṃ surāsuraiḥ ।
varṇāśramaiḥ samastaiśca paramahaṃso dvijottamaḥ ॥
dve rūpe vāsudevasya calaṃ cācalameva ca ।
calaṃ saṃnyāsināṃ rūpamacalaṃ pratimādikam ॥
devatāpratimāṃ dṛṣṭvā yatiṃ dṛṣṭvaikadaṇḍinam ।
namaskāramakurvāṇo narakaṃ rauravaṃ vrajet ॥
viṣṇuliṅgāśritaṃ vipraṃ dṛṣṭvā caiva narādhamāḥ ।
sthitāḥ śayyāsane yāne na tyajanti vimohitāḥ ॥
abhyutthānaṃ namaskāraḥ prasannavadanādikam ।
karmaṇā manasā vācā ye na kurvanti satkriyām ॥
sadācāraparibhraṣṭāste pāpā yāntyadhogatim ।”
“साक्षाद्विष्ण्वाकृतिर्विप्रो नमस्योऽयं सुरासुरैः । वर्णाश्रमैः समस्तैश्च परमहंसो द्विजोत्तमः ॥
द्वे रूपे वासुदेवस्य चलं चाचलमेव च । चलं संन्यासिनां रूपमचलं प्रतिमादिकम् ॥
देवताप्रतिमां दृष्ट्वा यतिं दृष्ट्वैकदण्डिनम् । नमस्कारमकुर्वाणो नरकं रौरवं व्रजेत् ॥
विष्णुलिङ्गाश्रितं विप्रं दृष्ट्वा चैव नराधमाः । स्थिताः शय्यासने याने न त्यजन्ति विमोहिताः ॥
अभ्युत्थानं नमस्कारः प्रसन्नवदनादिकम् । कर्मणा मनसा वाचा ये न कुर्वन्ति सत्क्रियाम् ॥
सदाचारपरिभ्रष्टास्ते पापा यान्त्यधोगतिम् ।”
“sAkShAdviShNvAkRRitirvipro namasyo.ayaM surAsuraiH |
varNAshramaiH samastaishcha paramahaMso dvijottamaH ||
dve rUpe vAsudevasya chalaM chAchalameva cha |
chalaM saMnyAsinAM rUpamachalaM pratimAdikam ||
devatApratimAM dRRiShTvA yatiM dRRiShTvaikadaNDinam |
namaskAramakurvANo narakaM rauravaM vrajet ||
viShNuli~NgAshritaM vipraM dRRiShTvA chaiva narAdhamAH |
sthitAH shayyAsane yAne na tyajanti vimohitAH ||
abhyutthAnaM namaskAraH prasannavadanAdikam |
karmaNA manasA vAchA ye na kurvanti satkriyAm ||
sadAchAraparibhraShTAste pApA yAntyadhogatim |”
Meaning: The paramahamsa-yati, who is a brAhmaNa and is well-versed in the Vedas, is indeed Vishnu's body. He is the best of all brAhmaNas, and is to be worshiped by all in various varNas and Ashramas. Lord Vasudeva has two forms: moving and static. The movable form of the Lord is the paramahamsa yati. His static form exists as pratimA (deity forms). Upon seeing the arcA mUrti of the Lord, and upon seeing the single-staffed (ekadaNDI) yati, he who does not offer namaskAra will attain raurava naraka. Upon sighting a man learned in the Vedas, who has taken to Lord Vishnu’s insignia, lowest of men remain in their cots, seats, and vehicles (i.e., they should stop reclining, sitting, and traveling, and offer namaskAra on the ground as a mark of respect). Getting up from the seat, showing a pleasant countenance, and offering namaskAra -- he who does not do these three in mind, speech, and action, upon seeing a yati, will fall down from good conduct, become sinful, and attain inferior status (after death).
“sarveṣāmāśramāṇāṃ tu sanyāsī hyuttamāśramī ।
sa evātra namasyaḥ syādbhaktyā sanmārgavartibhiḥ ॥
brāhmiṣṭhaḥ paramo haṃsaḥ sākṣānnārāyaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ ।
yastaṃ saṃpūjayennityaṃ viṣṇustena prapūjitaḥ ॥
aṣṭākṣareṇa mantreṇa yatayastu namaskṛtāḥ ।
smṛtanārāyaṇā ghnanti prāṇināṃ pāpapañjaram ॥
aṣṭākṣareṇa mantreṇa namo nārāyaṇātmanā ।
namasyo bhaktibhāvena viṣṇurūpī yatiryataḥ ॥
yatra kutrāpi yatinaṃ dṛṣṭvā yo daṇḍavadbhuvi ।
na namediti kāyena kalpānte rauravādayaḥ ॥”
“सर्वेषामाश्रमाणां तु सन्यासी ह्युत्तमाश्रमी । स एवात्र नमस्यः स्याद्भक्त्या सन्मार्गवर्तिभिः ॥
ब्राह्मिष्ठः परमो हंसः साक्षान्नारायणः स्मृतः । यस्तं संपूजयेन्नित्यं विष्णुस्तेन प्रपूजितः ॥
अष्टाक्षरेण मन्त्रेण यतयस्तु नमस्कृताः । स्मृतनारायणा घ्नन्ति प्राणिनां पापपञ्जरम् ॥
अष्टाक्षरेण मन्त्रेण नमो नारायणात्मना । नमस्यो भक्तिभावेन विष्णुरूपी यतिर्यतः ॥
यत्र कुत्रापि यतिनं दृष्ट्वा यो दण्डवद्भुवि । न नमेदिति कायेन कल्पान्ते रौरवादयः ॥”
“sarveShAmAshramANAM tu sanyAsI hyuttamAshramI |
sa evAtra namasyaH syAdbhaktyA sanmArgavartibhiH ||
brAhmiShThaH paramo haMsaH sAkShAnnArAyaNaH smRRitaH |
yastaM saMpUjayennityaM viShNustena prapUjitaH ||
aShTAkShareNa mantreNa yatayastu namaskRRitAH |
smRRitanArAyaNA ghnanti prANinAM pApapa~njaram ||
aShTAkShareNa mantreNa namo nArAyaNAtmanA |
namasyo bhaktibhAvena viShNurUpI yatiryataH ||
yatra kutrApi yatinaM dRRiShTvA yo daNDavadbhuvi |
na namediti kAyena kalpAnte rauravAdayaH ||”
Meaning: Of all Ashramas, sannyAsI is the highest. He indeed is to be worshipped, with devotion, by those who follow the good path. The paramahaMsa who has taken to the Supreme Brahman, is indeed said to be Narayana himself. Whoever worships a yati, by them is Vishnu Himself worshipped. With the eight-lettered aShTAkShara mantra, a yati who has Narayana in his mind, removes the cage of sins of the beings (by whom he is worshipped thus). Because a yati, who is Lord Vishnu’s own form, is to be devoutly worshipped with the aShTAkShara mantra that contains “namo nArAyaNa”, one who does not worship him seeing him anywhere, attains naraka lokas such as raurava at the end of the kalpa.
Hence, this work shows that the sannyAsa sampradAya of advaita was Vaishnava originally.

The evidence of padmapAda

Having seen all the evidences from the last section, combined with the dharmashAstra evidences we will see later in this article, one does not even need any further confirmation that Shri Shankara never donned the bhasma-tripuNDra or any shaiva insignia, but only wore Urdhva puNDra and performed the worship of Vishnu alone as paramAtmA. Hence, the additional evidence we present here from Shankara and his direct disciple Padmapada himself, is just a feather in the cap to what is clearly established by other means. We just show them here for completion’s sake:
  1. Wherever an example of upAsana is given, Shri Shankara uses only “yathā śālagrāme hariḥ” “यथा शालग्रामे हरिः” “yathA shAlagrAme hariH” , “pratimādiṣu viṣṇudṛṣṭiryathā” “प्रतिमादिषु विष्णुदृष्टिर्यथा” “pratimAdiShu viShNudRRiShTiryathA” and similar phrases that mean worshipping Lord Vishnu in the shAlagrAma shilA/vigraha mUrti forms.
  2. padmapAda, in the introductory maN^gala shloka of his work pa~ncapAdikA, praises his AcArya shrI shaN^kara and contrasts his appearance with Rudra. It is shown here by the author and in the RujuvivaraNa and tattvadIpana commentaries, that Shankara did not wear bhasma-tripuNDra ( proof in page 147 of pdf file here):
nirastabhūtimanumārdhavigraham ।
vināvināyakamapūrvaśaṅkaram ॥”
निरस्तभूतिमनुमार्धविग्रहम् ।
विनाविनायकमपूर्वशङ्करम् ॥”
nirastabhUtimanumArdhavigraham |
vinAvinAyakamapUrvasha~Nkaram ||”
Meaning: I salute the new, incomparable Shankara, who is not surrounded by snakes (but by a following of renunciates), who is not donning ashes (and who has no material wealth), whose half is not umA (but whose half is logic), who is not fierce, who has no black marking (in his neck) (or, who has erased the mark of time i.e., sins), who is not accompanied by Vinayaka.
Here, the commentary RujuvivaraNam explains “nirastabhūtim” “निरस्तभूतिम्” “nirastabhUtim” as “bhasmarahitaṃ nirastaiśvaryaṃ vā” “भस्मरहितं निरस्तैश्वर्यं वा” “bhasmarahitaM nirastaishvaryaM vA” (without ashes, or without wealth). The commentator of tattvadIpana says first that the shloka as a whole distinguishes Shankara bhagavatpAda from Rudra even though they have the same name, by distinguishing their characteristics simultaneously. The commentator then says “vailakṣaṇyamāha … bhūtiḥ -- bhasitam, tadanuliptagātraḥ saḥ (rudraḥ) । ayaṃ (paramahaṃsaparāyaṇaḥ) tvaiśvaryalakṣaṇabhūtividhuraḥ” “वैलक्षण्यमाह … भूतिः -- भसितम्, तदनुलिप्तगात्रः सः (रुद्रः) । अयं (परमहंसपरायणः) त्वैश्वर्यलक्षणभूतिविधुरः” “vailakShaNyamAha … bhUtiH -- bhasitam, tadanuliptagAtraH saH (rudraH) | ayaM (paramahaMsaparAyaNaH) tvaishvaryalakShaNabhUtividhuraH” confirming that Adi Shankara did not wear bhasma-tripuNDra.
The idea is this that both meanings are true. Unlike Rudra, Adi Shankara has no black mark on his neck AND also has erased sins. Unlike Rudra, Adi Shankara has no wealth as well as no ashes. So, one is the visible difference (no snakes, uma, ashes) and the other is the metaphorical difference in qualities elevating the guru over the deva. So, no detractor can claim that “nirastabhUti” only means one meaning and not the other, as it violates the actual purpose of the sloka which emphasizes difference of physical appearances as well.

General pramANas for UrdhvapuNDra and against bhasma tripuNDra dhAraNa

We have seen how kAmakoTi chandrasekharendra saraswati belitted the Urdhva-puNDra. Now, we shall refute this by showing the following proof:
(i) The Azhvars themselves have approved of the practice of wearing UrdhvapuNDra and chakra-dhAraNa (tApa mudrA).
(ii) Until the 15th/16th centuries, expert scholarly writers on Smriti texts, called Dharma Shastra Nibandhakas, have shown only the Urdhva puNDra to be worn by followers of the Vedas. For this, they have quoted many shruti/smrti and itihAsa/purANa texts as pramANa.
(iii) The above experts have not shown the existence of any option for tripuNDra/bhasma/vibhUti. Some have emphatically stated that tripuNDra etc. as against wearing UrdhvapuNDra is condemned in the shAstras. Others have not even discussed tripuNDra or the alleged pramANas for it in the recognised Vedic scriptures.  Thus it cannot be said that the Vedas, Kalpa Sutras, or dharma shAstras recommend tripuNDra.
(iv) Prior to the 15th/16th century, there is no evidence for bhasma-dhAraNa except in the Shaiva-Agamas, and in the writings of the Agamic Shaivas and Veerashaivas. Hence, tripuNDra is recommended only by Shaiva Agamas and Rajasa/Tamasa purANas.
(v) The Dharma Shastra Nibandhakas have also shown that the Shaiva Agamic texts, from which the practice of wearing bhasma is derived, have been specifically condemned by Smriti.
(vi) Padmapada shows that Shankara was not a bhasma-wearer, which should already be clear given (i) and (ii) and which was explained earlier.
(vii) How the practice of bhasma dhAraNa is likely to have been introduced among smArtas (a brief recap):
  • It is likely that later-day institutions, especially the Sringeri mutt has introduced the bhasma-dhAraNa practice among smArtas. The Sringeri mutt’s history has some connection with Lingayats and Veerashaivas.
  • Appayya Dikshita and others later introduced major changes in the yati-dharma of sannyAsis in the advaitic tradition, by furthering the cause of bhasma-dhAraNa among smArta brAhmaNas.
  • The Kanchi Mutt is likely to have furthered this cause with their writings and popularity.
The following Smrti Nibandha Granthas have been used as evidence in this article:
  • Apararka’s commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smrti, written around 12th Century.
  • vij~nAneshvara’s commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smrti, called “mitAkShara”, written around 12th Century.
  • Smrtyartha sAra of Sridharacharya, written around 12th/13th Century.
  • kR^iShNAmR^ita mahArNava of Sri Anandatirtha (madhvAcArya), 12th/13th Century.
  • Smrti chandrikA of Devana Bhatta, 13th Century.
  • Chaturvarga Chintamani of Hemadri, 14th Century.
    • Parashara Madhaviya of Madhavacharya (believed to be Vidyaranya in  his pUrvAshrama), 14th century.
  • Smrti Ratnakara of “vaidika sArvabhauma” Sri Venkatanatha, 15th Century. A Srivaishnava AcArya, known also as “kiDAmbi thOzhappar”, disciple of AdivAN shaTakopa jIyar.
  • Smrti muktAphalam of Vaidyanatha Dikshita, 16th/17th Century.
In addition, we have already covered:
  • Yati dharma samgraha of Vishveshvara Saraswati (guru of Madhusudana Saraswati), 15th/16th Century.
Except for Smrti Ratnakara-kAra and Sri Anandatirtha, no other author is either Srivaishnava and Madhva. Hence, those who look for “neutrality” from non-Vaishnava sources must make note of this.

UrdhvapuNDra and tApa mudrA in AzhvArs’ works

It is well known that Srivaishnavas wear the Urdhva puNDra mark and the tApa mudrA (conch and discus marks on their shoulder) administered by their AcArya. Both have been mentioned by the AzhvArs themselves, in their works. See below:
கவளக் கடாக்களி றட்டபிரான்திரு நாமத்தால்,
தவளப் பொடிக்கொண்டு நீரிட்டிடுமின் தணியுமே. (Thiruvaimozhi, 4.6.5)
Meaning: Chant the names of the Lord who killed the rutted elephant, and smear white mud on her forehead; her fever will subside
நீறுசெவ் வேயிடக் காணில் நெடுமால் அடியார் என் றோடும், (Thiruvaimozhi, 4.4.7)
Meaning: If a vertical mark with white clay is seen on their forehead, she runs to them saying “Vishnu’s devotees”!
நெற்றியுள்நின்றென் னையாளும் நிரைமலர்ப்பாதங்கள் (Thiruvaimozhi, 1.9.10)
Meaning: The Lord’s feet rule me from their location in my forehead.
திருப்பொலிந்த சேவடிஎஞ் சென்னியின் மேல்பொறித்தாய் (periyAzhvAr thirumozhi, 5.4.7)
Meaning: You imprinted your feet, accompanied by Mahalakshmi’s mark (as the red srichurnam line in between), on my forehead.
சிந்துரப் பொடிக்கொண்டு சென்னி யப்பித் திருநாம மிட்டங்கோ ரிலையந் தன்னால் (periyAzhvAr thirumozhi, 3.4.8)
Meaning: This cowherd boy, Krishna, wears a red line with the sindhUra mark accompanied by UrdhvapuNDram (thiru nAmam) drawn with a palm leaf.
Hence, to say that all Vishnu devotees wore tripuNDra before Ramanuja’s time is a bare-faced lie.
Additionally, tApa saMskAra (chakra dhAraNa -- impressing the mark of Vishnu’s chakra on the shoulders) has been mentioned by periyAzhvAr:
“என்னையும் என்னுடைமையையும்உஞ் சக்கரப்பொறியொற்றிக்கொண்டு நின்னருளே புரிந்திருந்தேன் இனிஎன் திருக்குறிப்பே.” (periyAzhvAr thirumozhi, 5.4.1)
Meaning: “O Damodara, most wise! My body and soul are branded with your discus emblem; I wait to receive your command. Pray what do you intend for me?”
Hence, all these practices existed among Vaidikas before the time of the Vaishnava AcAryas in question.

Evidence of Dharma shAstra nibandhakas

There are innumerable evidences from shruti vAkyas (Vedas) and maharShi vAkyas (in the form of smR^iti, itihAsa, and purANa) quoted by the above ancient authorities. We elaborate them below, and also indicate the source, as well as the persons who have quoted them.
shrI hArita ve~NkaTanAtha says in smR^iti ratnAkara that the UrdhvapuNDra is well known from hundreds of shruti/smR^iti statements. The following quotes from the shruti are given (see pages starting here). All three of them were already quoted previously by Sri Vedanta Desikan in saccarita rakShA:
“dhṛtordhvapuṇḍraḥ parameśitāraṃ nārāyaṇaṃ sāṅkhyayogādhigamyam ।
dhyātvā vimucyeta naraḥ samastaiḥ saṃsārapāśairiha ceti viṣṇum”
“धृतोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रः परमेशितारं नारायणं साङ्ख्ययोगाधिगम्यम् ।
ध्यात्वा विमुच्येत नरः समस्तैः संसारपाशैरिह चेति विष्णुम्”
“dhRRitordhvapuNDraH parameshitAraM nArAyaNaM sA~NkhyayogAdhigamyam |
dhyAtvA vimuchyeta naraH samastaiH saMsArapAshairiha cheti viShNum”
Meaning: One who wears the UrdhvapuNDra and meditates on the great controller nArAyaNa, Vishnu, who is known through sAMkhya and yoga (i.e., karma, j~nAna and bhakti), shall be liberated from all bondages of saMsAra.
“dhṛtordhvapuṇḍraḥ kṛtacakradhārī viṣṇuṃ paraṃ dhyāyati yo mahātmā । svareṇa mantreṇa sadā hṛdisthaṃ parātparaṃ yanmahato mahāntam ॥” “धृतोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रः कृतचक्रधारी विष्णुं परं ध्यायति यो महात्मा । स्वरेण मन्त्रेण सदा हृदिस्थं परात्परं यन्महतो महान्तम् ॥” “dhRRitordhvapuNDraH kRRitachakradhArI viShNuM paraM dhyAyati yo mahAtmA | svareNa mantreNa sadA hRRidisthaM parAtparaM yanmahato mahAntam ||” (kaTha shAkhA)
Meaning: A noble soul (is one who) wears the UrdhvapuNDra, having the mark of the sudarshana chakra on his shoulder, and meditates always on Vishnu situated in his own heart -- the Highest who is higher than the high, greater than the great -- using svara and mantra.
“dhṛtordhvapuṇḍraḥ kṛtacakralāñcano nārāyaṇaṃ pūjayati sma bhaktyā । arghyādibhiḥ pauruṣasūktamantraiḥ sa prāpnuyādviṣṇupadaṃ mahātmā ॥” “धृतोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रः कृतचक्रलाञ्चनो नारायणं पूजयति स्म भक्त्या । अर्घ्यादिभिः पौरुषसूक्तमन्त्रैः स प्राप्नुयाद्विष्णुपदं महात्मा ॥” “dhRRitordhvapuNDraH kRRitachakralA~nchano nArAyaNaM pUjayati sma bhaktyA | arghyAdibhiH pauruShasUktamantraiH sa prApnuyAdviShNupadaM mahAtmA ||” (atharvaNi shruti)
Meaning: The one who wears UrdhvapuNDra and is marked with the sudarshana chakra (in his shoulder) indeed worships nArAyaNa with great devotion. He offers arghya etc. and employs the mantras of the puruSha sUkta. Such a noble one obtains the place of Vishnu.
“hareḥ pādākṛtimātmano hitāya madhye cidramūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ yo dhārayati sa parasya priyo bhavati, sa puṇyabhāgbhavati, sa muktibhāgbhavati” “हरेः पादाकृतिमात्मनो हिताय मध्ये चिद्रमूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं यो धारयति स परस्य प्रियो भवति, स पुण्यभाग्भवति, स मुक्तिभाग्भवति” “hareH pAdAkRRitimAtmano hitAya madhye chidramUrdhvapuNDraM yo dhArayati sa parasya priyo bhavati, sa puNyabhAgbhavati, sa muktibhAgbhavati” (atharvaNi shruti)
Meaning: The one who wears the Urdhva-puNDra resembling the feet of Hari, with a gap in between, to benefit his own self, becomes pleasing to the Greatest (shrIman nArAyaNa), enjoys the fruits of good deeds, and enjoys liberation.
The last quote shows that the gap in the middle of the UrdhvapuNDra (where Srichurnam  is worn) is essential.
All these pramANas (in addition to several pramANas from smR^iti, itihAsa, and purANa) have been accepted by vaidyanAtha dIkShita as shruti pramANas. Hence, it is clear that vaidikas held that Vedas themselves provide support for Urdhva puNDra.
[If one accepts vaidyanAtha dIkShita’s work as a high authority of Smritis (it appears that the present-day shaiva-favoring smArtas do), at least they should say “both bhasma and UrdhvapuNDra were worn  by vaidikas from time immemorial, but vaiShNavas exclusively wear UrdhvapuNDra”, instead of spinning the story that Ramanuja and Madhva “invented new sect marks”! This just shows the anti-vaiShNava bigotry of the erstwhile kAmakoTi chandrasekharendra saraswati who even misrepresented dharma shAstra pramANas to the lay populace for their devious cause!]
There are other pramANas from Vedas (such as vAsudevopaniShad, quoted by Vaidyanatha dIkShita) for wearing Urdhva puNDra using gopIchandanam (a kind of soil found in places visited by gopis such as yamuna bank,  not to be confused with sandalwood paste). See here. Srivaishnava AcAryas have not quoted these upaniShads, not because they are opposed to gopI chandana, but because they considered the shrIvaiShNava mark to be the best of all Urdhva puNDras, while recognising others.
Let us now briefly take a look at earlier works on vaidika conduct.
A few nibandhaka authors such as shrIdharAcArya of smR^ityarthasAra simply say that one should wear daily the Urdhva-puNDra mark on his forehead with the clay from Ganga etc. immediately after snAna and wearing vastra:
“vastradvayaṃ dhṛtvā… dvirācamya gaṅgādimṛttikayordhvapuṇḍraṃ kuryāt । iti snānaprakaraṇam ।” “वस्त्रद्वयं धृत्वा… द्विराचम्य गङ्गादिमृत्तिकयोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं कुर्यात् । इति स्नानप्रकरणम् ।” “vastradvayaM dhRRitvA… dvirAchamya ga~NgAdimRRittikayordhvapuNDraM kuryAt | iti snAnaprakaraNam |” (proof available here)
Meaning: (Daily after bath, a twice-born should), after wearing two garments and performing Achamana twice, adorn the UrdhvapuNDra with the clay of Ganga river etc. Thus ends the snAna prakaraNa dealing with the morning bath ritual.
Note how the text does not say “otherwise, one may wear tripuNDra according to family practice”. This shows there was no practice among vaidikas in choosing bhasmadhAraNa over UrdhvapuNDra.
Even Devana Bhatta’s smR^iticandrikA talks about only Urdhva-puNDra after wearing vastra, even though the work talks about performing pUjA to both Vishnu and Shiva, and begins with namaskAras to vinAyaka and sarasvatI.
aparArka provides the following utterances of Vedic seers as pramANas for wearing Urdhva puNDra after snAna vastra-dhAraNa:
“ūrdhvapuṇḍro mṛdā śubhro lalāṭe yasya dṛśyate ।
caṇḍālo'pi sa śuddhātmā pūjya eva na saṃśayaḥ ॥”
“ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रो मृदा शुभ्रो ललाटे यस्य दृश्यते ।
चण्डालोऽपि स शुद्धात्मा पूज्य एव न संशयः ॥”
“UrdhvapuNDro mRRidA shubhro lalATe yasya dRRishyate |
chaNDAlo.api sa shuddhAtmA pUjya eva na saMshayaH ||”
(Satyavrata, quoted by aparArka , devaNabhaTTa , madhvacharya, and parashara-madhaviya)
Meaning: When the UrdhvapuNDra marked with clay, bright and beautiful in appearance, is seen on the forehead of anybody, he should be considered pure-souled and worshipped, though he may be a born outcaste. There should be no doubt about this.
“ādāya parayā bhaktyā gaṅgātīrodbhavāṃ mṛdam ।
yaścarcayati gātrāṇi tasya dharmo mahānbhavet ॥”
“आदाय परया भक्त्या गङ्गातीरोद्भवां मृदम् ।
यश्चर्चयति गात्राणि तस्य धर्मो महान्भवेत् ॥”
“AdAya parayA bhaktyA ga~NgAtIrodbhavAM mRRidam |
yashcharchayati gAtrANi tasya dharmo mahAnbhavet ||”
(Vyasa, quoted by aparArka)
Meaning: The conduct of one who procures with sublime devotion (para bhakti) the clay found on the banks of River Ganga and applies it on his body parts, becomes great.
Again, no discussion on tripuNDra or any other puNDra is seen in this work.
“jāhnavītīrasambhūtāṃ mṛdaṃ mūrdhnā bibharti yaḥ ।
bibharti rūpaṃ so'rkasya tamonāśāya kevalam ॥”
“जाह्नवीतीरसम्भूतां मृदं मूर्ध्ना बिभर्ति यः ।
बिभर्ति रूपं सोऽर्कस्य तमोनाशाय केवलम् ॥”
“jAhnavItIrasambhUtAM mRRidaM mUrdhnA bibharti yaH |
bibharti rUpaM so.arkasya tamonAshAya kevalam ||”
(Vyasa, quoted by devaNabhaTTa)
Meaning: One who wears on his head the clay found on the banks of River Ganga, indeed bears the form of the sun that destroys darkness.
The wearing of UrdhvapuNDra is also compulsory for performance of any Vaidika karma:
mantroktaṃ dhārayennityaṃ ūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ vinā tu tat ।
yatkarma kārayennityaṃ tatsarvaṃ niṣphalaṃ bhavet ॥
मन्त्रोक्तं धारयेन्नित्यं ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं विना तु तत् ।
यत्कर्म कारयेन्नित्यं तत्सर्वं निष्फलं भवेत् ॥
mantroktaM dhArayennityaM UrdhvapuNDraM vinA tu tat |
yatkarma kArayennityaM tatsarvaM niShphalaM bhavet ||
 (Satyavrata, quoted in parashara-madhaviya)
Meaning: The UrdhvapunDra must be worn while chanting Vedic mantras. Without it, whatever is performed becomes fruitless.
“jape home tathā dāne svādhyāye pitṛkarmaṇi । tatsarvaṃ naśyati kṣipraṃ ūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ vinākṛtam ॥” “जपे होमे तथा दाने स्वाध्याये पितृकर्मणि । तत्सर्वं नश्यति क्षिप्रं ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं विनाकृतम् ॥” “jape home tathA dAne svAdhyAye pitRRikarmaNi | tatsarvaM nashyati kShipraM UrdhvapuNDraM vinAkRRitam ||” - quote by hemAdri (in catur-varga-cintAmaNi), as pointed out by vaidyanAtha dIkShita
Meaning: Whatever is performed in japa, homa, dAna, svAdhyAya, and offering to the pitrus will soon become vain if done without Urdhva-puNDra dhAraNa.
“śrauta-smārta-kriyāḥ sarvā hy-ūrdhvapuṇḍram-akurvataḥ । jāyante viphalā brahman bādhitāśca bhavanti tāḥ ॥” “श्रौतस्मार्तक्रियाः सर्वा ह्यूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रमकुर्वतः । जायन्ते विफला ब्रह्मन् बाधिताश्च भवन्ति ताः ॥” “shrauta-smArta-kriyAH sarvA hyUrdhvapuNDram-akurvataH | jAyante viphalA brahman bAdhitAshcha bhavanti tAH ||” - quote from smR^iti candrikA, as noted by vaidyanAtha dIkShita
Meaning: Shrauta-smArta karmas performed without the Urdhva puNDra will become fruitless and annulled.
“sandhyākāle jape home svādhyāye pitṛtarpaṇe । śrāddhakāle viśeṣeṇa kartā bhoktā ca na tyajet ॥” “सन्ध्याकाले जपे होमे स्वाध्याये पितृतर्पणे । श्राद्धकाले विशेषेण कर्ता भोक्ता च न त्यजेत् ॥” “sandhyAkAle jape home svAdhyAye pitRRitarpaNe | shrAddhakAle visheSheNa kartA bhoktA cha na tyajet ||” - (unknown text, quoted by vaidyanAtha dIkShita)
Meaning: The performer and the receiver in all karmas, such as sandhyA, japa, homa, svAdhyAya, pitR^itarpaNa, and especially in shrAddha, must not avoid the Urdhva-puNDra.
Let us come back to the Smrti Ratnakara. Here is a beautiful and detailed exposition of the UrdhvapuNDra, found in brahmANDa purANa and noted by the author. This is a conversation between Sri Hari and Brahma, with the former speaking:
“ūrdhvapuṇḍrapramāṇāni dravyāṇhaṅgulibhedataḥ ।
varṇāni mantrabhedāṃśca pravakṣyāmi phalāni ca ॥
parvatāgre nadītīre mama kṣetre viśeṣataḥ ।
sindhutīre ca valmīke tulasīmūlamāśrite ॥
mṛda etāstu saṅgrāhyā varjayedanyamṛttikāḥ ।
śyāmaṃ śāntikaraṃ proktaṃ raktaṃ vaśyakaraṃ bhavet ॥
śrīkaraṃ pītamityāhuḥ vaiṣṇavaṃ śvetamucyate ।
aṅguṣṭhaḥ puṣṭidaḥ prokto madhyamāyuṣkaraṃ bhavet ॥
anāmikā'nnadā nityaṃ muktidā ca pradeśinī ।
etairaṅgulibhedastu kārayenna nakhaisspṛśet ॥
vartidīpākṛtiṃ cāpi veṇupatrākṛtiṃ tathā ।
padmasya mukulākāraṃ tathaiva kumudasya ca ॥
matsyakūrmākṛtiṃ vā'pi śaṅkhākāramataḥ param ।
daśāṅgulapramāṇaṃ taduttamottamamucyate ॥
navāṅgulaṃ madhyamaṃ syādaṣṭāṅgulamataḥ param ।
saptaṣaṭpañcabhiḥ puṇḍraṃ madhyamaṃ trividhaṃ smṛtam ॥
catustridvyaṅgulaṃ puṇḍraṃ kaniṣṭhaṃ trividhaṃ bhavet ।
lalāṭe keśavaṃ vidyānnārāyaṇamathodare ॥
mādhavaṃ hṛdi vinyasya govindaṃ kaṇṭhakūpake ।
udare dakṣiṇe pārśve viṣṇurityabhidhīyate ॥
tatpārśve bāhumadhye tu smarettu madhusūdanam ।
trivikramaṃ kaṇṭhadeśe vāme kukṣau tu vāmanam ॥
śrīdharaṃ bāhuke vāme hṛṣīkeśaṃ tu kaṇṭhake ।
pṛṣṭhe tu padmanābhaṃ tu kakuddāmodaraṃ smaret ॥
dvādaśaitāni nāmāni vāsudeveti mūrdhani ।
pūjākāle ca home ca sāyaṃprātassamāhitaḥ ॥
nāmānyuccārya vidhinā dhārayedūrdhvapuṇḍrakam ।
aśucirvā'pyanācāro vā manasā pāpamācaran ।
śucireva bhavennityamūrdhvapuṇḍrāṅkito naraḥ ॥
ūrdhvapuṇḍradharo martyo mriyate yatra kutracit ।
śvapāko'pi vimānastho mama loke mahīyate ॥”
“ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रप्रमाणानि द्रव्याण्हङ्गुलिभेदतः । वर्णानि मन्त्रभेदांश्च प्रवक्ष्यामि फलानि च ॥
पर्वताग्रे नदीतीरे मम क्षेत्रे विशेषतः । सिन्धुतीरे च वल्मीके तुलसीमूलमाश्रिते ॥
मृद एतास्तु सङ्ग्राह्या वर्जयेदन्यमृत्तिकाः । श्यामं शान्तिकरं प्रोक्तं रक्तं वश्यकरं भवेत् ॥
श्रीकरं पीतमित्याहुः वैष्णवं श्वेतमुच्यते । अङ्गुष्ठः पुष्टिदः प्रोक्तो मध्यमायुष्करं भवेत् ॥
अनामिकाऽन्नदा नित्यं मुक्तिदा च प्रदेशिनी । एतैरङ्गुलिभेदस्तु कारयेन्न नखैस्स्पृशेत् ॥
वर्तिदीपाकृतिं चापि वेणुपत्राकृतिं तथा । पद्मस्य मुकुलाकारं तथैव कुमुदस्य च ॥
मत्स्यकूर्माकृतिं वाऽपि शङ्खाकारमतः परम् । दशाङ्गुलप्रमाणं तदुत्तमोत्तममुच्यते ॥
नवाङ्गुलं मध्यमं स्यादष्टाङ्गुलमतः परम् । सप्तषट्पञ्चभिः पुण्ड्रं मध्यमं त्रिविधं स्मृतम् ॥
चतुस्त्रिद्व्यङ्गुलं पुण्ड्रं कनिष्ठं त्रिविधं भवेत् । ललाटे केशवं विद्यान्नारायणमथोदरे ॥
माधवं हृदि विन्यस्य गोविन्दं कण्ठकूपके । उदरे दक्षिणे पार्श्वे विष्णुरित्यभिधीयते ॥
तत्पार्श्वे बाहुमध्ये तु स्मरेत्तु मधुसूदनम् । त्रिविक्रमं कण्ठदेशे वामे कुक्षौ तु वामनम् ॥
श्रीधरं बाहुके वामे हृषीकेशं तु कण्ठके । पृष्ठे तु पद्मनाभं तु ककुद्दामोदरं स्मरेत् ॥
द्वादशैतानि नामानि वासुदेवेति मूर्धनि । पूजाकाले च होमे च सायंप्रातस्समाहितः ॥
नामान्युच्चार्य विधिना धारयेदूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रकम् । अशुचिर्वाऽप्यनाचारो वा मनसा पापमाचरन् । शुचिरेव भवेन्नित्यमूर्ध्वपुण्ड्राङ्कितो नरः ॥
ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रधरो मर्त्यो म्रियते यत्र कुत्रचित् । श्वपाकोऽपि विमानस्थो मम लोके महीयते ॥”
“UrdhvapuNDrapramANAni dravyANha~NgulibhedataH |
varNAni mantrabhedAMshcha pravakShyAmi phalAni cha ||
parvatAgre nadItIre mama kShetre visheShataH |
sindhutIre cha valmIke tulasImUlamAshrite ||
mRRida etAstu sa~NgrAhyA varjayedanyamRRittikAH |
shyAmaM shAntikaraM proktaM raktaM vashyakaraM bhavet ||
shrIkaraM pItamityAhuH vaiShNavaM shvetamuchyate |
a~NguShThaH puShTidaH prokto madhyamAyuShkaraM bhavet ||
anAmikA.annadA nityaM muktidA cha pradeshinI |
etaira~Ngulibhedastu kArayenna nakhaisspRRishet ||
vartidIpAkRRitiM chApi veNupatrAkRRitiM tathA |
padmasya mukulAkAraM tathaiva kumudasya cha ||
matsyakUrmAkRRitiM vA.api sha~NkhAkAramataH param |
dashA~NgulapramANaM taduttamottamamuchyate ||
navA~NgulaM madhyamaM syAdaShTA~NgulamataH param |
saptaShaTpa~nchabhiH puNDraM madhyamaM trividhaM smRRitam ||
chatustridvya~NgulaM puNDraM kaniShThaM trividhaM bhavet |
lalATe keshavaM vidyAnnArAyaNamathodare ||
mAdhavaM hRRidi vinyasya govindaM kaNThakUpake |
udare dakShiNe pArshve viShNurityabhidhIyate ||
tatpArshve bAhumadhye tu smarettu madhusUdanam |
trivikramaM kaNThadeshe vAme kukShau tu vAmanam ||
shrIdharaM bAhuke vAme hRRiShIkeshaM tu kaNThake |
pRRiShThe tu padmanAbhaM tu kakuddAmodaraM smaret ||
dvAdashaitAni nAmAni vAsudeveti mUrdhani |
pUjAkAle cha home cha sAyaMprAtassamAhitaH ||
nAmAnyuchchArya vidhinA dhArayedUrdhvapuNDrakam |
ashuchirvA.apyanAchAro vA manasA pApamAcharan |
shuchireva bhavennityamUrdhvapuNDrA~Nkito naraH ||
UrdhvapuNDradharo martyo mriyate yatra kutrachit |
shvapAko.api vimAnastho mama loke mahIyate ||”
(brahmANDa purANa, quoted by smR^iticandrikA, smR^iti ratnAkara, parashara-madhaviya, and smR^itimuktAphala. Last shloka quoted by madhvacharya.)
Meaning: I will tell you the various differences in Urdhva-puNDra in terms of measurement, ingredient, finger used in applying, color, mantra used, and the fruit. The clay found on hilltops, river banks, shore, ant-hill, adjacent to the roots of tulsi plants, and especially in my kShetras (like thirunArAyaNapuram etc.) should be procured (for this purpose). Other types of clay must be avoided. Black color gives peace, red color gives control over others, yellow gives wealth, and white color is said to be vaiShNava. (Applying with) the thumb gives nourishment/health, middle finger gives long life, the ring-finger gives (abundance of) food, and the forefinger gives liberation from samsAra (mukti). One should apply with these fingers without contact with the nails. The various shapes that are admitted include lamp flame, bamboo leaf, unopened lotus, unopened water-lily, fish-shaped, tortoise-shaped, and conch-shaped. The best of the best is one worn with 10 inches, 9 inches is said to be in the middle (of the rank) while 8 inches is better than that. Seven, 6, and 5 inches are said to be in the middle, while 4, 3, and 2 inches are said to be the lowest. The following bhagavannAmas should be chanted while applying for the following parts:
Forehead - keshava
Middle of abdomen - nArAyaNa
Chest  - mAdhava
Hollow of the neck - govinda
Right side of abdomen - viShNu
Middle of right shoulder - madhusUdana
Right side of neck - trivikrama
Left side of abdomen - vAmana
Middle of left shoulder - shrIdhara
Left side of neck - hR^iShIkesha
Back - padmanAbha
Back of neck - dAmodara
After these twelve names, one should apply on the head, with the nAma “vAsudeva”. During pUja and homa in the morning and evening, one should stay single-minded and apply UrdhvapuNDra according to these rules, chanting the aforementioned names. The man who wears UrdhvapuNDra daily becomes pure (externally and internally), though he may have previously been unclean, bad in conduct, and sinful in thoughts. The man who applies Urdhva-puNDra, wherever he leaves his body, will stay forever in my loka even if he is an outcaste.
The text says it is best for everyone to UrdhvapuNDra, since the above pramANa says that even outcastes can wear it and attain the highest bliss. In addition, it is shown that the Urdhva puNDra is enjoined everywhere, quoting the following:
“madārādhanakāle ca sadā yajñādikarmaṇi ।
avaśyaṃ dhārayedetadūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ dvijottamaḥ॥”
“मदाराधनकाले च सदा यज्ञादिकर्मणि ।
अवश्यं धारयेदेतदूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं द्विजोत्तमः॥”
“madArAdhanakAle cha sadA yaj~nAdikarmaNi |
avashyaM dhArayedetadUrdhvapuNDraM dvijottamaH||”
(brahmANda purANa)
Meaning: During the time of my ArAdhana, and in all rituals like yaj~nA, a brAhmaNa must always wear UrdhvapuNDram.
“homepūjādisamaye sāyaṃ prātaḥ samāhitaḥ ।
ūrdhvapuṇḍradharo martyo bhaveccuddho na cānyathā ॥”
“होमेपूजादिसमये सायं प्रातः समाहितः ।
ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रधरो मर्त्यो भवेच्चुद्धो न चान्यथा ॥”
“homepUjAdisamaye sAyaM prAtaH samAhitaH |
UrdhvapuNDradharo martyo bhavechchuddho na chAnyathA ||”
(bodhayana smR^iti)
Meaning: Other than wearing UrdhvapuNDra, a man cannot be considered clean during homa, pUja, etc. in the morning and in the evening.
Not wearing UrdhvapuNDra results in vaidika karmas becoming fruitless, say various pramANas, quoted by smR^iti ratnAkara:
“śrautasmārtakriyāḥ sarva hyūrdhvapuṇḍramakurvataḥ ।
jāyante viphalā brahman bādhitāśca bhavanti tāḥ ॥”
“श्रौतस्मार्तक्रियाः सर्व ह्यूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रमकुर्वतः ।
जायन्ते विफला ब्रह्मन् बाधिताश्च भवन्ति ताः ॥”
“shrautasmArtakriyAH sarva hyUrdhvapuNDramakurvataH |
jAyante viphalA brahman bAdhitAshcha bhavanti tAH ||”
(brahmANDa purANa)
Meaning: The various Vedic rites enjoined in shruti and smR^iti will become fruitless and impeded, O Brahman, if performed without UrdhvapuNDra.
“sarve bhavanti viphalā ūrdhvapuṇḍravinākṛtāḥ ।
draṣṭavyaṃ naiva tatkāryaṃ śmaśānasadṛśaṃ smṛtam ॥”
“सर्वे भवन्ति विफला ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रविनाकृताः ।
द्रष्टव्यं नैव तत्कार्यं श्मशानसदृशं स्मृतम् ॥”
“sarve bhavanti viphalA UrdhvapuNDravinAkRRitAH |
draShTavyaM naiva tatkAryaM shmashAnasadRRishaM smRRitam ||”
Meaning: All rites performed without Urdhva puNDra will become fruitless. Such performances should not be seen, for they are known to be equivalent to a cremation ground.
“ūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ vinā yastu vartate puruṣādhamaḥ ।
vedavedāntaviccāpi sa vai puruṣataskaraḥ ॥”
“ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं विना यस्तु वर्तते पुरुषाधमः ।
वेदवेदान्तविच्चापि स वै पुरुषतस्करः ॥”
“UrdhvapuNDraM vinA yastu vartate puruShAdhamaH |
vedavedAntavichchApi sa vai puruShataskaraH ||”
Meaning: The low human being that wanders about without UrdhvapuNDra, though he may be an expert in Veda and Vedanta, is indeed (equal to) a robber.
“rudrārcanaṃ tripuṇḍraṃ ca yatpurāṇeṣu gīyate ।
kṣatraviṭśūdrajātīnāṃ netareṣāṃ taducyate ॥
“रुद्रार्चनं त्रिपुण्ड्रं च यत्पुराणेषु गीयते ।
क्षत्रविट्शूद्रजातीनां नेतरेषां तदुच्यते ॥
“rudrArchanaM tripuNDraM cha yatpurANeShu gIyate |
kShatraviTshUdrajAtInAM netareShAM taduchyate ||
“ūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ vinā yasya śarīraṃ bhavati dvija ।
taṃ dṛṣṭvā gagane sūryo nirīkṣyaḥ sādhubhiḥ sadā”
“ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं विना यस्य शरीरं भवति द्विज ।
तं दृष्ट्वा गगने सूर्यो निरीक्ष्यः साधुभिः सदा”
“UrdhvapuNDraM vinA yasya sharIraM bhavati dvija |
taM dRRiShTvA gagane sUryo nirIkShyaH sAdhubhiH sadA”
(vashiShTha, second shloka quoted by madhvAcArya)
Meaning: The worship of Rudra and the wearing of tripuNDra that is prescribed in the Puranas, is only intended for Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. It is not meaning for others. On looking at someone who does not wear UrdhvapuNDra on  his body, the wise men of good conduct should look at the sun in the sky (to purify themselves).
“tripuṇḍraṃ brāhmaṇo vidvān līlayāpi na dhārayet ।
dhārayetprayataḥ samyagūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ tu nityaśaḥ ॥”
“त्रिपुण्ड्रं ब्राह्मणो विद्वान् लीलयापि न धारयेत् ।
धारयेत्प्रयतः सम्यगूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं तु नित्यशः ॥”
“tripuNDraM brAhmaNo vidvAn lIlayApi na dhArayet |
dhArayetprayataH samyagUrdhvapuNDraM tu nityashaH ||”
(agniveshya gR^ihya, quoted also by smR^iti muktAphalam here)
Meaning: The learned brAhmaNa should not wear the tripuNDra even playfully as a joke. He should always strive to wear the UrdhvapuNDra in its proper form daily.
Similar pramANas have also been quoted by smR^iti muktAphalam.
All these pramANas are reflecting the message in mahAbhArata that brAhmaNas must be vaiShNavas, and that the fruits of the vaidika karmas performed by avaiShNavas are bound to be consumed by rAkShasas, as shown in the introduction section.
Even though the tripuNDra is said to be fit for shUdras etc. it does not mean that shUdras cannot wear UrdhvapuNDra. It is only meant as a statement of the greatness of UrdhvapuNDra over tripuNDra. Vaishnavas of all varNas should wear UrdhvapuNDra, according to these pramANas:
“sarvavarṇeṣu madbhaktāḥ kurvīrannūrdhvapuṇḍrakam ।
brāhmaṇāśca viśeṣeṇa japahomaparāyaṇāḥ ॥”
“सर्ववर्णेषु मद्भक्ताः कुर्वीरन्नूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रकम् ।
ब्राह्मणाश्च विशेषेण जपहोमपरायणाः ॥”
“sarvavarNeShu madbhaktAH kurvIrannUrdhvapuNDrakam |
brAhmaNAshcha visheSheNa japahomaparAyaNAH ||”
(brahmANDa purANa)
Meaning: My devotees, belonging to any of the varNas, should wear the UrdhvapuNDra. In particular, Brahmanas should wear it in performing Vedic rites like japa, homa, etc.
There are many more pramANas thus for Urdhva puNDra. The interested person can refer to works like smR^iti-ratnAkara for this. We shall not elaborate them here, out of concern for brevity.
For wearing shrIcUrNam (the reddish/yellowish line) in the middle of the Urdhva puNDra, smR^itiratnAkara quotes the following pramANas:
“abhiṣiktaṃ tu yaccūrṇaṃ viṣṇubimbe tu yo naraḥ ।
hāridraṃ dhārayennityaṃ so’śvamedhaphalaṃ labhet ॥”
“अभिषिक्तं तु यच्चूर्णं विष्णुबिम्बे तु यो नरः ।
हारिद्रं धारयेन्नित्यं सो’श्वमेधफलं लभेत् ॥”
“abhiShiktaM tu yachchUrNaM viShNubimbe tu yo naraH |
hAridraM dhArayennityaM so’shvamedhaphalaM labhet ||”
 (shrI viShNudharmottara)
Meaning: Wearing the turmeric powder daily that has been used to perform thirumanjanam (abhiSheka) on Lord Vishnu’s mUrti gives the fruits (puNya) of performing ashvamedha yAga.
“vāsudevāṅgasaṃspṛṣṭairniśācūrṇaistu padmaja ।
yaḥ karotyūrdhvapuṇḍraṃ sa viṣṇuloke mahīyate ॥”
“वासुदेवाङ्गसंस्पृष्टैर्निशाचूर्णैस्तु पद्मज ।
यः करोत्यूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रं स विष्णुलोके महीयते ॥”
“vAsudevA~NgasaMspRRiShTairnishAchUrNaistu padmaja |
yaH karotyUrdhvapuNDraM sa viShNuloke mahIyate ||”
(shrI pAdma purANa)
Meaning: The one who wears UrdhvapuNDra with the turmeric-based powder that has seen the touch of Vasudeva’s limbs, will prosper in Vishnuloka (shrIvaikuNTham beyond saMsAra maNDalam).

The implications behind UrdhvapuNDra and tripuNDra

The stalwart vidvAn shrI U. Ve. Krishnaswamy Iyengar discusses the following point in his book “Vishnuchitta Vijayam”, Vol 1, part 2: UrdhvapuNDra represents the Urdhvagati, which means upwards movement or the path towards liberation. There is shruti pramANa for this,  in the kaThopaniShad:
śataṃ caikā ca hṛdayasya nāḍyaḥ
tāsāṃ mūrdhānamabhinissṛtaikā
viṣvaṅṅanyā utkramaṇe bhavanti
शतं चैका च हृदयस्य नाड्यः
तासां मूर्धानमभिनिस्सृतैका
विष्वङ्ङन्या उत्क्रमणे भवन्ति
shataM chaikA cha hRRidayasya nADyaH
tAsAM mUrdhAnamabhinissRRitaikA
viShva~N~NanyA utkramaNe bhavanti
(kaTha upaniShad, 2.3.16)
Meaning: The nADIs (channels) that flow out from the heart are 101 in number. Among them, one of them flows towards the head. By resorting to that nADI (called suShumNA) and moving upwards, one does not return to death. The rest of the nADIs flow omnidirectionally and result in death (samsAra).
Tripundra is also known by the name tiryakpuNDra. It represents tiryaggati, which means horizontal movement or transmigration within samsAra (tirya~nc = horizontal). One may check any standard Sanskrit dictionary for the meanings of “Urdhvagati” and “tiryaggati”. This much is implied: only UrdhvapuNDra is suitable for those desirous of liberation, while tripuNDra is fit to be worn by others not desiring it, and instead desiring trivial finite results within samsAra. Since the Vedas’ primary purport is liberation, it is natural that it recommends only UrdhvapuNDra.

The alleged pramANas supporting tripuNDra dhAraNa for vaidikas

There are a few bogus ‘upaniShads’ included in the list of 108 in the ‘muktika upaniShad’, which in turn is bogus, containing verses that enjoin wearing bhasma as a daily ritual for dvijas. Since all of the nibandha texts listed above and dated before smR^iti muktAphala are silent on the issue of tripuNDra (except for smR^iti ratnAkara, which says tripuNDra dhAraNa is not fit for vaidikas), it does not need to be stated explicitly that these ‘upaniShads’ were never quoted in those works.
Smritiratnakara of Shri Vaidikasarvabhauma Harita Venkatanatha
After describing the shruti pramANas that we have seen in the previous sections, the Smriti Ratnakara says that none of the earlier great works on dharma-shAstras specify tripuNDra-dhAraNa, but only specify Urdhva puNDra. The discussion in this section is of prime importance, and hence we translate it here fully:
“evaṃ sa-sthāna-viśeṣa-vidhānāt puṇḍrāntara-niṣedhaḥ । tasya ca dhyāna-pūjā-ādi-karmāṅgatva-avagamāt-sarvakarmasu sarvaiḥ ūrdhvapuṇḍrameva dhāryam । vedavihitatvāt-idameva vaidikam । puṇḍrāntaraṃ tu tantra-siddhatvāt-tāntrikam । ato vaidikaiḥ vaidikameva kāryam । idaṃ ca upabrahmaṇa-śata-siddham” “एवं स-स्थान-विशेष-विधानात् पुण्ड्रान्तर-निषेधः । तस्य च ध्यान-पूजा-आदि-कर्माङ्गत्व-अवगमात्-सर्वकर्मसु सर्वैः ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रमेव धार्यम् । वेदविहितत्वात्-इदमेव वैदिकम् । पुण्ड्रान्तरं तु तन्त्र-सिद्धत्वात्-तान्त्रिकम् । अतो वैदिकैः वैदिकमेव कार्यम् । इदं च उपब्रह्मण-शत-सिद्धम्” “evaM sa-sthAna-visheSha-vidhAnAt puNDrAntara-niShedhaH | tasya cha dhyAna-pUjA-Adi-karmA~Ngatva-avagamAt-sarvakarmasu sarvaiH UrdhvapuNDrameva dhAryam | vedavihitatvAt-idameva vaidikam | puNDrAntaraM tu tantra-siddhatvAt-tAntrikam | ato vaidikaiH vaidikameva kAryam | idaM cha upabrahmaNa-shata-siddham”
Meaning: Since it (the mark to be worn on the forehead as UrdhvapuNDra) is mentioned (in the shruti) along with a specification of where it has to be worn in the body and in what shape (i.e., in the form of the Lord’s feet), the wearing of other marks (such as tripuNDra) is discouraged. Since it is also mentioned that dhyAna and pUjA of Vishnu is to be done with it, everyone should wear only the UrdhvapuNDra mark on their forehead in all karmas (i.e., vaidika karmas). Since the Vedas enjoin it, only UrdhvapuNDra is a Vedic mark. The other mark (tripuNDra, three horizontal lines with bhasma) is mentioned only in (shaiva) tantras and hence is to be considered only as tAntrika. Hence, Vaidikas should do only what is enjoined in the Vedas. This fact is also mentioned in hundreds of upa-bR^iMhaNas (i.e., itihAsa, purANa, and dharma shAstras).
The author then discusses the brahmANDa purANa text quoted by Smrti-Chandrika (as shown in the previous section), and says:
“atra mṛdeka-dravya-grahaṇa-vidhānāt dravyāntara-niṣedhaḥ; na  hi dravyāntarasya parvata-agra-ādi deśa-viśeṣa-kathanaṃ śyāmatva-ādikam vā sambhavati; na ca keśavādismaraṇamasti ācāra-abhāvāt, na hi śiraḥ-lalāṭādi-dvādaśa-sthāneṣu dravyāntareṇa puṇḍrāntara-dhāraṇaṃ vipraiḥ anyaiḥ vā kriyate, na hi evam asti adarśanāt avigīta-śiṣṭa-ācāra-abhāvāt ca, na caivaṃ dravyāntaraṃ puṇḍrāntaraṃ vā candrikādi-mahā-grantheṣu āhnika-vihitaṃ smṛtaṃ vā, “pūjākāle ca home ca” ityādiṣu ūrdhvapuṇḍrasya-eva karmāṅgatvaṃ suspaṣṭam ।” “अत्र मृदेक-द्रव्य-ग्रहण-विधानात् द्रव्यान्तर-निषेधः; न &न्ब्स्प्;हि द्रव्यान्तरस्य पर्वत-अग्र-आदि देश-विशेष-कथनं श्यामत्व-आदिकम् वा सम्भवति; न च केशवादिस्मरणमस्ति आचार-अभावात्, न हि शिरः-ललाटादि-द्वादश-स्थानेषु द्रव्यान्तरेण पुण्ड्रान्तर-धारणं विप्रैः अन्यैः वा क्रियते, न हि एवम् अस्ति अदर्शनात् अविगीत-शिष्ट-आचार-अभावात् च, न चैवं द्रव्यान्तरं पुण्ड्रान्तरं वा चन्द्रिकादि-महा-ग्रन्थेषु आह्निक-विहितं स्मृतं वा, “पूजाकाले च होमे च” इत्यादिषु ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्रस्य-एव कर्माङ्गत्वं सुस्पष्टम् ।” “atra mRRideka-dravya-grahaNa-vidhAnAt dravyAntara-niShedhaH; na  hi dravyAntarasya parvata-agra-Adi desha-visheSha-kathanaM shyAmatva-Adikam vA sambhavati; na cha keshavAdismaraNamasti AchAra-abhAvAt, na hi shiraH-lalATAdi-dvAdasha-sthAneShu dravyAntareNa puNDrAntara-dhAraNaM vipraiH anyaiH vA kriyate, na hi evam asti adarshanAt avigIta-shiShTa-AchAra-abhAvAt cha, na chaivaM dravyAntaraM puNDrAntaraM vA chandrikAdi-mahA-grantheShu Ahnika-vihitaM smRRitaM vA, “pUjAkAle cha home cha” ityAdiShu UrdhvapuNDrasya-eva karmA~NgatvaM suspaShTam |”
Meaning: In these verses, it is mentioned that the substance (for the mark on the forehead) should only be clay. Hence, other substances (such as bhasma etc.) are discouraged. Nor can one obtain these other substances from the mountain tops or river banks (as mentioned in these verses), nor can they be described with various colors such as black. In addition, the recitation of the nAmas keshava etc. is not admitted for tripuNDra etc since there is no such practice, and moreover no Vedic Brahmin or even anybody else wears any other marks with any other substance in twelve places of the body. Such a thing is neither seen nor is admitted in the practice of exemplary people (shiShTas). In addition, the wearing of no mark other than UrdhvapuNDra is recommended in the daily ritual for Vaidikas, in great works like Smrti-candrikA etc. Additionally, since the brahmANDa purANa verse says that it should be worn during pUjA and homa, it is amply clear that this mark alone is indispensable for the performance of all karmas.
What are these other authoritative “mahA-granthas” referred to in the above passage by smR^iti ratnAkara? The answer is provided in the beginning of the work:
“vijñāneśvara-smṛtyarthasāra-smṛticandrikā-smṛtiratna-smṛtimādhavīya-akhaṇḍādarśa-smṛtisārasamuccaya-itihāsasamuccaya-ādi smṛti-granthebhyaḥ vacanaratnāni saṃgṛhya…” “विज्ञानेश्वर-स्मृत्यर्थसार-स्मृतिचन्द्रिका-स्मृतिरत्न-स्मृतिमाधवीय-अखण्डादर्श-स्मृतिसारसमुच्चय-इतिहाससमुच्चय-आदि स्मृति-ग्रन्थेभ्यः वचनरत्नानि संगृह्य…” “vij~nAneshvara-smRRityarthasAra-smRRitichandrikA-smRRitiratna-smRRitimAdhavIya-akhaNDAdarsha-smRRitisArasamuchchaya-itihAsasamuchchaya-Adi smRRiti-granthebhyaH vachanaratnAni saMgRRihya…”
Note that the first three are included in the list of texts we consulted, in the introduction section of this article.
The atharvashiras and bhasmadhAraNa -- an explanation
The only truly authentic shruti text quoted in support of bhasma dhAraNa tis the atharvashira upaniShad. As shown by Sri Ramanuja in Vedartha Samgraha, this upaniShad does not support Shiva supremacy. One can consult the same to be clarified.
On the other hand, it does mention bhasma-dhAraNa for the mumukShu. A clear reconciliation is given by Sri Vedanta Desikan in sat-charita-rakShA, as well as by smR^iti ratnAkara-kAra. We cannot take this as a general rule applicable everywhere. Quoting the Smriti ratnAkara, the logic is as follows:
“yatpunar-atharvaśirasi ‘agnirityādinā bhasma nimṛjya-aṅgāni saṃspṛśet’ ityanena bhasma-grahaṇam-uktam, tat-tu ‘vratam-etat pāśupatam’ iti tatra vihita-pāśupata-vratāṅgamiti prakaraṇe spaṣṭam । ataḥ sautrāmaṇyāṃ surā-grahaṇavat niyata-viṣayatvāt na anyasya na ca anyatra vā tat-prasaṅgaḥ । “यत्पुनरथर्वशिरसि ‘अग्निरित्यादिना भस्म निमृज्याङ्गानि संस्पृशेत्’ इत्यनेन भस्मग्रहणमुक्तम्, तत्तु ‘व्रतमेतत् पाशुपतम्’ इति तत्र विहितपाशुपतव्रताङ्गमिति प्रकरणे स्पष्टम् । अतः सौत्रामण्यां सुराग्रहणवत् नियतविषयत्वात् न अन्यस्य न च अन्यत्र वा तत्प्रसङ्गः । “yatpunar-atharvashirasi ‘agnirityAdinA bhasma nimRRijya-a~NgAni saMspRRishet’ ityanena bhasma-grahaNam-uktam, tat-tu ‘vratam-etat pAshupatam’ iti tatra vihita-pAshupata-vratA~Ngamiti prakaraNe spaShTam | ataH sautrAmaNyAM surA-grahaNavat niyata-viShayatvAt na anyasya na cha anyatra vA tat-prasa~NgaH |
Gist: The scope of this practice is limited to the pAshupata-vrata enjoined in that context as a brahma-vidyA (brahma-vidyAs are certain types of upAsanas recommended by the Upanishads, to be followed by bhakti-yogis. But there is no adhikArin for that today). The Upanishad itself says “vratam etat pAshupatam” thereby indicating the limitedness of the scope. If not, it would be possible to say that liquor is to be consumed by those in the Vedic fold, since there is also a sautrAmaNi yAga in which the intake of surA (a liquor) is mandatory. When it is obvious that it is not so, since liquor is prohibited by dharma-shAstras, the same should be the case with bhasma-dhAraNa.
“ataśca āgneyaṃ bhasmanā snānamiti ca pāśupataviṣayameva, jaṭitvena vāruṇasnānāyogāt । yadvā śarīra-asāmarthyādi-nibandhanena-eva gauṇasnāna-vidhānāt-nānyasya tatprasaktiḥ, na hi kāṃsyaśuddhi-hetutvena-uktasya bhasmanaḥ tāmrādi-śuddhi-hetutvam-api । “अतश्चाग्नेयं भस्मना स्नानमिति च पाशुपतविषयमेव, जटित्वेन वारुणस्नानायोगात् । यद्वा शरीरासामर्थ्यादिनिबन्धनेनैव गौणस्नानविधानान्नान्यस्य तत्प्रसक्तिः, न हि कांस्यशुद्धिहेतुत्वेनोक्तस्य भस्मनः ताम्रादिशुद्धिहेतुत्वमपि । “atashcha AgneyaM bhasmanA snAnamiti cha pAshupataviShayameva, jaTitvena vAruNasnAnAyogAt | yadvA sharIra-asAmarthyAdi-nibandhanena-eva gauNasnAna-vidhAnAt-nAnyasya tatprasaktiH, na hi kAMsyashuddhi-hetutvena-uktasya bhasmanaH tAmrAdi-shuddhi-hetutvam-api |
Gist: Coming to the point of bhasma-snAna recommended in shruti/smR^iti (‘Agneyam bhasmanA snAnam’), this is also given for those who undertake the pAshupata-vrata. In addition, it should also be taken as an option for those who, due to health reasons, are incapable of taking regular water-bath. Something given as a specific rule cannot be applied in another case (as in the case of ashes being used to clean bronze vessels, but not recommended for copper vessels).
The stalwart scholar Sri U. Ve. Krishnaswamy Iyengar asks us here to note the following explicit statement of Sri Krishna regarding atharva-siras in the Mahabharata:
atharvairasā caiva nityam ātharvaṇā dvijāḥ
stuvanti satataṃ ye māṃ te'pi bhāgavatāḥ smtāḥ
अथर्वैरसा चैव नित्यम् आथर्वणा द्विजाः
स्तुवन्ति सततं ये मां तेऽपि भागवताः स्म्ताः
atharvairasA chaiva nityam AtharvaNA dvijAH
stuvanti satataM ye mAM te.api bhAgavatAH smtAH
(14_004_3378 - 14_004_3379)
Meaning: (You must) know that those AtharvaNa brAhmaNas who chant the atharvashiras daily as part of their worship of Me (KrishNa) are also bhAgavatas, my devotees.
Note that Krishna clarifies two issues here:
1) He clearly states, as a matter of fact, that the atharvasiras is part of his worship (as opposed to other devas)
2) He also adds “te api bhAgavatAH” – “they are also my devotees”. Note the usage of “api”. It indicates that these atharva-siras upAsakAs are also his devotees, which means there is something that they do which may be regarded as unconventional and different from other devotees. This is nothing but the pAshupata vrAtins who have bhasma-dhAraNa as part of their injunctions.
There was no doubt in the first place as to whom the atharvasiras was directed towards for worship, since krishNa says that it is part of his daily worship in a nonchalant manner. However, there could have been a doubt as to whether those who worship krishNa this way are inferior as compared to other devotees. By the usage of “api”, krishNa says that these people are no lesser than the other devotees. The usage of “bhAgavatAH” shows that these devotees serve the Lord just like the others. The ashes are used in the worship of KrishNa only.
Just like some forms of the Lord accept Bilva and other offerings which are usually popular among other deities, this atharvasiras upAsaNa is a special case.
Other pramANas against bhasma dhAraNa
smR^iti-ratnAkara-kAra then says that is why the Smritis recommend ablution to cleanse oneself if touched by ashes:
‘dīpāgniṃ dīpatailaṃ ca bhasma cāsthi rajasvalām । etāni brāhmaṇaḥ spṛṣṭvā lokāyatika-nāstikān ॥ vikarmasthān dvijān-śūdrān savāsā jalam āviśet ।’ -- śaṅkha smṛti ‘दीपाग्निं दीपतैलं च भस्म चास्थि रजस्वलाम् । एतानि ब्राह्मणः स्पृष्ट्वा लोकायतिक-नास्तिकान् ॥ विकर्मस्थान् द्विजान्-शूद्रान् सवासा जलम् आविशेत् ।’ -- शङ्ख स्मृति ‘dIpAgniM dIpatailaM cha bhasma chAsthi rajasvalAm | etAni brAhmaNaH spRRiShTvA lokAyatika-nAstikAn || vikarmasthAn dvijAn-shUdrAn savAsA jalam Avishet |’ -- sha~Nkha smRRiti
Meaning: A brahmin should fully enter into water along with the clothes he was wearing, upon physical contact with one of the following -- flame of the lamp, lamp-oil, ashes, bones, and a woman in menses, atheists such as cArvAka/lokAyatikas, and any person of the four castes undertaking actions prohibited by shAstras.
‘keśa-bhasma-tuṣāṅgāra-kapāleṣu ca saṃsthitam (varjayet)’ -- yājñavalkya smṛti ‘केश-भस्म-तुषाङ्गार-कपालेषु च संस्थितम् (वर्जयेत्)’ -- याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृतौ ‘kesha-bhasma-tuShA~NgAra-kapAleShu cha saMsthitam (varjayet)’ -- yAj~navalkya smRRiti
Meaning: Things that have been placed in hair, ashes, chaff of grains, coal, and kapAla (skull vessel used by pAshupatas) should be avoided.
The author then states that vij~nAneshvara in mitAkShara commentary of the yAj~navalkya smrti states that ritual bath is enjoined thus, for the same reason:
‘śaivān pāśupatān spṛṣṭvā lokāyatika-nāstikān । vikarmasthān dvijān śūdrān savāsā jalamāviśet॥’ -- brahmāṇḍa purāṇa, ‘शैवान् पाशुपतान् स्पृष्ट्वा लोकायतिक-नास्तिकान् । विकर्मस्थान् द्विजान् शूद्रान् सवासा जलमाविशेत्॥’ -- ब्रह्माण्डपुराणे, ‘shaivAn pAshupatAn spRRiShTvA lokAyatika-nAstikAn | vikarmasthAn dvijAn shUdrAn savAsA jalamAvishet||’ -- brahmANDa purANa, quoted by vij~nAneshvara in mitākṣara, prāyaścittādhyāya, under verse 30. Also quoted by Sri Desikan in “pāñcarātrarakṣā”
Meaning: Upon coming into contact with shaivas, pAshupatas, atheists such as lokAyatikas and cArvAkas, and any person of the four castes undertaking actions prohibited by the shAstras, a person should enter into water with his clothing.
Hence, it is clear that dharmashAstras say one becomes impure by touching bhasma. This is the reason why one should only use the mR^ittikA (clay) as the ingredient for wearing UrdhvapuNDra. Some smR^itis say that white clay, sandalwood paste, or bhasma from agnihotra can be worn as UrdhvapuNDra. Others condemn bhasma as tAmasa dravya and praise the white clay as sAttvika dravya. The reconciliation given by the text is as follows: When white clay is not available, wearing UrdhvapuNDra with bhasma may be admitted as an inferior option. However, only clay should be used normally since we have to be consistent with other smR^itis that say touching bhasma results in impurity.
SmR^itirAtnAkara then quotes verses from Aditya purANa and shrI varAha purANa showing that those who wear tripuNDra with bhasma are cursed by Sage Gautama to be outside of the Vaidika fold:
‘tripuṇḍradhāriṇo nityaṃ bhasma-uddhūlana-tatparāḥ । bhaviṣyatha trayī-bāhyāḥ mithyājñāna-pralāpinaḥ’ ॥ -- āditya purāṇa ‘त्रिपुण्ड्रधारिणो नित्यं भस्म-उद्धूलन-तत्पराः । भविष्यथ त्रयीबाह्याः मिथ्याज्ञानप्रलापिनः’ ॥ -- आदित्यपुराणे ‘tripuNDradhAriNo nityaM bhasma-uddhUlana-tatparAH | bhaviShyatha trayI-bAhyAH mithyAj~nAna-pralApinaH’ || -- Aditya purANa
Meaning: You all who wear the bhasma-tripuNDra, observing the act of smearing themselves with ashes, will become outsiders to the Vedic fold, speaking false knowledge.
‘govadhyākāraṇaṃ mahyaṃ yāvat-paśyati yogavit । ṛṣīṇāṃ māyayā sarvamiti saṃcintya tatra vai ॥ śaśāpa tān jaṭā-bhasma-mithyāvrata-dharān tathā ।’ -- varāha purāṇa ‘गोवध्याकारणं मह्यं यावत्पश्यति योगवित् । ऋषीणां मायया सर्वमिति संचिन्त्य तत्र वै ॥ शशाप तान् जटाभस्ममिथ्याव्रतधरान् तथा ।’ -- वराहपुराणे ‘govadhyAkAraNaM mahyaM yAvat-pashyati yogavit | RRiShINAM mAyayA sarvamiti saMchintya tatra vai || shashApa tAn jaTA-bhasma-mithyAvrata-dharAn tathA |’ -- varAha purANa
Meaning: Gautama pondered over as to how he had become the cause of cow slaughter. He realized it to be the illusion created by the rSis  and cursed them to bear the appearance of matted locks, ashes, etc and in the future to be outside of the fold of the three vedas, thus ineligible for vedic rites.
Similar quotations were also shown by Sri ALavandAr in Agama prAmANya, as we have explained in the introduction section of the Rudra Gita (varAha puANa) article. We need not elaborate them again here.
Next, an objection is raised as follows. How come then, shAstra states that wearing of ashes cleanses sins, as in the quote below?
madyaṃ pītvā gurudārān ca gatvā steyaṃ kṛtvā brahmahatyāṃ ca kṛtvā । bhasmacchanno bhasmaśayyāṃ śayāno rudrādhyāyī mucyate sarvapāpaiḥ ॥ -- śātāpatīya मद्यं पीत्वा गुरुदारान् च गत्वा स्तेयं कृत्वा ब्रह्महत्यां च कृत्वा । भस्मच्छन्नो भस्मशय्यां शयानो रुद्राध्यायी मुच्यते सर्वपापैः ॥ -- शातापतीय madyaM pItvA gurudArAn cha gatvA steyaM kRRitvA brahmahatyAM cha kRRitvA | bhasmachChanno bhasmashayyAM shayAno rudrAdhyAyI muchyate sarvapApaiH || -- shAtApatIya
Meaning: On drinking liquor, illicit relation with the wife of one’s preceptor, stealing (gold etc.), killing a brAhman (brahmahatti doSha), one shall become purified of all sins by becoming covered in ashes, sleeping in a bed made of ashes, and chanting the Rudra adhyAya.
The answer is given as follows: This is a specific act of prAyashcitta prescribed for specific sins. Hence, it is not a general rule to follow in nityAcAra. This applies elsewhere also. The shAstra even prescribes taking hold of a donkey for a certain types of sinful acts. However, it is not followed as an AcAra since the shAstra also prescribes prAyashcitta rites for tainting oneself by the touch of a donkey.
At this point, a question may arise: But the chanting of ashes is prescribed along with chanting of rudra adhyAya. Does that not imply a connection to shiva worship? The answer is no. As we have proven in this blog, the rudra adhyAya only praises vishNu and is not related to Shiva. However, the purpose of chanting the rudra adhyAya is given in the satapatha brAhmaNa as follows (which has also been explained in the blog) – In order to wean the mind away from attachments, the satarudrIya is offered to the mind. Ie, by chanting the rudra adhyAya, one diverts the mind away from attachments and focuses his mind on Lakshmi Narasimha.
Since the prAyaschitta is for attachment to liquor, women, wealth, etc., it makes sense that the atonement is chanting rudra adhyAya to wean the mind away from such attachments. The wearing of ashes is also a form of atonement unrelated to the rudra adhyAya because it symbolizes poverty or a lack of wealth, which is obviously a relevant prayaschitta for improper material attachments.
The wearing of ashes symbolizes poverty because of the following reason: Ashes signify the destruction of the body upon death as the iSavasya Upanishad says: bhasmantam sariram. As the body is the vehicle for experiencing objects of enjoyment, the wearing of ashes on the body symbolises the “relinquishment” of the body and desire for such experiences, ie, detachment, which is the atonement prescribed here.
The wearing of ashes and rudra adhyAya are thus two different and unrelated components of the same prAyaschitta for different purposes. One (ashes) is for weaning away the mind from attachments, the other (rudra adhyAya) is for focusing the mind on vishNu.
In conclusion, the adhikAris for wearing ashes as prAyashcitta are those who have commited certain sins. Moreover, the adhikAra ceases once the atoning act is completed.
Aparaditya (Apararka) in yAj~navalkya smR^iti commentary:
At the outset, aparArka says that one should follow the dharma-shAstras and purANas that are in line with shruti since they earn the highest bliss, and that the shaiva/pAshupata Agamas are to be rejected because they were created for the purpose of delusion, temporary, and hence cannot earn the highest bliss to the aspirant.
To this end, he opens the argument by showing that only Vedas have been praised by Manu as the best means for this-worldly and other-worldly ends (proof):
“pitṛdevamanuṣyāṇāṃ vedaścakṣuḥ sanātanam ।
atarkyaṃ cāprameyaṃ ca vedaśāstramiti sthitiḥ ॥”
“पितृदेवमनुष्याणां वेदश्चक्षुः सनातनम् ।
अतर्क्यं चाप्रमेयं च वेदशास्त्रमिति स्थितिः ॥”
“pitRRidevamanuShyANAM vedashchakShuH sanAtanam |
atarkyaM chAprameyaM cha vedashAstramiti sthitiH ||”
ityādinā manvādibhiraihikāmutrikārthaprakṛṣṭasādhakatvaṃ tu vedasyoktaṃ, na śaivādiśāstrasya । pratyuta -- “ye vedamārganirmuktāḥ… raudraṃ śaucavivarjitam” ityādinā’gastyaṃ prati rudravacanena varāhapurāṇe tasya vimohakatvena vipralambhakatvameva pratipāditam । bhūyaśca tatraiva śrīrudraṃ prati janārdanavākyam -- “eṣa mohaṃ sṛjāmyāśu… tvaṃ ca rudra mahābāho… darśayitvā janaṃ sarvaṃ mohayāśu maheśvara” iti । इत्यादिना मन्वादिभिरैहिकामुत्रिकार्थप्रकृष्टसाधकत्वं तु वेदस्योक्तं, न शैवादिशास्त्रस्य । प्रत्युत -- “ये वेदमार्गनिर्मुक्ताः… रौद्रं शौचविवर्जितम्” इत्यादिना’गस्त्यं प्रति रुद्रवचनेन वराहपुराणे तस्य विमोहकत्वेन विप्रलम्भकत्वमेव प्रतिपादितम् । भूयश्च तत्रैव श्रीरुद्रं प्रति जनार्दनवाक्यम् -- “एष मोहं सृजाम्याशु… त्वं च रुद्र महाबाहो… दर्शयित्वा जनं सर्वं मोहयाशु महेश्वर” इति । ityAdinA manvAdibhiraihikAmutrikArthaprakRRiShTasAdhakatvaM tu vedasyoktaM, na shaivAdishAstrasya | pratyuta -- “ye vedamArganirmuktAH… raudraM shauchavivarjitam” ityAdinA’gastyaM prati rudravachanena varAhapurANe tasya vimohakatvena vipralambhakatvameva pratipAditam | bhUyashcha tatraiva shrIrudraM prati janArdanavAkyam -- “eSha mohaM sRRijAmyAshu… tvaM cha rudra mahAbAho… darshayitvA janaM sarvaM mohayAshu maheshvara” iti |
Translation: By the statement of Manu etc. that “the Veda is the eternal eye of pitR^is, devas, and humans; it is insurmountable by logic and immeasurable”, the position of being the best means for attaining this-worldly and other-worldly wealth is admitted for the Vedas, and not for the shaiva shAstras. Contrast this with Rudra (to Agastya) and Janardana (to Shri Rudra) say in the Varaha Purana (quoted below) that the pAshupata/shaiva shAstras were propagated for deluding the masses. This only shows that they are only capable of deceiving, rather than producing results.
The quotes provided by aparArka have already been dealt with in our previous article on the Rudra Gita of Varaha Purana here. We still reproduce them here as they differ slightly from the version we quoted in that article (proof):
“ye vedamārganirmuktāsteṣāṃ mohārthameva ca ।
siddhāntasaṃjñakaṃ pūrvaṃ mayā śāstraṃ pradarśitam ॥
paśuryo’paśubhāvasthaḥ sa yadā patito bhavet ।
tadā pāśupataṃ śāstraṃ jñāyate viśvamohakam ॥
mayaiva mohitāste hi bhaviṣyanto janā dvija ।
laulyārthinastu śāstrāṇi kariṣyanti kalau narāḥ ॥
niḥśvāsasaṃhitā yā hi lakṣamātraṃ pramāṇataḥ ।
saiva pāśupato yogo bhedāḥ pāśupatāstataḥ ॥
etayā vedamārgāderyadanyadiha jāyate ।
tatkṣudrakarma vijñeyaṃ raudraṃ śaucavivarjitam”
“ये वेदमार्गनिर्मुक्तास्तेषां मोहार्थमेव च । सिद्धान्तसंज्ञकं पूर्वं मया शास्त्रं प्रदर्शितम् ॥
पशुर्यो’पशुभावस्थः स यदा पतितो भवेत् । तदा पाशुपतं शास्त्रं ज्ञायते विश्वमोहकम् ॥
मयैव मोहितास्ते हि भविष्यन्तो जना द्विज । लौल्यार्थिनस्तु शास्त्राणि करिष्यन्ति कलौ नराः ॥
निःश्वाससंहिता या हि लक्षमात्रं प्रमाणतः । सैव पाशुपतो योगो भेदाः पाशुपतास्ततः ॥
एतया वेदमार्गादेर्यदन्यदिह जायते । तत्क्षुद्रकर्म विज्ञेयं रौद्रं शौचविवर्जितम्”
“ye vedamArganirmuktAsteShAM mohArthameva cha |
siddhAntasaMj~nakaM pUrvaM mayA shAstraM pradarshitam ||
pashuryo’pashubhAvasthaH sa yadA patito bhavet |
tadA pAshupataM shAstraM j~nAyate vishvamohakam ||
mayaiva mohitAste hi bhaviShyanto janA dvija |
laulyArthinastu shAstrANi kariShyanti kalau narAH ||
niHshvAsasaMhitA yA hi lakShamAtraM pramANataH |
saiva pAshupato yogo bhedAH pAshupatAstataH ||
etayA vedamArgAderyadanyadiha jAyate |
tatkShudrakarma vij~neyaM raudraM shauchavivarjitam”
Meaning: (Rudra says) ‘For the sole purpose that those who have debarred themselves from the Vedic path should be deluded, I had earlier revealed (and authored) the shAstra known by the name siddhAnta. The pAshupata shAstra, possessing the property of deluding the worlds, becomes known when the individual soul (being), falls down (degrades). O Brahmin! The people will become deluded by me alone (thus). In the Kali yuga, the (aforementioned) men (who are Veda bAhyas) who will lust for material desires will make new shAstras. The niHshvAsa saMhitA, measuring one lakh mAtras, is indeed called ‘pAshupata yoga’. The pAshupatAs are divided variously from it. By/owing to it (the niHshvAsa saMhitA), whatever is known to be outside of the Veda, is to be known as (producing) inferior activity, connected to Rudra, and devoid of purity.
“eṣa mohaṃ sṛjāmyāśu yo janaṃ mohayiṣyati ।
tvaṃ ca rudra mahābāho mohaśāstrāṇi kāraya ॥
alpāyāsaṃ darśayitvā phalaṃ dīrghaṃ pradarśaya ।
kuhakāścendrajālni viruddhācaraṇāni ca ।
darśayitvā janaṃ sarvaṃ mohayāśu maheśvara”
“एष मोहं सृजाम्याशु यो जनं मोहयिष्यति । त्वं च रुद्र महाबाहो मोहशास्त्राणि कारय ॥
अल्पायासं दर्शयित्वा फलं दीर्घं प्रदर्शय । कुहकाश्चेन्द्रजाल्नि विरुद्धाचरणानि च ।
दर्शयित्वा जनं सर्वं मोहयाशु महेश्वर”
“eSha mohaM sRRijAmyAshu yo janaM mohayiShyati |
tvaM cha rudra mahAbAho mohashAstrANi kAraya ||
alpAyAsaM darshayitvA phalaM dIrghaM pradarshaya |
kuhakAshchendrajAlni viruddhAcharaNAni cha |
darshayitvA janaM sarvaM mohayAshu maheshvara”
Meaning: (Lord Vishnu to Rudra) I will soon create and propagate delusion among people. You too, oh Rudra of strong arms, shall create texts that will delude the masses. Create such texts that enjoin frivolous activities as a means and promise long-lasting fruits. Showing trickery, illusion, and contradictory practices, delude without delay.
This shows even non-Srivaishnavas like aparArka, even before the time of mAdhva, considered shaivas to be outside the Vedic fold and considered portions such as Rudra Gita which provide crystal-clear clarity as pramANa.
aparArka also shows that those who have taken to shaivism are ineligible for vaidika karma (proof):
“dīkṣitasya ca vedoktaṃ śrāddhakarmātigarhitam ।
ityevaṃ vaidikaśrāddhakriyā nādīkṣitairapi ॥
dīkṣitānprati kartavyā dvayornirayadāyinī”
“दीक्षितस्य च वेदोक्तं श्राद्धकर्मातिगर्हितम् ।
इत्येवं वैदिकश्राद्धक्रिया नादीक्षितैरपि ॥
दीक्षितान्प्रति कर्तव्या द्वयोर्निरयदायिनी”
“dIkShitasya cha vedoktaM shrAddhakarmAtigarhitam |
ityevaM vaidikashrAddhakriyA nAdIkShitairapi ||
dIkShitAnprati kartavyA dvayornirayadAyinI”
ityādinā śaivaśāstrapratipannasya vaidikakarmakaraṇena narakadānādidoṣaprāpteḥ ।
Meaning: Because the shAstras say “dIkShitas (those who have taken shaiva dIkShA) have no adhikAra for performing shrAddha enjoined in the Vedas. Similarly, one who has not taken dIkShA should not perform vaidika shrAddha to one who is a dIkShita,” it is clear that one who has dedicated himself to Shaivite shAstras will attain hell if he performs vaidika karmas. (Hence, shaiva shAstras are not to be followed).
And similar to the quote of vij~nAneshvara, aparArka also says that touching shaivas or even looking at them results in impurity and quotes the following smR^iti vAkya (proof):
“kāpālikāḥ pāśupatāḥ śaivāśca saha kārukaiḥ ।
dṛṣṭāścedravimīkṣeta spṛṣṭāścetsnānamācaret ॥”
“कापालिकाः पाशुपताः शैवाश्च सह कारुकैः ।
दृष्टाश्चेद्रविमीक्षेत स्पृष्टाश्चेत्स्नानमाचरेत् ॥”
“kApAlikAH pAshupatAH shaivAshcha saha kArukaiH |
dRRiShTAshchedravimIkSheta spRRiShTAshchetsnAnamAcharet ||”
Meaning: On seeing kApAlikas, pAshupatas, shaivas, and kArukas, one should look at the sun. Upon touching them, one should bathe.
Smritimuktaphalam of Vaidyanatha Dikshita
Let us next take the second most common evidence given by modern-day shaiva-leaning smArtas for tripuNDra-dhAraNa, the smR^iti-muktAphalam text.
In the currently available edition of “smR^iti muktAphalam” (a.k.a. ‘vaidyanAtha dIkShitIyam’), a discussion on what is to be performed after daily bath is opened. It starts with “atha ūrdhvapuṇḍra dhāraṇa vidhiḥ” “अथ ऊर्ध्वपुण्ड्र धारण विधिः” “atha UrdhvapuNDra dhAraNa vidhiH” (now we shall describe the method to wear UrdhvapuNDra mark) and provides most of the quotes we have already seen in support of Urdhva puNDra dhAraNa shown by the earlier writers. This includes the Mahopanishad, kaTha shAkhA, and atharvaNa shruti verses we saw in the beginning of the previous section. This author even quotes a couple of verses showing that tripuNDra is to be rejected by vaidikas, and that shrAddha, homa, etc. performed without Urdhva puNDra become fruitless activities. Most of the evidences given there are corroborated by earlier authors. We have seen all this in the previous section.
Given all this, it is rather strange that in the later part of the section, there is a discussion on which puNDra to wear, and several texts are quoted supporting both UrdhvapuNDra and tripuNDra. There are several purported smR^iti texts quoted to show that tripuNDra is preferable and UrdhvapuNDra is to be shunned. None of the evidences provided are traceable in earlier works, as it is clear that smR^iticandrika, smR^ityarthasAra etc. make only UrdhvapuNDra compulsory.
The section then concludes saying “according to vedAntins, one supreme brahman appears as Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Indra, etc. Hence there is no need to argue which deity is superior and which mark to wear. It is advised that one should worship his favorite deity with the puNDra mark dear to that deity, without deprecating the other marks.”
It may be that the present edition of smR^itimuktAphalam may have been tampered with. When we say the text, we shall refer to the present print edition without necessarily blaming the original author. Whoever included the quotes on tripuNDra (whether it is vaidyanAtha dIkShita or some modern-day editor/publisher) appears to have been heartbroken by the fact that none of the earlier authorities on dharmashAstra authenticated tripuNDra-dhAraNa, and hence concocted new evidences, or endorsed evidences given by veerashaivas, fit to be considered spurious by vedAntins since they were considered veda-bAhyas in earlier times.
Let us look at other pramANas quoted by the author. He attributes a statement to bodhAyana gRihya sUtra, saying tripuNDra is to be worn by dvijas and saying tripuNDra’s greatness is extolled in the taittiriya upaniShad mantra “bhUtyai na pramaditavyam” where bhUti stands for vibhUti. The full statement alleged in bodhAyana sUtras is as follows:   “athāto dvijātīnām tripuṇḍradhāraṇam vyākhyāsyāmaḥ । bhūtyai na pramaditavyamiti vijñāyate ।” “अथातो द्विजातीनाम् त्रिपुण्ड्रधारणम् व्याख्यास्यामः । भूत्यै न प्रमदितव्यमिति विज्ञायते ।” “athAto dvijAtInAm tripuNDradhAraNam vyAkhyAsyAmaH | bhUtyai na pramaditavyamiti vij~nAyate |” To the objection that even  Shankara bhAShya interprets this statement as “one should not neglect aishvarym (wealth)”, the author says that when the above upabhR^iMhaNa of bodhAyana exists, it is more appropriate that the ‘bhUti’ here should refer only to bhasma tripuNDra dhAraNa: yadyapi bhāṣyakāreṇa… aiśvaryaparatayā vyākhyātaḥ tathāpi… bhasmatripuṇḍrapramāṇatayodāhṛtatvāt tadupabṛṃhaṇavākyānāṃ ca sattvāt bhūtiśabdasya bhasmaparatvameva yuktam. यद्यपि भाष्यकारेण… ऐश्वर्यपरतया व्याख्यातः तथापि… भस्मत्रिपुण्ड्रप्रमाणतयोदाहृतत्वात् तदुपबृंहणवाक्यानां च सत्त्वात् भूतिशब्दस्य भस्मपरत्वमेव युक्तम्. yadyapi bhAShyakAreNa… aishvaryaparatayA vyAkhyAtaH tathApi… bhasmatripuNDrapramANatayodAhRRitatvAt tadupabRRiMhaNavAkyAnAM cha sattvAt bhUtishabdasya bhasmaparatvameva yuktam. One can see  how ridiculous this gets. By saying so, the author is actually blaming shankara for missing out this ‘primary’ interpretation. He then condescendingly states that shankara’s interpretation can be admitted as a secondary interpretation: .॥ aiśvaryaparatayā vyākhyāne'pi neha kaścit virodhaḥ… tadapi vyākhyānāntaramastu .॥ ऐश्वर्यपरतया व्याख्यानेऽपि नेह कश्चित् विरोधः… तदपि व्याख्यानान्तरमस्तु .|| aishvaryaparatayA vyAkhyAne.api neha kashchit virodhaH… tadapi vyAkhyAnAntaramastu . The alleged pramANa goes on to describe how the bhasma for tripuNDra is procured. Proof is available here and here.
The author later quotes a statement allegedly in shAnkhAyana grihya sUtra extolling tripuNDra (proof).
We shall show why it is clear that both the bodhAyana and shAnkhAyana ‘pramANas’ are bogus. We have already seen that the smR^iti ratnAkara kAra notes that gR^ihya sUtra kAras have not enjoined the ashes from the agnihotra as the base for any type of puNDra. Both these passages likely taken from some shaiva manual and passed off as genuine gR^ihya sUtras. More proof below.
The fact is that this pramANa is nowhere to be found in any available edition of the bodhAyana grihya sUtras. S Subrahmanya shAstri, in his overenthusiasm to show that bhasma tripuNDra dhAraNa is encouraged by Rishis, adds this ‘pramANa’ as a footnote at Taittiriya bhAShya of shankara saying it occurs in bodhAyana grihya sUtra (proof). One can see how much of unwarranted zeal these modern-day Vishnu-hating ‘shAstris’ have for forcing things like tripuNDra etc even when the occasion does not demand it. This is the famous ‘stalwart’ who states in the same book that ‘IshAna’ in the several places where ’IshAno bhUtabhavyasya’ occurs in the shruti always means pArvatIpati rudra and never viShNu (proof), even though shankara interprets in a pure etymological way and it is grammatically incorrect to say IshAna refers to shiva by his name in such contexts. He has also gone to the extent of censuring an important AcArya who propagated shankara’s bhAShyas through his TIkAs, shrI Anandagiri, for saying that “saumya rUpa” in prashnopaniShat refers to Vishnu (proof). Such are the modern-day ‘shAstrins’, the self-appointed custodians of the shaN^kara tradition!
The second alleged pramANa occurs out of place in a prakaraNa dealing with the samidAdAnam rite of brahmacAris. It goes as follows:
“He makes with ashes the tripundhra sign (the sign of three strokes) which is set forth in the (treatise on the) Sauparnavrata, which is revealed, which agrees with the tradition handed down by the ancients, with the five formulas 'The threefold age' (see above, I, 28, 9), one by one, on five (places), viz. the forehead, the heart, the right shoulder and the left, and then on the back.”
This is also a bogus interpolation. Read the footnote of the European editor who translated it here saying that it is missing in some manuscripts and that commentators on this chapter have never noted such a statement in the text. Before anyone jumps at the fact that we quoted an European editor, we clarify that just like tAmasa/rAjasa purAnAs, even these European researchers do bring up one or two legitimate things at times.
Even to this day, there is no popular practice among smArtas of shAnkhAyana or any sUtra for that matter to use the ashes of samidAdAna to apply tripuNDra. They only wear a kind of “rakShai” in dot shape made from a burned samidh.
The author quotes some supposedly earlier nibandhakas such as smR^itibhAskara, smR^itiratnAvalI, smR^itisArasamuccaya, etc. who support tripuNDra for vaidikas. All of these works appear to be of a later date. smR^itiratnAvalI was written in the 17th century by one “Ramanatha Vidyavachaspati”. The other nibandhakas are also untraceable in works earlier than 15th century, so they must have lived after that period. Hence, it stands clear that no experts on dharmashAstra until the 16th or 17th century accepted tripuNDra dhAraNa.
Here ends the discussion on the UrdhvapuNDra dhAraNa of vaidikas.

The case for pA~ncarAtra Agama

In the previous section, we have pointed out to our advantage the fact that aparArka severely criticised the shaivAgamas. Some may point out here that even pAncarAtra is discarded by aparArka as veda-bAhya. We are indebted to address this point, and hence shall do so here.
Our reply is as follows. It is true that aparArka criticises pAncarAtra as un-vedic. However, it was not uncommon among a section of vaidikas in those days, as seen in the case of Shankara and bhAskara in their brahma sUtra bhAShyas. This is the reason why yAmunAcArya composed “Agama prAmANya” in defense of pAncarAtra siddhAnta.  On the other hand, no vaidika has come out in defense of shaivAgamas in this manner.
We will also show here that the criticisms raised against pAncarAtra by aparArka are rather weak, have been adequately addressed by yAmunAcArya in Agama prAmANya. But first, we will show that there did exist Vaidikas outside the Srivaishnava fold who accepted pAncarAtra.
Apart from shrIvaiShNavas, even mAdhvas consider pAncarAtra as authoritative as we can see from the works of shrI madhvAcArya himself. Both sampradAyas give prime importance to purANas and dharmashAstras, and would not be praising anything that is rejected wholesale in the smR^itis.
Moreover, advaitins like amalAnanda and shrIdharasvAmin have acknowledged total acceptance of pAncarAtra siddhAnta as vedic.
amalAnanda says thus in shAstra darpaNa as well as in bhAmati kalpataru (Proof: 1, 2) --
jīvābhinnabrahmaṇo jagatsargaṃ vadataḥ samanvayasya jīvotpattipratipādakapāñcarātrasmṛtivirodhasaṃdehe, adhiṣṭhātaiveśvara iti mate niraste, prakṛtirapi sa iti matasya vedasaṃmatatvājjīvotpattāvapi pramāṇatvam -- evaṃbhūtāvāntarasaṃgatilobhena smṛtpādasaṃgatamapyadhikaraṇamiha likhitam । tatra -- जीवाभिन्नब्रह्मणो जगत्सर्गं वदतः समन्वयस्य जीवोत्पत्तिप्रतिपादकपाञ्चरात्रस्मृतिविरोधसंदेहे, अधिष्ठातैवेश्वर इति मते निरस्ते, प्रकृतिरपि स इति मतस्य वेदसंमतत्वाज्जीवोत्पत्तावपि प्रमाणत्वम् -- एवंभूतावान्तरसंगतिलोभेन स्मृत्पादसंगतमप्यधिकरणमिह लिखितम् । तत्र -- jIvAbhinnabrahmaNo jagatsargaM vadataH samanvayasya jIvotpattipratipAdakapA~ncharAtrasmRRitivirodhasaMdehe, adhiShThAtaiveshvara iti mate niraste, prakRRitirapi sa iti matasya vedasaMmatatvAjjIvotpattAvapi pramANatvam -- evaMbhUtAvAntarasaMgatilobhena smRRitpAdasaMgatamapyadhikaraNamiha likhitam | tatra --
īśoktaṃ na purāṇeṣu vyāmohārthamitīritam ।
pañcarātramato jīvo vikāra iti mīyate ॥
ईशोक्तं न पुराणेषु व्यामोहार्थमितीरितम् ।
पञ्चरात्रमतो जीवो विकार इति मीयते ॥
IshoktaM na purANeShu vyAmohArthamitIritam |
pa~ncharAtramato jIvo vikAra iti mIyate ||
pañcarātrakarturvāsudevasya vedādeva sarvajñatvāvagamāt kapilapatañjalyādīnāṃ ca jīvatvāt, pañcarātrasya ca purāṇeṣu buddhādidarśanavat vyāmohārthamīśvarapraṇītatvāśravaṇāt brahmanimittatvaprakṛtitvasaṃpratipatteśca jīvotpattāvapyadvaitāvyāghātāttatsiddhajīvotpattirabādhyā । ata evāgatārthā ca । evaṃ prāpte, abhidhīyate -- पञ्चरात्रकर्तुर्वासुदेवस्य वेदादेव सर्वज्ञत्वावगमात् कपिलपतञ्जल्यादीनां च जीवत्वात्, पञ्चरात्रस्य च पुराणेषु बुद्धादिदर्शनवत् व्यामोहार्थमीश्वरप्रणीतत्वाश्रवणात् ब्रह्मनिमित्तत्वप्रकृतित्वसंप्रतिपत्तेश्च जीवोत्पत्तावप्यद्वैताव्याघातात्तत्सिद्धजीवोत्पत्तिरबाध्या । अत एवागतार्था च । एवं प्राप्ते, अभिधीयते -- pa~ncharAtrakarturvAsudevasya vedAdeva sarvaj~natvAvagamAt kapilapata~njalyAdInAM cha jIvatvAt, pa~ncharAtrasya cha purANeShu buddhAdidarshanavat vyAmohArthamIshvarapraNItatvAshravaNAt brahmanimittatvaprakRRititvasaMpratipatteshcha jIvotpattAvapyadvaitAvyAghAtAttatsiddhajIvotpattirabAdhyA | ata evAgatArthA cha | evaM prApte, abhidhIyate --
“buddhipūrvakṛtistantraṃ brahmaniḥśvasitaṃ śrutiḥ ।
tena jīvajanistatra siddhā gauṇī niyamyate ॥”
“बुद्धिपूर्वकृतिस्तन्त्रं ब्रह्मनिःश्वसितं श्रुतिः ।
तेन जीवजनिस्तत्र सिद्धा गौणी नियम्यते ॥”
“buddhipUrvakRRitistantraM brahmaniHshvasitaM shrutiH |
tena jIvajanistatra siddhA gauNI niyamyate ||”
yāvaddhyekadeśe vedāvirodhādīśvarabuddhervedamūlatvaṃ vedādvā sarvaviṣayatvaṃ pratīyate, tāvadeva svataḥpramāṇavedājjīvānutpattipramitau tādṛśabuddhipūrvakeśvaravacanānna jīvotpattiravagantuṃ śakyate । ataḥ pramāṇāpahṛtaviṣaye gauṇaṃ tadvacanam, na tu bhrāntaṃ pūrvoktayuktibhiriti । यावद्ध्येकदेशे वेदाविरोधादीश्वरबुद्धेर्वेदमूलत्वं वेदाद्वा सर्वविषयत्वं प्रतीयते, तावदेव स्वतःप्रमाणवेदाज्जीवानुत्पत्तिप्रमितौ तादृशबुद्धिपूर्वकेश्वरवचनान्न जीवोत्पत्तिरवगन्तुं शक्यते । अतः प्रमाणापहृतविषये गौणं तद्वचनम्, न तु भ्रान्तं पूर्वोक्तयुक्तिभिरिति । yAvaddhyekadeshe vedAvirodhAdIshvarabuddhervedamUlatvaM vedAdvA sarvaviShayatvaM pratIyate, tAvadeva svataHpramANavedAjjIvAnutpattipramitau tAdRRishabuddhipUrvakeshvaravachanAnna jIvotpattiravagantuM shakyate | ataH pramANApahRRitaviShaye gauNaM tadvachanam, na tu bhrAntaM pUrvoktayuktibhiriti |
Meaning: The adhikaraNa is begun as follows -- there is a doubt as to whether the the origination of the individual soul (jIvotpatti) must be accepted literally from statements in the pAncarAtra Agama. This tantra was composed by the Omniscient Lord, and are in agreement with the Veda in terms of the oneness of material and efficient causes. It cannot be said that these statements are made in error, since they were uttered by the Lord Himself, compared to other darshanas like sAMkhya, yoga, etc. that were composed by jIvas like Kapila, Patanjali, etc. Moreover, we do not see anywhere in the Puranas that the pAncarAtra tantra was propagated by the Lord Himself for the sake of delusion not unlike the doctrine of the Bauddhas propagated again by Himself to delude the wicked. Such a doubt is raised here.
The correct position, on the other hand , is as follows: “Since the Lord’s voluntary composition is the pAncarAtra tantra, and His involuntary breath is the shruti, statements of origination of the soul are secondary and figurative, not primary and literal”. The omnscience, benevolent nature, and infalliability of the Lord are all understood to be true only from the self-evident shruti. Hence, the pAncarAtra Agamas are dependent on the Veda for their authority. Hence, it cannot be said that they propagate the theory of origin of the individual soul literally, since it would contradict the shruti that says the individual soul is eternal. Therefore, such statements in the pAncarAtra are to be understood as secondary and conveying something else, and are not erroneous due to the reasons given in the prima facie position.
Note also that amalAnanda agrees with the pUrvapakSha’s reasons to believe in the infalliability of pAncarAtras, which we have highlighted above. This guru notes that no purANa condemns pAncarAtra as un-vedic.
Despite this opinion held by Amalananda, Appayya Dikshita tries to discredit this and argues against his own guru by using the following logic – “There is no proof that pAncarAtra is the truth because bhagavAn propagated it, as we see that even avatArAs like Buddha propagate false knowledge”. Appayya Dikshita here, not only rebels against Amalananda and even Adi Shankara who considered the pAncarAtra as authentic in terms of nArAyaNa paratva, but also uses an inadequate argument. He fails to note that bhagavAn propagates false knowledge only through AvEsha avatArAs like Buddha and Rudra. Some AvEshas like Vyasa do both – propagate the Veda as well as the tAmasa purAnAs. On the other hand, whenever the Lord propagates a shAstra through his pUrnavatArAs or vyUha forms, it is the true knowledge as in the case of bhagavad gita, anu gita, pAncarAtra, etc. Therefore, this is what amalanada and even srI rAmAnuja meant when they said that pAncarAtra was propagated by the Lord himself and hence is the highest truth.
In his commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam, Shridhara Swami says that the highest devotee of the Lord follows the dharma explained in the pAncarAtra texts, and performs worship of Vishnu according to them (Proof: 1, 2):
(11.10.1) “ mayoditeṣv avahitaḥ sva-dharmeṣu mad-āśrayaḥ varṇāśrama-kulācāram akāmātmā samācaret मयोदितेष्ववहितः स्वधर्मेषु मदाश्रयः वर्णाश्रमकुलाचारम् अकामात्मा समाचरेत् mayoditeShv avahitaH sva-dharmeShu mad-AshrayaH varNAshrama-kulAchAram akAmAtmA samAcharet ” mayā - pañcarātrādyuktavaiṣṇavadharmeṣu, avahito apramattaḥ। ” मया - पञ्चरात्राद्युक्तवैष्णवधर्मेषु, अवहितो अप्रमत्तः। ” mayA - pa~ncharAtrAdyuktavaiShNavadharmeShu, avahito apramattaH|
Meaning: “Taking full shelter in Me, with the mind carefully fixed in the devotional service of the Lord as spoken by Me, one should live without personal desire and practice the social and occupational system called varṇāśrama.” Here, ‘devotional service spoken by me’ refers to the Vaishnava dharma explained in the pAncarAtra texts. ‘Fixed in such devotional service’ means to be attentive/careful.
(3.29.15) kriyā-yogena śastena nātihiṁsreṇa nityaśaḥ क्रियायोगेन शस्तेन नातिहिंस्रेण नित्यशः kriyA-yogena shastena nAtihiMsreNa nityashaH ” kriyāyogena - pāñcarātrādyuktaprakāreṇa ” क्रियायोगेन - पाञ्चरात्राद्युक्तप्रकारेण ” kriyAyogena - pA~ncharAtrAdyuktaprakAreNa
Meaning: “Without excessive violence, one should regularly perform one’s devotional activities.” Here, kriyA  yoga means “by the method of worship enjoined in the pAncarAtra etc.
If Sridhara Swamin had considered these Vaishnava Agamas as veda-bAhyas, he would not have said that exemplery devotees of the Lord follow the Vaishnava dharma of pA~ncarAtra diligently.
Sridhara Swamin also says that the Vishvaksena the commander of Lord’s army in Shri Vaikuntha, is the personification of the pA~ncarAtra tantra, just as Shri Garuda the Lord’s mount is the personification of the Vedas, in Srimad Bhagavatam 12.11.19-20.
Hence, Vaidikas did not reject pAncarAtra with any regularity. Adi Shankara too did not reject them entirely.
Apararka’s criticism of the pAncarAtra is as follows. In the varAha purANa, it is stated that when the Vedic mantras are not available to the practitioners, the three varNas (who have vedAdhikAra) can perform them with the procedure given in pAncarAtra texts (proof):
“alābhe vedamantrāṇāṃ pañcarātroditena hi ।
ācāreṇa pravartante te māṃ prāpsyanti mānavāḥ ॥
brāhmaṇakṣatriyaviśāṃ pañcarātraṃ vidhīyate ।
śūdrādīnāṃ na taccrotrapadavīmupayāsyati ॥”
“अलाभे वेदमन्त्राणां पञ्चरात्रोदितेन हि ।
आचारेण प्रवर्तन्ते ते मां प्राप्स्यन्ति मानवाः ॥
ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां पञ्चरात्रं विधीयते ।
शूद्रादीनां न तच्च्रोत्रपदवीमुपयास्यति ॥”
“alAbhe vedamantrANAM pa~ncharAtroditena hi |
AchAreNa pravartante te mAM prApsyanti mAnavAH ||
brAhmaNakShatriyavishAM pa~ncharAtraM vidhIyate |
shUdrAdInAM na tachchrotrapadavImupayAsyati ||”
(varAha purANa, Chapter 66)
This shows, says aparArka, that pAncarAtra is meant for certain classes of people like vrAtyas who were debarred from the Vedic fold due to the non-performance of certain purificatory rites (prAyashcittas) due to not receiving certain saMskAras in due time. He bases it on the logic that “non-availability of Vedic mantras” implies applicability to those dvijas who have lost their status in the aforementioned manner. He quotes Manu dharma shAstra to show those who are called ‘vrAtyas’ and ‘sAtvatas’ are debarred from the study of Vedas. However, such objections against the pAncarAtra tantras have been adequately addressed by shrI yAmunAcArya.
Our reconciliation to the above objection is as follows: The above quote from the Varaha Purana only shows the compassion of bhagavAn --
  • That he has propagated shAstras that can be followed even by those who have lost vedAdhikAra. The verse does not say that dvijas who have all the saMskAras intact have no adhikAra for following these tantras.
  • The sloka only says that in the absence of veda mantras, the pAncarAtra can be resorted to because the pAncarAtrAs are easier to understand and provide the fruit of the veda.
  • The pAncarAtrAs themselves say that those who cannot understand the Veda can gain the truths from the agamas.
  • Those who understand the Veda clearly, naturally may not require the pAncarAtra. Because the Veda is for upAsakas who follow injunctions for bhakti yOga. The pAncarAtra highlights prapatti yOgA as the superior alternative (which is also endorsed by the veda). That is another reason why absence of vedic mantras might prompt a study of the pAncarAtra.
  • aparArka’s definition of vrAtya is incorrect in the strict vedic usage. srI yAmuna muni has clarified that the atharva veda refers to a class of people known as vrAtyas who are pure by nature and require no samskArA. Atharva veda also says that anyone who perform services to a vrAtya will gain the archirAdi mArga. “vrAtya” is a common noun and can be applied to more than one entity.
Moreover, one cannot resort to yukti as means when there are direct pramANas from smR^itis and purANas (including varAha purANa) that praise pAncarAtra in the highest manner. We shall see these pramANas a little later in this section. Let us continue with our examination of aparArka’s objections.
Apararka then shows a statement from yogayAj~navalkya (proof):
ekameva tu vijñeyaṃ praṇavaṃ yogasādhanam ।
gṛhītasaptasiddhāntairanyairbrahmavidaistathā ॥
hairaṇyagarbhaiḥ kapilairapāntaratamaistathā ।
sānatkumārairbrahmiṣṭhaistathā pāśupatairapi ॥
pāñcarātrairapītyetaiḥ siddhāntaiścaiva saptabhiḥ ।
एकमेव तु विज्ञेयं प्रणवं योगसाधनम् । गृहीतसप्तसिद्धान्तैरन्यैर्ब्रह्मविदैस्तथा ॥
हैरण्यगर्भैः कपिलैरपान्तरतमैस्तथा । सानत्कुमारैर्ब्रह्मिष्ठैस्तथा पाशुपतैरपि ॥
पाञ्चरात्रैरपीत्येतैः सिद्धान्तैश्चैव सप्तभिः ।
ekameva tu vij~neyaM praNavaM yogasAdhanam |
gRRihItasaptasiddhAntairanyairbrahmavidaistathA ||
hairaNyagarbhaiH kapilairapAntaratamaistathA |
sAnatkumArairbrahmiShThaistathA pAshupatairapi ||
pA~ncharAtrairapItyetaiH siddhAntaishchaiva saptabhiH |
Meaning: The praNava that is the means for yoga,  is to be understood as one. It is undertaken by the seven siddhAntins, others, as well as by those who perform brahma-vidyA. These seven are the followers of (i) hiraNyagarbha, (ii) kapila, (iii) apAntaratamas, (iv) sanatkumAra, (iv) brahmiShTha, (v) pashupati, and (vii) pa~ncarAtra.
He then says that since it clubs pAncarAtra with pAshupatas and calls it “siddhAnta”, it shows that pAncarAtra was considered exterior to the Vedic fold by the sages who wrote dharmashAstras.
We say that such a conclusion is unwarranted, given the context of the quote. All that is intended here is to say that praNava is of prime importance in many darshanas. The quote also mentions the doctrine of apAntaratamas (Veda vyAsa) as a siddhAnta, but one would not dismiss mahAbhArata the fifth Veda or the brahmasUtras as veda-bAhya.
Note further that one would expect aparArka to quote stronger statements condemning the pAncarAtra directly, like Rudra Gita in varAha purANa and those statements we saw previously saying the touch of shaivas renders one impure. However, the fact that he does not quote any such statement shows this was the strongest argument that aparArka had against pAncarAtra. This shows two things: (i) It corroborates the statement of amalAnanda that no purANa states pAncarAtra was propagated by Lord Vishnu to delude the masses, and (ii) It tallies with the fact that there is no acknowledgement of the existence of any such statement from the purANas, in the opponents’ prima facie objections considered by Sri Yamunacharya in Agama prAmANya.
Hence we have only the following two possibilities: (i) purANa/smR^iti statements denouncing pAncarAtra wholesale that are quoted today are later interpolations, or (ii) such statements were never considered seriously, possibly since they may have been in sections that include views that are undoubtedly contradictory to the Vedas (the tAmasa portions).
Sri Yamuna Muni shows that itihAsas and purANas and praise pA~ncarAtra highly:
idaṃ mahopaniṣadaṃ caturvedasamanvitam।
sāṃkhyayogakṛtaṃ tena pañcarātrānuśabditam॥ 12-348-62
nārāyaṃṇamukhodītaṃ nārado'śrāvayatpunaḥ।
इदं महोपनिषदं चतुर्वेदसमन्वितम्।
सांख्ययोगकृतं तेन पञ्चरात्रानुशब्दितम्॥ 12-348-62
नारायंणमुखोदीतं नारदोऽश्रावयत्पुनः।
idaM mahopaniShadaM chaturvedasamanvitam|
sAMkhyayogakRRitaM tena pa~ncharAtrAnushabditam|| 12-348-62
nArAyaMNamukhodItaM nArado.ashrAvayatpunaH|
(Mahabharata, Shanti parvan)
Meaning: This great doctrine, that takes one close to Brahman (upaniShad), explains the purport of the four Vedas harmoniously. It is based on sAMkhya (j~nAna) and yoga (bhakti) and called ‘pancarAtra’. It has been expounded by Narayana, and Narada explained it once more.
“brāhmaṇaiḥ kṣatriyairvaiśyaiḥ śūdraiśca kṛtalakṣaṇaiḥ ।
sevyate'bhyarcyate caiva nityayuktaiḥ svakarmabhiḥ ॥ 6-66-39
dvāparasya yugasyānte ādau kaliyugasya ca।
sātvataṃ vidhimāsthāya gītaḥ saṃkarṣaṇena vai” ॥ 6-66-40
“ब्राह्मणैः क्षत्रियैर्वैश्यैः शूद्रैश्च कृतलक्षणैः ।
सेव्यतेऽभ्यर्च्यते चैव नित्ययुक्तैः स्वकर्मभिः ॥ 6-66-39
द्वापरस्य युगस्यान्ते आदौ कलियुगस्य च।
सात्वतं विधिमास्थाय गीतः संकर्षणेन वै” ॥ 6-66-40
“brAhmaNaiH kShatriyairvaishyaiH shUdraishcha kRRitalakShaNaiH |
sevyate.abhyarchyate chaiva nityayuktaiH svakarmabhiH || 6-66-39
dvAparasya yugasyAnte Adau kaliyugasya cha|
sAtvataM vidhimAsthAya gItaH saMkarShaNena vai” || 6-66-40
(Mahabharata, Bhishma parvan)
Meaning: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, worship Him (shrI vAsudeva) in their daily rituals and activities. They are to worship Him in the dvApara and in the beginning of kali yuga, using the sAtvata rules expounded by Sankarshana (in the Pancharatra texts).
“tairekamatibhirbhūtvā yatproktaṃ śāstramuttamam॥ 12-343-28
vedaiścaturbhiḥ samitaṃ kṛtaṃ merau mahāgirau।”
“तैरेकमतिभिर्भूत्वा यत्प्रोक्तं शास्त्रमुत्तमम्॥ 12-343-28
वेदैश्चतुर्भिः समितं कृतं मेरौ महागिरौ।”
“tairekamatibhirbhUtvA yatproktaM shAstramuttamam|| 12-343-28
vedaishchaturbhiH samitaM kRRitaM merau mahAgirau|”
(Mahabharata, Shanti parvan)
Meaning: This lofty pancaratra shAstra that has been expounded unanimously, has been declared equal to the four Vedas on the great mountain Meru.
“vedena pañcarātreṇa bhaktyā yajñena ca dvija ।
prāpyo'haṃ nānyathā prāpyo varṣalakṣaśatairapi ॥”
“वेदेन पञ्चरात्रेण भक्त्या यज्ञेन च द्विज ।
प्राप्योऽहं नान्यथा प्राप्यो वर्षलक्षशतैरपि ॥”
“vedena pa~ncharAtreNa bhaktyA yaj~nena cha dvija |
prApyo.ahaM nAnyathA prApyo varShalakShashatairapi ||”
(Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)
Meaning: I am attainable by means of Vedas, Pancharatra, as well as by devotion-filled worship. I am not attainable by any other means even in millions of years.
“pañcarātraṃ sahasrāṇāṃ yadi kaścidgrahīṣyati ।
karmakṣaye ca māṃ kaścid yadi bhakto bhaviṣyati ॥
tasya vedāḥ pañcarātraṃ nityaṃ hṛdi vasiṣyati ।”
“पञ्चरात्रं सहस्राणां यदि कश्चिद्ग्रहीष्यति ।
कर्मक्षये च मां कश्चिद् यदि भक्तो भविष्यति ॥
तस्य वेदाः पञ्चरात्रं नित्यं हृदि वसिष्यति ।”
“pa~ncharAtraM sahasrANAM yadi kashchidgrahIShyati |
karmakShaye cha mAM kashchid yadi bhakto bhaviShyati ||
tasya vedAH pa~ncharAtraM nityaM hRRidi vasiShyati |”
(Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)
Meaning: He who, among a thousand people, grasps the pancarAtra, and he who remains my devotee after his deeds are exhausted (i.e., at the time of his death after he has surrendered to me), in his heart the Vedas and Pancaratra will remain forever.
“yadidaṃ pañcarātraṃ me śāstraṃ paramadurlabham ।
tadbhavān vetsyate sarvaṃ matprasādādasaṃśayam ॥”
“यदिदं पञ्चरात्रं मे शास्त्रं परमदुर्लभम् ।
तद्भवान् वेत्स्यते सर्वं मत्प्रसादादसंशयम् ॥”
“yadidaM pa~ncharAtraM me shAstraM paramadurlabham |
tadbhavAn vetsyate sarvaM matprasAdAdasaMshayam ||”
(Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)
Meaning: You will know in entirety this pAncarAtra shAstra belonging to me, which is the highest means, and which is easy to follow, through my grace. There is no doubt about this.
Some say that Veda Vyasa has refuted the pA~ncarAtra doctrine in the Brahma Sutras. Sri Yamuna and Ramanuja have pointed out that since it is Veda Vyasa Himself who praises these Vaishnava Agamas superlatively in Mahabharata (as shown in the above quotes), it is incorrect to assume that he refutes the same in the brahma sUtras. The meaning of the sUtras in contention is as follows:
Having declared the Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Bauddha, Jaina, and Pashupata doctrines as contradictory to the Vedas in the previous adhikaraNas, these opponents retaliate by raising objections against the pAncarAtra system accepted by the author of the sUtras himself (Brahma Sutras, 2.2.42-43). The first two sUtras of this adhikaraNa is the pUrvapakSha portion that describes the objections. The next two sUtras (2.2.44-45) is the siddhAnta portion that answer these objections. One can refer to Sribhashya of Ramanuja for the details.
For a complete analysis and proof that the pAncarAtra system is Vedic, we refer the reader to yAmunAcArya’s magnum-opus. We believe we have treated this topic sufficiently to the extent that our current discussion warrants.
In conclusion, we respect aparArka’s scholarship and as he has quoted only valid pramANas. But his negative conclusions on pA~ncarAtra are contrived.

sandhyā ritual and nityārcana according to dharmaśāstranibandhaka-s

We shall end this article by showing that dharma shAstras proclaim that Vishnu is ordained to be worshipped daily by Vaidikas. We thus find several statements showing Vishnu’s supremacy in the nityAchAra portions of the dharmashAstras.
Smrti chandrika says that daily performance of gAyatrI japa in Vishnu’s temple gives the highest unlimited merit, compared to its performance in other places:
“gṛhe tvekaguṇaṃ japyaṃ nadyādau dviguṇaṃ smṛtaṃ ।
gavāṃ goṣṭe daśaguṇamagnyagāre śatādhikam ॥
siddhakṣetreṣu tīrtheṣu devatānāṃ ca sannidhau ।
sahasraśatakoṭissyādanantaṃ viṣṇusannidhau ॥”
“गृहे त्वेकगुणं जप्यं नद्यादौ द्विगुणं स्मृतं ।
गवां गोष्टे दशगुणमग्न्यगारे शताधिकम् ॥
सिद्धक्षेत्रेषु तीर्थेषु देवतानां च सन्निधौ ।
सहस्रशतकोटिस्स्यादनन्तं विष्णुसन्निधौ ॥”
“gRRihe tvekaguNaM japyaM nadyAdau dviguNaM smRRitaM |
gavAM goShTe dashaguNamagnyagAre shatAdhikam ||
siddhakShetreShu tIrtheShu devatAnAM cha sannidhau |
sahasrashatakoTissyAdanantaM viShNusannidhau ||”
(shaN^kha smR^iti (proof) )
Meaning: The (effect of) japa done at home is multiplied by one. Twice, if done at a river bank. Ten times, at a cowshed. By more than a hundred, in front of a sacrificial fire. By a hundred thousand crores, in siddha-kShetras, puNya tIrthas, and the temples of devatAs (other than Vishnu). The result is multiplied by infinity,  if japa is done in Vishnu’s temples.
About the devatArchana performed daily, the nibandhakas specify Vishnu as the primary object of worship.
Apararka provides the following quotes:
“viṣṇurbrahmā ca rudraśca viṣṇurdevo divākaraḥ ।
tasmātpūjyatamaṃ nānyamahaṃ manye janārdanāt ॥
dadyātpuruṣasūktena yaḥ puṣpāṇyapa eva vā ।
arcitaṃ syājjagadidaṃ tena sarvaṃ carācaram ॥”
“विष्णुर्ब्रह्मा च रुद्रश्च विष्णुर्देवो दिवाकरः ।
तस्मात्पूज्यतमं नान्यमहं मन्ये जनार्दनात् ॥
दद्यात्पुरुषसूक्तेन यः पुष्पाण्यप एव वा ।
अर्चितं स्याज्जगदिदं तेन सर्वं चराचरम् ॥”
“viShNurbrahmA cha rudrashcha viShNurdevo divAkaraH |
tasmAtpUjyatamaM nAnyamahaM manye janArdanAt ||
dadyAtpuruShasUktena yaH puShpANyapa eva vA |
architaM syAjjagadidaM tena sarvaM charAcharam ||”
(yogayAj~navalkya smR^iti (proof))
Meaning: Vishnu is indeed Brahma. Vishnu is indeed Rudra. The radiant Vishnu is indeed the sUryadevatA (sun). Hence, I do not know any better object of worship than Shri Janardana. Indeed, the whole universe with movable and immovable beings/objects is worshipped by the one who offers with Purusha Sukta, flowers or even just water.
The above quote shows that Vishnu is indeed the antarAtmA of the entire universe. Note also that Vishnu is praised as the in-dweller of Brahma, Rudra, and Surya.
Next aparArka shows that one must offer worship to Vishnu after the performance of brahmayaj~na:
“tato'rghyaṃ bhānave dadyāttilapuṣpajalānvitam ।
utkṣipya mūrdhaparyantaṃ haṃsaḥ śuciṣadityapi ॥
jale devaṃ namaskṛtya tato gṛhagataḥ punaḥ ।
vidheḥ puruṣasūktasya tatra viṣṇuṃ samarcayet ॥”
“ततोऽर्घ्यं भानवे दद्यात्तिलपुष्पजलान्वितम् ।
उत्क्षिप्य मूर्धपर्यन्तं हंसः शुचिषदित्यपि ॥
जले देवं नमस्कृत्य ततो गृहगतः पुनः ।
विधेः पुरुषसूक्तस्य तत्र विष्णुं समर्चयेत् ॥”
“tato.arghyaM bhAnave dadyAttilapuShpajalAnvitam |
utkShipya mUrdhaparyantaM haMsaH shuchiShadityapi ||
jale devaM namaskRRitya tato gRRihagataH punaH |
vidheH puruShasUktasya tatra viShNuM samarchayet ||”
(nR^isiMha purANa (proof) )
Meaning: One should then (daily) offer arghya sUrya, consisting of water, sesame seeds, and flowers. Tossing (these offerings) upwards till the head, one should chant the Vedic text “hamsaH shuciShad”. Worshipping the radiant deity (Vishnu) in the waters, reaching home after that, one should again worship Vishnu with the method based on puruSha sUkta.
Note that the last two quotes show that Vishnu alone is to be worshipped with the puruSha sUkta.  Many smR^itis similarly show that the Supreme Purusha shown in Purusha sUkta is indeed Sriman Narayana. Contrast this with the likes of appayya dIkShita and his modern followers (ranging from shaivAdvaitins to neo-Hindus) who opposed to this fact and claimed Shiva is the object of Purusha Sukta. It shows that they are in reality opposed to smR^itis despite calling themselves ‘smArtas’. Be that as it may.
Continuing, aparArka shows that the daily ArAdhana as shown in these shlokas is on Lord Vishnu. This includes the arghya offered to sUrya, and the devatA worshipped in the waters. This quote is a long one, but contains many important messages. We also include a few shlokas prior to the section quoted by aparArka, but fully quoted in smR^iticandrikA of devaNa bhaTTa:
“imamarthaṃ purā pṛṣṭo nārado bhagavānṛṣiḥ ।
naranārāyaṇābhyāṃ ca tairmunīndraiśca saṅgataiḥ ॥
nārāyaṇārcanavidhiṃ śrotuṃ no vaktumarhasi ।
dharmārthakāmaāpavargān yena prāpnoti puṣkalān ॥
śrutvaitatsa ciraṃ dhyātvā sasmāra ca purātanam ।
kṣīrābdhau yaccrutaṃ pūrvaṃ puṣkarākṣamukhāccyutam ॥
śṛṇvantu munayassamyak puruṣottamapūjanam ।
yatkṛtvā munayassarve brahma nirvāṇamāpnuyuḥ ॥
snātvā yathoktavidhinā prāṅmukhaśśuddhamānasaḥ ।
svaśākhoktakriyāṃ kṛtvā hutvā caivāgnihotrakam ॥
kuryādārādhanaṃ viṣṇordevadevasya cakriṇaḥ ।
apsvagnau hṛdaye sūrye sthaṇḍile pratimāsu ca ।
ṣaṭsveteṣu hareḥ samyagarcanaṃ munibhiḥ smṛtam ॥
agnau kriyāvatāṃ devo divi devo manīṣiṇām ।
pratimāsvalpabuddhīnāṃ yogināṃ hṛdaye hariḥ ॥
āpa āyatanaṃ tasya tasmāttāsu sadā hariḥ ।
tasya sarvagatatvācca sthaṇḍile bhāvitātmanaḥ ॥
ānuṣṭubhasya sūktasya triṣṭubantasya devatā ।
puruṣo yo jagadbījamṛṣirnārāyaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ ॥
evaṃ nyāsavidhiṃ kṛtvā paścāddhyānaṃ samācaret ।
ādyayāvāhayeddevamṛcā tu puruṣottamam ॥
dvitīyayāsanaṃ dadyātpādyaṃ caiva tṛtīyayā ।
arghyaṃ caturthyā dātavyaṃ pañcamyācamanīyakam ॥
ṣaṣṭyā snānaṃ pradātavyaṃ saptamyā vastrameva ca ।
yajñopavītamaṣṭamyā navamyā tvanulepanam ॥
puṣpaṃ daśamyā dātavyamekādaśyā tu dhūpakam ।
dvādaśyā dīpakaṃ dadyāttrayodaśyā nivedanam ॥
caturdaśyā namaskāraṃ pañcadaśyā pradakṣiṇam ।
arcayitvā tu deveśaṃ ṣoḍaśyā ca visarjanam ॥
snāne vastre ca naivedye dadyādācamanīyakam ।
ṣaṇmāsātsiddhimāpnoti evameva samarcayan ॥
dhyeyaḥ sadā savitṛmaṇḍalamadhyavartī
nārāyaṇaḥ sarasijāsanasanniviṣṭaḥ ।
hārī hiraṇmayavapurdhṛtaśaṅkhacakraḥ”
“इममर्थं पुरा पृष्टो नारदो भगवानृषिः । नरनारायणाभ्यां च तैर्मुनीन्द्रैश्च सङ्गतैः ॥
नारायणार्चनविधिं श्रोतुं नो वक्तुमर्हसि । धर्मार्थकामआपवर्गान् येन प्राप्नोति पुष्कलान् ॥
श्रुत्वैतत्स चिरं ध्यात्वा सस्मार च पुरातनम् । क्षीराब्धौ यच्च्रुतं पूर्वं पुष्कराक्षमुखाच्च्युतम् ॥
शृण्वन्तु मुनयस्सम्यक् पुरुषोत्तमपूजनम् । यत्कृत्वा मुनयस्सर्वे ब्रह्म निर्वाणमाप्नुयुः ॥
स्नात्वा यथोक्तविधिना प्राङ्मुखश्शुद्धमानसः । स्वशाखोक्तक्रियां कृत्वा हुत्वा चैवाग्निहोत्रकम् ॥
कुर्यादाराधनं विष्णोर्देवदेवस्य चक्रिणः । अप्स्वग्नौ हृदये सूर्ये स्थण्डिले प्रतिमासु च । षट्स्वेतेषु हरेः सम्यगर्चनं मुनिभिः स्मृतम् ॥
अग्नौ क्रियावतां देवो दिवि देवो मनीषिणाम् । प्रतिमास्वल्पबुद्धीनां योगिनां हृदये हरिः ॥
आप आयतनं तस्य तस्मात्तासु सदा हरिः । तस्य सर्वगतत्वाच्च स्थण्डिले भावितात्मनः ॥
आनुष्टुभस्य सूक्तस्य त्रिष्टुबन्तस्य देवता । पुरुषो यो जगद्बीजमृषिर्नारायणः स्मृतः ॥
एवं न्यासविधिं कृत्वा पश्चाद्ध्यानं समाचरेत् । आद्ययावाहयेद्देवमृचा तु पुरुषोत्तमम् ॥
द्वितीययासनं दद्यात्पाद्यं चैव तृतीयया । अर्घ्यं चतुर्थ्या दातव्यं पञ्चम्याचमनीयकम् ॥
षष्ट्या स्नानं प्रदातव्यं सप्तम्या वस्त्रमेव च । यज्ञोपवीतमष्टम्या नवम्या त्वनुलेपनम् ॥
पुष्पं दशम्या दातव्यमेकादश्या तु धूपकम् । द्वादश्या दीपकं दद्यात्त्रयोदश्या निवेदनम् ॥
चतुर्दश्या नमस्कारं पञ्चदश्या प्रदक्षिणम् । अर्चयित्वा तु देवेशं षोडश्या च विसर्जनम् ॥
स्नाने वस्त्रे च नैवेद्ये दद्यादाचमनीयकम् । षण्मासात्सिद्धिमाप्नोति एवमेव समर्चयन् ॥
ध्येयः सदा सवितृमण्डलमध्यवर्ती नारायणः सरसिजासनसन्निविष्टः ।
केयूरवान्कनककुण्डलवान्किरीटी हारी हिरण्मयवपुर्धृतशङ्खचक्रः”
“imamarthaM purA pRRiShTo nArado bhagavAnRRiShiH |
naranArAyaNAbhyAM cha tairmunIndraishcha sa~NgataiH ||
nArAyaNArchanavidhiM shrotuM no vaktumarhasi |
dharmArthakAmaApavargAn yena prApnoti puShkalAn ||
shrutvaitatsa chiraM dhyAtvA sasmAra cha purAtanam |
kShIrAbdhau yachchrutaM pUrvaM puShkarAkShamukhAchchyutam ||
shRRiNvantu munayassamyak puruShottamapUjanam |
yatkRRitvA munayassarve brahma nirvANamApnuyuH ||
snAtvA yathoktavidhinA prA~NmukhashshuddhamAnasaH |
svashAkhoktakriyAM kRRitvA hutvA chaivAgnihotrakam ||
kuryAdArAdhanaM viShNordevadevasya chakriNaH |
apsvagnau hRRidaye sUrye sthaNDile pratimAsu cha |
ShaTsveteShu hareH samyagarchanaM munibhiH smRRitam ||
agnau kriyAvatAM devo divi devo manIShiNAm |
pratimAsvalpabuddhInAM yoginAM hRRidaye hariH ||
Apa AyatanaM tasya tasmAttAsu sadA hariH |
tasya sarvagatatvAchcha sthaNDile bhAvitAtmanaH ||
AnuShTubhasya sUktasya triShTubantasya devatA |
puruSho yo jagadbIjamRRiShirnArAyaNaH smRRitaH ||
evaM nyAsavidhiM kRRitvA pashchAddhyAnaM samAcharet |
AdyayAvAhayeddevamRRichA tu puruShottamam ||
dvitIyayAsanaM dadyAtpAdyaM chaiva tRRitIyayA |
arghyaM chaturthyA dAtavyaM pa~nchamyAchamanIyakam ||
ShaShTyA snAnaM pradAtavyaM saptamyA vastrameva cha |
yaj~nopavItamaShTamyA navamyA tvanulepanam ||
puShpaM dashamyA dAtavyamekAdashyA tu dhUpakam |
dvAdashyA dIpakaM dadyAttrayodashyA nivedanam ||
chaturdashyA namaskAraM pa~nchadashyA pradakShiNam |
archayitvA tu deveshaM ShoDashyA cha visarjanam ||
snAne vastre cha naivedye dadyAdAchamanIyakam |
ShaNmAsAtsiddhimApnoti evameva samarchayan ||
dhyeyaH sadA savitRRimaNDalamadhyavartI
nArAyaNaH sarasijAsanasanniviShTaH |
hArI hiraNmayavapurdhRRitasha~NkhachakraH”
(nR^isiMha purANa (proof: page 1, 2) )
Meaning: This matter was consulted from the all-knowing sage nArada, by the assembly of Nara, Narayana (avatAras of Lord Vishnu), and leaders among Rishis thus: “Oh Narada! You alone are fit to tell us about the rules and method for worship Narayana, by which the four puruShArthas are obtained abundantly.” Hearing this, Narada mediated on The Ancient One for a long time. “What was heard by me, in the milky ocean, coming out of the mouth of the Lotus-Eyed one, I will narrate to you. Oh munis, listen to that pUjA vidhi of Purushottama. Performing this pUjA, all sages may obtain the para-brahman, the state of liberation. Having bathed according to the rules, facing straightforward with a pure mind, performing the duties according to one’s own veda shAkha, and after performing the agnihotra ritual, one should offer worship to Vishnu, the radiant one who bears the sudarshana chakra.
The sages have recommended the worship of Lord Hari in the following six methods: in waters, sacrificial fire, heart, the sun, the earth, and in vigraha mUrtis. In fire, for (the sake of) those endowed with (eligibility to perform) Vedic rites; in Sri Vaikunta for (the sake of) ones qualified to mediate, ie, those divested of sin as muktas and nityas; in vigraha mUrtis, for (the sake of) those with diminished intellect (as they cannot meditate on the other forms); in the heart, for (the sake of) the bhakti yogis. The waters are His abode, and hence He is to be worshipped there always. Since He exists everywhere, those who are devoted worship Him in the earth. The sUkta that is in the anuShTubh metre and ends in the tRiShTup metre has the Purusha, the origin of the worlds, as the devatA. The R^iShi is nArAyaNa. After performing nyAsa of the R^iks in various places on the body, one should perform dhyAna. Then the following pUja is performed with the sixteen mantras:
  1. Welcoming Lord Purushottama (AvAhanam)
  2. Seat (Asanam)
  3. Waters to wash feet (pAdyam)
  4. arghya
  5. Waters for sipping (Acamanam)
  6. Waters for bathing (snAna)
  7. Garments (vastram)
  8. Sacred thread (yaj~nopavItam)
  9. Unguents (anulepanam) i.e., sandalwood paste etc.
  10. Flowers (puShpam)
  11. Incense (dhUpam)
  12. Lamp (dIpam)
  13. Naivedya
  14. Namaskara
  15. Pradakshina
  16. Letting the Lord take leave (visarjanam)
One should offer Acamanam for snAna, vastra, and naivedya. One who worships thus for six months will attain perfection (siddhi). Sriman Narayana, the dweller in the orb of the sun, must always be meditated. He possesses armlets, golden earrings, a crown, garlands, and Has a golden body. He possesses the divine conch and the divine discus.
Following this, Smrticandrika goes on to detail the above 16 upacAras, using pramANas from smrtis. Finally, the consumption of naivedya, nirmAlya, and pAdodaka of Vishnu is praised greatly:
“agniṣṭomasahasraistu vājapeyaśatairapi ।
tatphalaṃ labhate devi viṣṇornaivedyabhakṣaṇāt ॥
hṛdi rūpaṃ mukhe nāma naivedyamudare hareḥ ।
dhārodakaṃ ca nirmālyaṃ mastake yasya so'cyutaḥ ॥”
“अग्निष्टोमसहस्रैस्तु वाजपेयशतैरपि ।
तत्फलं लभते देवि विष्णोर्नैवेद्यभक्षणात् ॥
हृदि रूपं मुखे नाम नैवेद्यमुदरे हरेः ।
धारोदकं च निर्माल्यं मस्तके यस्य सोऽच्युतः ॥”
“agniShTomasahasraistu vAjapeyashatairapi |
tatphalaM labhate devi viShNornaivedyabhakShaNAt ||
hRRidi rUpaM mukhe nAma naivedyamudare hareH |
dhArodakaM cha nirmAlyaM mastake yasya so.achyutaH ||”
(From an unnamed purANa. Proof: 1, 2)
Meaning: The fruits of a thousand agniShToma yAgas and a hundred vAjapeyas is obtained, O devi, by consuming the food that was offered to Vishnu. The one who has placed Vishnu’s form in the heart, Vishnu’s name in his mouth, the naivedya of Hari in his gut, the water and nirmAlya on his head, indeed does not fall and is steadfast.
The next section deals with the worship of Shiva. Here, the prescription is not based on shaivAgamas. Also, nowhere Shiva is praised as supreme in the quotes taken here. It is stated that the worship of Shiva linga confers the fruit of donating a lakh milk-producing cows. The worship is mainly for ends such as attaining Rudra loka and staying for a 100,000 years. It may also be remembered that Rudra confers j~nAna to bhakti-yogis, while janArdana alone gives liberation. This section also does not say that Shiva’s prasAda is to be consumed, unlike in the worship of Vishnu.
This shows that only Vishnu’s neyvedya and pAdodaka are fit for consumption by vaidikas. Shiva pUja may be performed by bhakti yogis for j~nAna, but one must also remember that worship of other devatAs for material gain is condemned by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Hence, the daily conduct of Vaishnavas which includes the worship of Vishnu, wearing UrdhvapuNDra, consuming his prasAda and pAdodaka, is ordained in the shAstras as the highest means to attain everlasting bliss and has been the practices of Vaidikas of yore.


  1. Exhaustive, well researched, meaningful and wonderful explanations and clarifications against the tirade by some of the anti Vaishnavate groups

  2. For all readers' attention...

    Here is another clinching evidence just added to the article, from the Yatidharma Samgraha of Vishveshvara Sarasvati. Recall from the article that this text details conduct of advaita sannyAsins acceptable to the ancient tradition. In the section that deals with the bhikShA and the food that is fit to be consumed by yatis, the following is quoted:

    "viShNornaivedyasaMshuddhaM munibhirbhojyamucyate
    anyadevasya naivedyaM bhuktvA cAndrAyaNaM caret"

    Meaning: The naivedya offered to Vishnu is extremely pure and fit to be consumed by sages. With regard to the naivedya offered to another deity, if consumed one must perform the expiatory rite of cAndrAyaNa.

    (Proof here:

    Sri Vishveshvara Sarasvati quotes the above approvingly and mentions that it is from an earlier work entitled "Yatidharma Samuccaya". This is likely the same as the work of Yadavaprakasha, a disciple of Ramanuja. It shows that even though the author does not agree with Vishishtadvaita fully, he agrees with the rule that naivedya offered to Rudra etc. is unfit for consumption. Otherwise, he would not have given such a quote from a Srivaishnava work.

    1. This quote is also given by Sri Vedanta Desikan in "sat-charita rakShA" where it is attributed to brAhma purANa


    All links in the article are now working.

    Several of the crucial proofs were inaccessible for the past several days as the dli web page was down. This might have frustrated readers. All those links have now been replaced by links from and, which are more reliable and do not suffer from downtime like the server does. Hence, requesting the affected readers to go over the article again and download material from the links if they so desire.

  4. Namaste:

    What is the section and number of this slokam in Mahopanishad?

    dhṛtordhvapuṇḍraḥ parameśitāraṃ nārāyaṇaṃ sāṅkhyayogādhigamyam ।
    dhyātvā vimucyeta naraḥ samastaiḥ saṃsārapāśairiha ceti viṣṇum

    1. The present edition of the mahopanishad omits these shlokas quoted by ancient and medieval authorities. So I am unable to give you the verse number etc due to this reason.

  5. In one of your articles you write - "Amalananda Sarasvati, 13th century advaitin, respectfully disagrees from Sri Adi Shankara in his "Vedanta Kalpataru" (which is a commentary on "bhAmati" written by vAcaspati mishra) and defends pA~ncarAtra as 100% Vedic."

    Can you please provide reference for this? Thanks.

    1. It is right here in this page. Please search for "Amalananda" on this page with ctrl+f

    2. Also you could see Mudumbai Narasimhachari's book in English on the contribution of Sri Yamunacharya to Vishishtadvaita. I do not know if he is a reliable traditional vidvAn, but he discusses Amalananda with a translation of the adhikaraNa in that book.

    3. This is the book --

  6. Thanks for your elaborate reply to all my questions, Sri HBB. And you people have an excellently written article here. Very good scholarship. May Lord Venkateswara bless you and your friend Sri Aryamaa.

  7. Sri HBB, Please entertain one more question of mine -

    //Thus says bhagavAn shrI kR^iShNa to yudhiShThira. (This shloka is quoted in the Adyar library edition of Shankara’s Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya).//

    Can you tell me for which nAma among the 1000 names does Sri Shankara quote this verse? Thanks.

    1. Apologies. I had somehow overlooked this comment earlier.

      It is there under the "Vishva" nAma vyAkhyAna, only in the Adyar library version. Curiously, the translator/editor Anantakrishna Sastri omits it in the English portion. These shlokas are also there in the Ashvamedhika Parvan appendix, 14_004_3354 - 14_004_3359

  8. Namaste, I know that you normally write very good articles, but this particular article is super awesome. Somehow this article missed my attention all these days. Wow, what a wonderfully well researched article! Thank you again and again.

  9. Dear Readers,

    We received a comment from some "unknown" which I will quote below:

    [QUOTE]I am not sure if it had to be so radical here when Maha Narayanopanishat says that Shivascha narayanaha, everything is narayana, people worshiping Shiva etc are also in this case worshipers of Vishnu and there is nothing other than Vishnu in this world. So why it should be outcast?[/UNQUOTE]

    Now and then, we receive some absurd comments which we do not care to publish. This is one such comment. However, just for the sake of making an exhibition of this nonsense, I am posting this here. This reader brands us as "radical" without obviously even reading one line of the entire blog, which has addressed these so called "oneness of shiva-vishNu" ad nauseum. This only demonstrates his own bias and utter ignorance of vedAntic interpretations.

    For the last time, statements such as these are interpreted in the vein of "yasya Atma sharIram", that shiva is the body of nArAyaNa and hence a jIvA subservient to nArAyaNa. This reader of course, besides being ignorant of the fact that his quote comes from the "nArAyaNOpanishad" and not the "mahAnArAyaNopanishad", wilfully ignores that prior to saying "shivasca nArAyaNa:", the upanishad clearly says "nArAyaNAT rudrO jAyatE", showing Rudra was born from nArAyaNa. And it follows "shivasca nArAyaNa:" by saying "kAlasca nArAyaNa:" and "dishasca nArAyaNa:", so if we were to derive vishNu-shiva identity from this, then even time and directions are to be construed as identical to parabrahman!

    Additionally, there is a subtlety to highlight here. While saying Shiva is born from nArAyaNa (nArAyaNAT rudrO jAyatE), the upanishad uses the name "Rudra" to highlight that Shiva was a jIvAtma who was born and cried during his birth on account of his pApa karmas. But when saying "shivasca nArAyaNa:", the upanishad uses the term "shiva". Reason? Because "shivasca nArAyaNa:" implies that Shiva is the sharIrA of nArAyaNa and hence his vibhUti (for the body is the property of the inner self). And by virtue of being the vibhUti of nArAyaNa empowered to perform specific tasks, he was cleansed of his pApa karmas obstructing brahmOpAsaNa and hence became "shiva". This is the meaning behind the upanishad using "rudra" and "shiva" to denote pArvati pati successively.

    The above essay shows the depth of meaning in even the simplest of upanishadic statements, which highlights the laughable ignorance of vishNu dvEshis and hari-hara aikya vAdIs in trying to read a simplistic and erroneous identity of deities in them.

    Next time, new readers should go to the FAQ first before coming up with tripe like this. This is the last time we will answer such irritating and oft repeated queries.

  10. (The Veerashaiva connection to the founding of the Sringeri mutt is alluded to in many of the mutt’s own writings. The chandramaulIshvara linga worshipped by Sringeri gurus as the central deity seems to have been gifted by a Veerasaiva.)

    I have an incident to narrate on how these folks at Sringeri are reducing advaita to Shaiva matha when they establish their popular branches in big cities. In Nallakunta in Hyderabad, there is a famous Sringeri Shankara matha temple. They installed Sharada and Shankara worshipping a Shiva linga there, long back. Now, Sharada is actually Saraswathi, but they completely converted her into Parvathi. Recently, they installed Vinayaka, thus adding a further Shaiva element, even though Adi Shankara did not approve of vinayaka worship. I am expecting that soon they will install Skanda and complete the Shaivaization process. And yes, I don't expect them to install Vishnu at all even though Vishnu was the only deity worshipped by Adi Shankara.

  11. I will give another example of the Shaivaization of advaita that is practised by Sringeri matha. The advaita-vedanta home page (AVHP) lists the guru parampara here -

    The parampara starts with Narayana. And then also says it starts with Sadashiva (parvati pathi in their opinion). The website says-

    //It is typical of advaita that the first guru is called nArAyaNa (vishNu) in the first verse and sadASiva (Siva) in the second.//

    The AVHP website thus assumes advaitins to be a hari-hara aikya vAdins.

    Now comes the interesting part. The Sringeri website places Shiva (parvati pathi) above Vishnu in the guru parampara hierarchy -

    It quotes "Sadashiva Samarambham..." but completely omits "Narayanam padmabhuvam..." which is supposed to be the first verse in the guru parampara shloka that the advaita-vedanta home page quotes.

    Thus, the hollowness of hari-hara aikya vAda claim of these neo-advaitins at Sringeri stands exposed.

    1. While I cannot vouch for the authenticity or otherwise of their gurus parampara slokas, the practice of saluting vishNu followed by shiva is present in many advaitic works on the basis that VishNu is saguNa brahman and adi guru, while shiva is a jagad-guru who imparts knowledge of saguNa brahman. It is not hari-hara aikya at all.

      Equating Saraswati to PArvati likely stems from the affiliation to the srividya/shakta/tantra sects.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. There is one person in Andhra who goes by the name of Chaganti Koteswara Rao. He spreads lot of propaganda about Adi Shankara. For example, he says Shankara authored Saundaryalahari, even though that is a thoroughly discredited claim. No scholar worth his salt will make such a claim. This so-called scholar was once giving a discourse on Sundara Kanda in Ramayana. Suddenly out of the blue, he brings in Saundaryalahari and claims that it is as beautiful as Sundara kanda. And then he claims Shankara authored Saundaryalahari. God knows what Saundaryalahari is doing in a discourse on Sundara Kanda. This man does not have any sense of history and keeps attributing every other bogus work to Adi Shankara.

  14. Requesting posters Anonymous and Pavan to stay in topic. Let us not make this comments space a joint for airing grievances about general anti Vaishnava tendencies in today's India.

    I may remove some recent off topic comments after a day.

    1. Sri HBB

      Pardon me but I think one of the points made by the articles and the posts here, is how the vaishnavaite links to advaita are being continuously uprooted and being substituted by saivism. From that perspective, I would say I stayed on the topic in my posts. You are of course free to remove any of my posts, if you do not think they are relevant.

    2. With due respect, we expect comments to be either genuine questions or embellishments of article points to bring out new facets/dimensions that are of relevance to the page.

      Simply enumerating instances of anti-Vaishnavism in the media, IMO, does not serve the above purpose.

      The focus of this article btw is on the symbols and practices of Vaishnavism. It was necessary to point out the popular anti Vaishnavism solely to bring out that only due to it the facts presented in the article are contrary to popular perception.

  15. As HBB said, let us moderate discussion. If you have any publication by a mutt such as Sringeri or KAmAkoti that is anti-vaishnava, you can bring it to our notice and comment on it here.

    However, kindly refrain from complaints such as "X Rao person in Andhra talks about Soundarya Lahiri on TV" etc. This is because we cannot start a court case or something against every random individual who attacks Vaishnavism. Nor is there anything to refute in his statements - he quotes soundarya lahiri. Ok, so what can we do about it? What is the point of complaining about him here? It is just someone saying something. And we know there are hundreds of such individuals. It is not some written work we can refute.

    It is a fact that such people follow Shaiva advaita. That's all there is to it. No need to highlight everyone who appears on TV or gives discourses.

    Please note that the purpose of this blog is not to name and shame random individuals. If you have a written work that propagates such errors, we can address it. Random speeches on TV or in functions made by some shaivas don't count.

  16. An interesting observation:

    I was perusing through a commentary of Vasudeva Upanishad by a late advaitin named "Abhinava Narayanendra". He seems to be a Hari-Hara aikya vAdin, but he too says "kecinnordhvapuNDraM Acaranti | te pratyakShashrutivirodhAdupekShaNIyAH" meaning "we observe that some do not wear UrdhvapuNDra (on forehead and other body parts). They are to be shunned (as non-authorities) because they contradict the very shruti".

    1. This evidence shows how vaidikas have been misled by shaivAdvaitins today.

  17. I have a question.

    Is the MahapurushaNirnayam of Swami Alavandar available in some form?

    I would love to go through that text.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      As far as I know, this text is mentioned as lost, by vidvAns in the sampradAyam.

    2. I see. That is extremely unfortunate. Hearing arguments for Vishnu parathvam directly from the author of the magnificent StotraRatnam was something I was looking forward to.

    3. Vishishtadvaita/Sri Vaishnava tradition has the highest amount of lost works tbh. The reason is because of the muslim invasion of srirangam when many precious works and their commentaries were lost forever. ShrI vedAnta desikan quotes from several of these lost works.

      Loss of so many priceless works is just another feather in the cap for Islam, which I believe is really the biggest practical joke played by bhagavAn in kali yuga. I am finding it difficult to think of one useful thing this religion stands for. You can even point out a couple of instances in Xianity when its' adherents served some purpose to society, but there is not a single redeeming character in the Mohemmedan religion, which is diametrically opposed to the very fundamentals of the ultimate truth.

  18. Great Job Bhaktas! Om Namo Narayana!

  19. I am Subho Deep Thakur. I have been a regular visitor of your blog. When I was in complete darkness. This blog gave me some sunshine. Thank You HBB and Aryamaa. I offer my obeisances to you, both.
    Though from the entire pramanas that you have presented, it is evident that Srimad Devi Bhagwatam is not the original Bhagwatam. However I still find that it is a necessity, to show some light on the contradictions between MB and Bhagwata. If you can elaborate the Kalpa-bheda aspect between the two scriptures, it would be a great help. I request to write a special article on Srimad Bhagwatam being the original one.

    May Lord Krsna bless you both!

    1. Namaste and thank you for your comments.

      At this time, it is not at the top of our priority to write articles to asinine remarks by certain Shaivites/Shaktas on Bhagavatam. It is well accepted by vedAntins of all three schools (A, VA, D) that Srimad Bhagavatam is the one counted in the 18 purANas.

      Please also post comments/questions relevant to the article in the page. That helps both the authors and the readers keep focused on topic.

      Thank you for your wishes and may Sri Krishna bless you too.

    2. I have a question that if there is some incident in our Itihaas(Mahabharata and Ramayana) which depicts the use of Urdhvapundra tilaka by anyone.

    3. None, but both Mahabharata and Ramayana hold Pancharatra in high authority. And the Pancharatra samhitas contain ample pramANas for UrdhvapuNDra, as well as shankha-chakra mudrA dhAraNa.

    4. Technically, it is there. ShrI krishNa, as the king of dvAraka, stipulates that only those who have the special mudra should be allowed inside the city. The AchAryAs interpret this as "shankha chakra mudrA dhAraNa".

      There are a group of upAsakAs who are required to meditate on the Lord while wearing bhasma as per the atharvasiras. To dispel doubts, bhagavAn also declares in harivamSha - "they are also bhagavatas, my devotees". The wearing of ashes is only related to that particular mode of upAsaNa and is not to be undertaken on a regular basis.

      Curiously, our ASI while excavating in Gujarat found an underwater city and also discovered some fish seals. Foolishly, they claimed that these fish seals are the "mudrAs" mentioned by krishNa and so they have found the lost city of dvAraka. This is what comes of being ignorant of shAstra!

      In actuality, that underwater city is not krishNa's dvAraka. That city submerged some 77,000 years ago. The claim that mahAbhArata took place only 5000 years ago is wrong as it doesn't take the uttara sandhi into account. Pratyaksha shows there is no evidence for such a large scale war 5000 years ago anyway.

      A point to note is that while urdhva puNDra is mandated for prapannas, the shAstra does not bind bhakti yOgIs and non-vaishnavas to wear it. In saccharitra raksha, shrI vedAnta desikan lists the type of marks stipulated for each caste - round moon shape mark for shudras, half moon mark for kshatriyas, etc.

      Bhagavan as rAma and krishNa was not a prapanna and so it is unlikely he wore the urdhva puNDra in the manner that the followers of vaishnava AchAryAs do. He likely wore the half moon mark etc as per the caste of his avatAra.

      Of course, if a person becomes a prapanna, then he should wear the urdhva puNDra irrespective of caste.

  20. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya...

    I am from a smartha background and i am totally devoted only to Bhagavan Vishnu. I believe that he's ParaBrahman as per Vedas and other shastras. My guru told me to apply tripundra during my sandhyavandan but i love to wear Urdhva PuNdra. Now can a Smartha like me apply Urdhva Pundra? Kindly answer my query.

    1. Namaste and thank you. I are unable to advise yiu on personal matters. All I can say is smArtas can and should wear UrdhvapuNDra. This article shows that shastras strongly say Urdhvapundra dhArana is essential for all, and all nitya naimittika karma and vaidika practises require UrdhvapuNDra dhAraNa. Also, vaiShNava AcAryas quote pramANas to show dvijas should not wear tripuNDra.

      It is commpn these days in a sizable section of the smArtha community to violate these shAstra vAkyas.

      You can decide for yourself, considering these pramANas and also taking into account possible objections you may have to face from your family and acquaintances.


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