What is the meaning of Bhasma?
The dictionary meaning of Bhasma is the ash of any burnt object but in Hindu tradition the word has a different dimension altogether. This normal looking residue has the sense of holiness and it essentially means the holy ash for worship.
It is the ash from homa, i.e. asacrificial fire, where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered to the Lord. Hence in all the Sanskrit citations word Bhasma is often regarded as the holy ash from the sacrificial fire.
Types of Bhasma
Traditionally there are three types of Bhasma namely Shantikara, Pushtikara and Kamada. ShantikaraBhasma is the one which givespeace and coolness while Pushtikaragives nourishment. Kamada type of Bhasma fulfills the wishes of the person who applies it.
Which Bhasma is considered auspicious?
Bhasma from the sacrificial place of Agnihotri Brahman is considered very auspicious. Chita Bhasma is the ash of dead body and is very dear to Shiva.
Consumption of Bhasma
Due to the purity, many people consume a pinch of Bhasmawhen they receive it. It is a strong Hindu belief that consumption of Bhasma makes the body and soul pure.
Where to apply Bhasma?
Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. However, differentcults havedifferentbeliefs and applications. Some ascetics apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc while othersrub it all over the body.
How to apply Bhasma?
Using Bhasma is very important in Nityakarma, i.e. the karmas or rituals performed on a daily basis. Indian scriptures provide the methods of applying Bhasma and highly encourage its application on the body. As per the ritual, at first one should performAchaman and Pranayam for body purification. Secondly,the Bhasma should be mixed with water by keeping it on the palms.
The third step involves its application on the forehead but only with the middle three fingers of the right hand. Remember, one should recite the name of Shiva thrice during this process. The Upanishads stress on chanting the famous Mrityunjaya mantra whilst applying ash on the forehead.
Finally, once the Bhasma is applied on the forehead, it could be applied on theface, heart, neck, naval, arms, flank, private organs, and legs.
Importance in Various Cults
Bhasma is included in the worship of the Lord Shiva and is an integral part of Shaiva cult. Bhasma is believed as the semen of Shiva. Hence its usage is crucial for the Shaivitesin daily life. Shiva is very irascible by nature and hence the objects which give coolness such as milk, Bilva fruit, and sandalwood are included in his worship. A special type of BhasmacalledShantikar is also includedduring Shiva worship. Cemetery is the favorite abode of Shiva hence Chita Bhasma,the ash of dead body is very dear to Shiva. It is cool by nature and helps to pacify the malevolent LordShiva. In Varanasi,Vishveshwara is always worshiped by Chitabhasma.
Why to use Bhasma?
The word Bhasma means ‘that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered’. Bhasmaapplication signifies the destruction of evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called Vibhutiwhich means ‘glory’, as it glorifies the one who applies it.
Homa (offerings into a consecrated fire with sacred chants) intends the surrender of ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of mind. Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. The application of ash also reminds us that the body is perishable and shall one day be reduced to ashes. We should therefore not get too much attached to it. Death can come at any moment and this awareness must increase our drive to make the best use of time. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.
Legends of the Creation of Bhasma
Hindu scriptures also define Bhasmaas Tryayushas there is a famous legendattached to it. It is believed that all Gods and sages were going to see Vishnu and got struck in the forest fire. As a result, they got burnt and remained in the form of ash. ThereafterVirabhadra came in that forest. As he came Agni tried to burn him as wellbutall his efforts failed. Then Virabhadraswallowed the foregoingflame and sprinkled some ash on the ashes of Gods by chanting holy mantras. All the gods became alive.
Unfortunatelya snake, for a second time,swallowed all the Gods. But again Virabhadra made them alive by sprinkling Bhasma.
Finally when a demon swallowed all the Gods and sages, Virabhadra sprinkled ash on them and made them alive for the third time. As a result it was named Tryayush, meaning the one which gives life for three times.
Another legend is; once sage Durvasa was going to heaven. On his way he sawKubhipakahell, the dwelling for the people suffering from the sorrows of the hell. Out of curiosity hepiped in that hell. At the same time, some Bhasma which was applied by him fell on those people and surprisingly they became free form sorrows of hell. Everybody was so amazed and asked the reason of the miracle to lord Shiva. Lord Shiva thereafter narrated the importance and holiness of Bhasma to everybody.
The use of Bhasma in Ayurveda
Bhasma has a medicinal value as well and is used in many Ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs body’s excess moisture and prevents colds and headaches.
In Ayurveda,Bhasmaof various substances are advised to use in medicinesor in the compoundwith other medicines. We get the reference of Bhasma of iron, gold, copper, pearl, etc in various Ayurvedictexts.