The Face-mark on Sri Mulamurthy:
The Venerable Sage Ramanuja regularised some other aspects relating to the Mulamurthy — Sri Venkateswara. Chapter 4 of Padma Purana describes the Lord being decorated with a face mark with a base on the nose resembling the 8th phase of the moon. Chapter 6 of Bhavishyothara Purana describes Srinivasa wearing on His face, seen by reflection from a mirror, a mark (vertical parallel lines) with white clay with a tilak of kummum in the centre. It also states that He carried the materials needed to wear the face mark (tirunamam) when He started out — a mirror, white clay and a container with kumkum. Chapter eleven of the same purana states, “Srinivasa, the refuge of the virtuous, wore a face mark in the form of two up going broad lines of white clay with a base (on the nose). Then Vakula malika, his mother, bade Lakshmi, “0 auspicious one! Place a tilak of Kumkum on your husband’s face”. Lakshmi then put the tilak in between the two white lines.” From all these (cited above), it is clear that Srinivasa wears a distinctive face mark (urdvapundra) which will destroy any thought in the Saivas that He is their deity. All these days there has been this doubt as to the identity of this deity (due to absence of the face-mark); He should wear the distinctive mark which will set Him out as Vishnu by a mere look. This mark (namam) should be made up of a semicircular base (half-full moon) on the nose (between eyebrows) and two upgoing lines reaching up to the braid of hair, well-separated by an inter-space. These lines should be of sweet smelling and white paste of powdered pacha-karpura (edible camphor). In the words of Padma Purana `ashtameentu kaladhara lalatasthor dhwapun drakah’ the base (adhara) of the mark is likened to the shape of the eighth phase of the moon, namely half the full-moon. The base should be solid and semicircular and there should be two upgoing lines reaching up the hair, separated by an interspace and each line should be quite broad. The interspace is for the kumkum tilak.
The `Katyayaniya swetamriturdvapundropanishad’ indicates that the base (below the face) should have the dimension of one inch, and that the inter space between the two-upgoing lines should not be less than an inch. It is clear that the base (on the nose) should be solid with no interspace and there should be about one inch space between the vertical white lines.
The third chapter of Padmottara Kanda states “starting from the base of the nose,, the face mark should be worn upto the forehead of white clay. From the centre of the eye-brows there should be an interspace between the lines; the lines should be about an inch broad and the interspace, about two inches. The base of the `namam’ from the nose to the eyebrows should be solid without any interspace.
In the `Katyaneeya Upanishad’ referred to, the word palatala in “ekangulam palatale urdhvasya moolam” refers to the lower part of the face and the base of the nose (where the nose begins). The word tala refers to the lower portion and the above interpretation of palatala is in keeping with the puranic texts.
All texts clearly indicate that the namam should be worn starting from the base of the nose in the form of two lines separated by an interspace. The Bharadwaja Samhita states, “One should perform achamana and then wear the face mark (namam). It should begin at the base of the nose and extend up to the hair. The base of the nose is about a third of the nose (third of the distance between the base and the tip, near the mouth). It states that in the space between the lines should be decorated as Lakshmi’s place, either with turmeric powder or sweet-smelling sal:a on powder.
The Vaikhanasagama also states “the auspicious face of Sri Hari should be decorated with a namam of two lines extending from the base of the nose to the forehead. The Parasara Samhita ordains that brahmins should wear on their faces bright namams (urdhvapundra mark) with a two-inch long base (starting from the base of the nose), and two (upgoing) lines separated by an interspace of an inch and a half. The lines themselves should be each about an inch broad.
There arc many other Puranic utterances which may be quoted in support. The consensus of all these is this the base of the namam on the nose, about an inch long should be solid without interspace and should extend over the base of the nose. The Bhardwaja Samhita divides the nose into three portions. The base should extend over a third of the nose, down from the portion of the nose between the eyebrows. Just like the length and breadth of the namam are prescribed so that it may satisfy the aesthetic taste, so also the base should be so shaped that the entire namam is aesthetically acceptable. The urdhvapundra (namam) should be straight, beautiful and attractive. The base of the namam may have the shape of a full-blown lotus, or half the full moon. The term ashtameentu kaladhara emphasises this base. If the term is read as `kalakara’, the term would qualify the face and not the base of the namam. This is the reading in the Bhavishyottara Puranam (Chapter II) referred to earlier, and it states that Srinivasa wore the namam on his face which was bright as a mirror and handsome like the eighth phase of the moon. It may be mentioned that the beautiful face of Sri Padmavati is likened by Narada to the eighth phase of the moon in Chapter 4, section 2 of Varaha Purana. All these texts emphasise that Srinivasa wore a Urdhvapundra (up-going) tirunamam (mark) with a base and two lines, on his face.
Many texts describe the namam (mark) as made up of three lines including the central yellow or red line. That Srinivasa wore such a mark is clear from the statement in Bhavisyottara Purana cited earlier. Many authoritative texts do not mention the central line (representing Sri) in between the two lines. Elders say that before the dispute with the Saivas Srinivasa wore only the two-line mark. So there is nothing seriously wrong in Srinivasa wearing the two-line mark alone.
The sastras (authorities) describe various forms of the face-mark from the point of view of beauty and occasion of worship. They have also prescribed various materials-kasturi, pachakarpura, white clay, gopichandan, pearl dust, silver, gold and so on. So it is fitting to decorate the face of Srinivasa with the urdhvapundra mark as the occasion demands. “It is but proper that now, to remore totally the doubt of His being any other deity, that Srinivasa should be decorated on the face with the urdhvapundra (namam) with a base and two broad upgoing lines separated by an interspace, made of white pachakarpura powder” declared Sri Ramanuja. He directed that such a mark be worn on Srinivasa’s face as was the custom before the Saivas caused confusion.
The very next Friday after these decisions were made, Sri Ramanuja noticed that during the Tirumanjanam the holy akasaganga water poured on the tip of the Lord’s head washed away the facial lines of the namam but the semi circular base on the nose was not washed off. It reminded him of the statement in the Vasishta Samhita that when the Lord appeared as a captivating maiden (mohini) after the churning of the milk ocean, his face was adorned by a namam like half-full-moon and the asuras and devas were bewitched by the beauty of the face adorned by that namam.. Lord Venkateswara’s face appeared like that of the mohini avatar, most beautiful with the half-moon shaped namam and stormed the hearts of all worshippers. Sri Ramanuja was thinking that the Lord should appear like this on a day or a two and the Lord too approved through the voice of the archaka (priest). It was then decided that the namam starting from the base of the nose and reaching the forehead made of pachakarpura powder should adorn the Lord’s face soon after the holy bath and should remain so for three days.
Monday is the day on which Lord Srinivasa appeared on Tirumala. The tenth chapter of Padma Purana states: “In the first Krita Yuga, the Lord of the worlds, the greatest of persons, the great protector made his appearance on Narayanagiri situated 200 yojanas south of the Ganga and five yojanas from the eastern sea on the western bank of the Swami Pushkarini on a Purattasi (Konya) Sravana Dwadasi day a Monday, during Siddha yoga.” So from Monday, the sacred day of appearance of Srinivasa on this earth, the Lord should be adorned just with the semicircular base on the nose and a tilak of turmuric powder rendered red, from the base reaching up to the gem set gold band worn on the forehead by the Lord below tkie crown (Kireeta). Two strings of white pearls should hand down from the golden band mentioned reaching down to the base mentioned given the appearance of two white lines with a central red tilak.
The eye should be adorned with collirium. This is the decoration for the next 3 days.
On Thursday, in advance of the Tirumanjanam to be performed on Friday, the Lord should be adorned on the face with the gemset golden namam with two lines of diamonds and a central line set with rubies (red). All other jewels adorning the deity should be removed and the Lord covered with a cover made of flowers (poolangi).
On Friday, in the morning, after removing the flower cover and the gemset namam, the Lord should be adorned with a simple namam of white clay and srichurnam, and covered with two thin clothes-veshti and uttariya for the first puja. After the holy bath, the Lord should be decorated with the namam made of Pachakarpura with a paada (base). It was ordained that the gemset namam jewel used on Thursdays should adorne the Lords face on important festival days. The utsava idol should be decorated on the face with a kasturi tilak in the shape of the flame of the lamp.
(It may be mentioned in passing that these arrangements made by Sri Ramanuja have undergone considerable change. It is well known that the Pachakarpura namam (without the semicircular base like the 8th phase of the moon) worn on the Lord’s face with a central line of kasturi on Friday after the holy bath adorns the face for six days and on Thursday part of this namam is removed so that the eyes are uncovered. The Lord appears without any jewels on Thursdays and is adorned with poolangi in the afternoon. The gemset namam mentioned above does not appear to be used at all — Translator.)
Decoration with Flowers:
It is the practice of heroes to first decorate their heroic weapons and then only accept decorations like sandal paste and flowers. In keeping with this tradition sage Ramanuja ordained that when the Lord was decorated morning noon and evening, the discuss and conch and the holy feet which render Him victorious should first be offered the decorations. Then Sridevi adorning the Lord’s chest, followed by the Lord’s crown (Kireeta) should be decorated with flower garlands.