By Swami Harshananda
According to the āgamas and the purāṇas, every devotee is expected to wear a puṇdra or a religious mark, appropriate to his cult or sect, not only on the forehead but also on the specified parts of the body. This puṇḍra can be of two types:
- Ṅrdhva - upright: The nāma and the gopicandana of the Vaiṣṇavas belong to this category.
- Tiryak - crosswise: The vibhuti (holy ash) belongs to this category.
The gopicandana is yellowish clay available near the lake called Gopītālāb in Gujarat. It is situated in the vicinity of Dvārakā, the famous place of pilgrimage. It has to be mixed with water to prepare a thin paste and then applied on the forehead, arms, shoulders and the belly.
Clay collected from some sacred places is also used for this purpose. These places are:
- Srīraṅgam in Tamil Nadu
- Simhācala in Andhra Pradesh
- Prayāga in Uttar Pradesh
- Earth near the root of Tulasī plants
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore