12 February 2016

Identifying Vaishnavites and Shaivites

Srirangam is an island and a part of the city of Tiruchirappalli aka Trichy, in South India. It is bounded by the Kaveri River aka Cauvery River on one side, and the Kaveri distributary Kollidam River aka Coleroon River on the other side.

Srirangam is home to a significant population of both (i) Vaishnavites (the followers of god Vishnu, the preserver, who worship their god at the 73m high Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple) and (ii) Shaivites (the followers of god Shiva, the destroyer, who worship their god at the nearby Sri Jambukeshwara Temple).

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Many Shaivite devotees apply vibhuti as a white patch or as three horizontal lines across the forehead and other parts of the body to please their god Shiva. Three lines of vibhuti smeared across the forehead to the end of both eyebrows, usually together with a red dot, is called tripundra. The sacred white ash which is made of burnt dried wood in Agamic rituals is called vibhuti. Yellow sandalwood paste aka chandanam often completes a sophisticated and impressive vibhuti.

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Shaivite sadhu; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; grey hair; face; unkempt hair; Srirangam; Sri Jambukeshwara Temple; long beard; eye contact; religion; orange robe; mala; japa mala; prayer beads; rudraksha mala; mala beads; vibhuti; white ash on forehead

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Shaivite brahmin; old brahmin; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; grey hair; face; Srirangam; Sri Jambukeshwara Temple; eye contact; religion; vibhuti; white ash on forehead; third eye

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Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Tamil priest; Hinduism; young priest; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; black hair; face; Srirangam; eye contact; religion; vibhuti; white ash on forehead; third eye; tripundra; tilaka mark; Shiva; handsome; eyeglasses; earrings; Hindu; temple

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Tamil priest; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; grey hair; face; Srirangam; eye contact; religion; vibhuti; white ash on forehead; third eye; bokeh; tripundra; tilaka mark; cross-eyed; Shiva; Sri Jambukeshwara Temple


The Vishnu tradition related mark consisting of vertical lines is called urdhva pundra. It is a tilaka mark worn by Vaishnavites to show that they are devotees of Vishnu. It is generally worn on the forehead, but also on other parts of the body. The markings are made either as a daily ritual, or on special occasions, and denote which particular lineage, or sampradaya the devotee belongs to. The different Vaishnava sampradayas each have their own distinctive style of tilaka marks based on the siddhanta of their particular lineage. The general tilaka pattern is of two or more vertical lines resembling the letter U, which commonly represents the foot of Vishnu.

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; face; Srirangam; Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; eye contact; religion; Vaishnavite devotee; Vaishnavite brahmin; old Indian man; eyeglasses; urdhva pundra; Vishnu sign; Vaishnavism; tilaka mark; long beard; orange robe

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; face; Srirangam; Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; eye contact; religion; Indian man; friendly; modern Indian man; eyeglasses; Indian middle class; urdhva pundra; Vishnu sign; Vaishnavite devotee; Vaishnavite pilgrim; Vaishnavism; tilaka mark

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; face; Srirangam; Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; eye contact; religion; Indian man; friendly; modern Indian man; Indian middle class; urdhva pundra; Vishnu sign; Vaishnavite devotee; Vaishnavite pilgrim; Vaishnavism; tilaka mark

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; Asia; South Asia; India; Tamil Nadu; Tiruchirappalli; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; travel destination; Hindu; Hinduism; photography; colour; portraiture; person; people; eyes; face; Srirangam; Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple; eye contact; religion; Indian man; friendly; modern Indian man; white beard; earrings; Indian middle class; urdhva pundra; Vishnu sign; Vaishnavite devotee; Vaishnavite pilgrim; Vaishnavism; tilaka mark

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