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Camphor on the Forehead and Chin of Tirupati


Large Camphor Tilak of Tirupati

People often ask why Venkateshwar Balaji has such a large tilak that it almost blocks out his eyes.  Most tilaks are applied to the forehead and big or small, they never obscure the eye.  There a couple of reasons put forward for the unusually large tilak of Lord Balalji. 

One reason is that it is applied to sooth the Lord’s Forehead. 
There is an ancient myth narrating how in the horary past, a cowherd attacked the Lord as he drank milk from the king’s cow.  Blood flowed as amply as the milk and the Lord needed a camphor balm to heal his wound.  Kasturi (musk), saffron and camphor is applied as a tilak on a weekly basis.  It is taken off every Thursday and re-applied on Friday. 

Another reason is that this is the Vishwa-roop (universal form) of the Lord and hence it has a fierce gaze!  The camphor is applied to cool the gaze and make it more bearable for us mere mortals.

A third and possibly the most improbable reason is that the Lord is in a terribly desperate need for money to pay back Kuber for his wedding debts!  So desperate is the Lord that He places the tilak to ‘obscure’ his vision and prefers not to see if the source of his donations are good or otherwise!  This third and most ludicrous reason for the tilak seems to be a moral corruption of temple authorities for garnering money for the temple without actually calling it greed!  How can the Lord of the Universe, who can see into the hearts of all souls, not know where the money came from and what the antecedence of the money is?  How can God, the very embodiment of truth, morality and ethics ignore these to simply accumulate wealth?  Surely positive and negative karmas attached to donated wealth would affect the deity too!  How can Vishnu, the every embodiment of righteousness even condone donation of ill gotten wealth?  Sadly this seems to be a late addition to the original temple lore to increase the wealth of the temple at any cost. 


Camphore on the chin

Camphor is applied to the chin of the Lord Balaji to sooth the pain from being hit by a spade / picaxe. 

Legend has it that at one time, a devotee called Ananthazhwar and his wife were digging in the garden of Shri Venkateshwar.  Being pregnant, his wife became tired of the backbreaking work and sat down.  The Lord was moved by Ananthazhwar and his wife’s devotion and dedication to their task.  Wanting to help his beloved devotees, the Lord came as a young man to help them. 

However, Ananthazhwar was furious!  He did not want anyone to share his task and thereby share the fame and good-fortune (punya - good karma) that would accrue for digging in God’s garden.  He ordered the stranger to stop doffing.  But the Lord continued to help.  Angered by the thought of sharing his punya, Ananthazhwar hit the unwanted helper on his chin with his spade / pickaxe.  Blood flowed in abundance !  The Lord disappeared to nurse his injuries in the inner recesses of the temple.

When Ananthazhwar went to do darshan, he saw Shri Venkatesh bleeding profusely and asked who had committed such a sacrilege.  When the Lord explained what had happened, he was felt great remorse for having hurt his beloved deity.  He applied a balm of camphor to the chin of the Lord.    

In my mind, this is a lesson to teach us all to work together for worthy causes.  Instead of trying to do everything by yourself (eg seva) so you can garner all the punya, we should let others help us.  This tale teaches us to share the work of seva and share the punya – trust me, there is plenty of punya to go around!  By sharing it, we share the blessings of God.  What better service can we offer fellow devotees than to share the punya!

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