Tilaka & Piercings

Tilaka is religious markings worn on parts of the body including the chest, hands or neck but most commonly painted on the forehead. Regional customs determine the designs and whether the markings are worn exclusively during special occasions or on a regular basis. Tilaka ceremonies are commonly performed at Hindu weddings, marking the rites of passage or as a way of honoring guests. Those who wear the Tilaka mark illustrate their devotion to god. In some religions, even if one does not devote themselves, there are no regulations against wearing the symbol. The materials and application process depend on each faith. Saivites, for instance, draw three horizontal lines using a paste made from sandalwood, complete with a dot of red kumkum in the center of the design. Vaishnavas instead use a mixture of Vermillion, sandalwood past, and clay and create two vertical lines, sometimes connected to form a U shape.


In the Hindu faith, there is an ancient tradition of women of all ages wearing nose and ear piercings. There are several reasons for nose piercings, including puberty, relieving pain during childbirth and a sign of marriage. A nose ring symbolizes the union of a woman, honoring the Hindu Goddess of marriage, Parvathi. In some regions of India, once a girl becomes old enough to get married she may receive a piercing. According to ancient Ayurvedic science, there exists a correlation between the piercing location of the nose and the female reproductive organs, and in some instances, when a girl reaches puberty she will get her nose pierced. Due to this link with the female reproductive organs, many believe a hole in the nostril helps in relieving some of the pain experienced during childbirth. The community and region influence whether one pierces the left or right side of the nose.