My Tilak-Chandlo

“What is that symbol on your forehead?”

  • What is a tilak-chandlo?
  • What is the history of the Swaminarayan tilak-chandlo?
  • What does the tilak-chandlo signify?

Tilak, Bindi, Vibhuti, Tikka… What is it?

Just as Christians may wear ash on Ash Wednesday or a cross around their neck, or Muslim women may wear a hijab, Jews may wear a kippah or tzitzit…

Various tilaks based on Hindu sects/traditions | Image Source (Linked)

What is a Tilak-Chandlo?

A tilak-chandlo, or chandlo, is a marking of the Swaminarayan fellowship.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj applying the chandlo at the center of the tilak. | Image Source (Linked)
“All male followers shall mark their forehead with an Urdhvapundra (U-shaped) Tilak with a round mark of Kumkum at the centre of it. All married women shall make only a round mark of Kumkum on their foreheads.”
प्रभुपूजोपयुक्तेन चन्दनेनोर्ध्वपुण्ड्रकम्।
भाले हि तिलकं कुर्यात् कुङ्कुमेन च चन्द्रकम्॥५३॥
उरसि हस्तयोश्चन्द्रं तिलकं चन्दनेन च।
स्वामिनारायणं मन्त्रं जपन् कुर्याद् गुरुं स्मरन्॥५४॥
“While chanting the Swaminarayan mantra and remembering the guru, apply a U-shaped tilak made from chandan that has been sanctified by having been offered to Bhagwan and a kumkum chandlo to the forehead. One should also apply a tilak-chandlo of chandan to the chest and both arms.” (Satsang Diksha verses 53–54)केवलं चन्द्रकः स्त्रीभिः कर्तव्यस्तिलकं नहि।
कुङ्कुमद्रव्यतो भाले स्मरन्तीभिर्हरिं गुरुम्॥५५॥
“While remembering Bhagwan and the guru, women should imprint only a kumkum chandlo to their foreheads. They should not apply a tilak.” (Satsang Diksha verse 55)

How Did the Tilak-Chandlo Become Associated With the Swaminarayan Fellowship?

On February, 13, 1821, Bhagwan Swaminarayan was in the village of Panchala, Gujarat to celebrate the Holi festival. He gave the sadhus (Hindu monks) a small piece of sandalwood and instructed them to all do a tilak for the next day.

Bhagwan Swaminarayan pointed to Gunatitanand Swami’s forehead, showing all the tilak-chandlo of the fellowship. | Image Source (Linked)

What Does the Tilak-Chandlo Signify?

The tilak-chandlo signifies many principles of the Swaminarayan fellowship. Below are three levels of understanding that the tilak-chandlo can signify.

A tilak-chandlo | Image Source (Linked)

#1 Complete Refuge in God

The first representation of the tilak-chandlo is reminding oneself of one’s refuge in God.

#2 Relationship Between the Ideal Devotee & God

The second representation of the tilak-chandlo is of the relationship between the ideal bhakta (disciple) and Bhagwan (God).

  • Radhikaji, next to Shri Krishna Bhagwan
  • Sitaji, next to Shri Ram Bhagwan
  • Hanumanji, next to Shri Ram Bhagwan
  • Nar, next to Shri Narayan Bhagwan
  • Parvatiji, next to Shri Shiv Bhagwan
Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami (left), who is the ideal bhakta, next to Parabrahman Bhagwan Swaminarayan (right), who is Bhagwan. | Image Source (Linked)

#3 Aksharam Aham Purushottama Dãso’smi

The third and most revered representation of the tilak chandlo is the sadhana (spiritual endeavor) and siddhi (goal) of the Vedanta tradition established by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, known as the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan.

Aksharam aham Purushottama dãso’smi“Being Akshar, I am Purushottam’s servant.”
  1. To attain oneness with Aksharbrahman/Akshar (understanding this to be attaining the divine qualities of Aksharbrahman and achieve the highest spiritual state), and
  2. To become Parabrahman/Purushottam’s servant (or to humbly follow God’s commands and worship God).

But why wear it?

Pramukh Swami Maharaj replied, “Your life will become ordered when you start applying the tilak-chandlo. Once you start you will gain the mental strength to continue.”


On the occasion of World Bindi Day and Hindu Heritage Month, I humbly encourage all to take a step towards the duality of learning about their own faith’s traditions, stories and beliefs and respectfully learning on other traditions.



Understanding a unique Vedic tradition · Articles on the relevancy of ancient spiritual wisdom and modern-day mindfulness · Student-ran publication · Not affiliated with any organization

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