चन्दन – The Sandalwood!
“Chandan” (Sandalwood) used to make a paste for Worship.
The Sandalwood (“Chandan” in Hindi) is used in worships and religious occasions from ancient times. Most commonly it is used as a paste. The paste is obtained by rubbing a piece of sandalwood on a round granite slab and slowly adding water to it. This special-purpose slab is called “Chanouta” in Hindi. The paste thus obtained is used by devotees themselves and offered to Gods during worship. Devotees apply it on the forehead and the earlobes (in shape according to their sects). For example “Vaishnavas” (Devotees of Vishnu) make a trident-like shape on the forehead while “Shaivas” (Devotees of Shiva) make three parallel lines. Same is with Gods Vishnu and Shiva. Almost all gods like Sandalwood due to its aroma which is considered divine. It is said to be helpful during the meditation and enhance concentration. Thus brings closer to divinity.
“Chanowta”-the round flat stone slab on which
sandalwood is rubbed with water to make a paste
There is a story related to God Krishna and his likeness for “Chandan” in the holy Hindu book “Srimadbhagawat Purana” written by Maharishi Ved Vyas. Krishna is invited to Mathura by his wicked uncle King “Kansa”. Krishna and his elder brother Balarama were walking on the street of Mathura when they saw a woman with a hump on her back coming with a “Thal”(plate) of sandalwood paste. She could not walk erect and people called her “Kubdi”. But Krishna addressed her as “Sundari” (Beautiful woman) and asked her where was she going. She answered that the “Chandan” was for King “Kansa” and she was going to his palace as a daily routine. But she was so impressed by the two brothers that she expressed her wish to apply sandalwood paste to foreheads of them. They happily agreed. She fulfilled her wish and asked Krishna why had he called her “Sundari” (Beautiful woman) while she was bent and could not walk erect. Everybody called her “Kubdi”. Krishna laughed and said that she was really beautiful – thus saying he pressed her feet with his feet and holding her shoulder with one hand gave her chin an upward jolt with his other hand. And a miracle happened! Her hump was gone and she was erect. She was overwhelmed with joy and thanked Krishna.
Chandan, Raktachandan and Chanowta
Sandalwood (“Chandanam”) is also liked by Shiva. It is one of the things Shiva likes most. In the famous “Shiva Manas Stotram” written by Adishankaracharya there is an offering of “Chandanam” to Shiva. It is thus said in Sanskrit:-
Ratnaih kalpitam aasanam himjalaih snanam ch divyambaram
Nana ratna vibhooshitam mrigmadamodankitam chandanam
jatichampakvilvapatra rachitam pushpam ch dhoopam tatha
Deepam dev dayanidhe pashupate hritkalpitam grihyataam.
(O God! O Kind one! O Master of animals! Please accept these-the throne made of jewels, cold water bath, the divine cloth studded with different jewels, the sandalwood paste mixed with musk scent, the handful of jasmine-Champa flowers with bael leaves, incense and lamp- I have imagined them in my heart.)
Sandalwood paste (“Chandanam”) is applied to Shivalinga during his “Snanam”(bathing). It is then applied to him as “Tripunda” during his “Shringar” (decoration of diety). The name of “Chandana” also comes in “Lingashtakam” (the eight shloka prayer of ‘Linga’) as below:-
Kumkuma Chandana Lepit Lingam
Pankaja Haara Sushobhit Lingam
Sanchita Paapa Vinaashaka Lingam
Tat Pranamami Sadaa Shiva Lingam
(Means, I say my Namaskar to that ‘Linga’ which is applied with “Kumkuma &Chandana”, that looks beautiful with a garland of lotus and destroys all accumulated “Papum”).
The mantra to offer “chandanam” is as below:-
श्रीखण्डं चन्दनं दिव्यं गन्धाढयं सुमनोहरम्।
विलेपनं च देवेश चन्दनं प्रतिगृह्यताम्।।
Sandalwood has many other uses. Due to its fine-grained wood, it is carved to make idols of gods or things of art. Sandalwood oil is also obtained from sandalwood. It has some medicinal properties. It is used in the making of incense sticks.
One of its qualities is the scent in the wood remains intact till decades to come. Nowadays Chandana face packs are also used which contains Chandana powder.