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Title: Significance of wearing Shikha
User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2007-03-14 06:32:20
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krsna!
Dear Swami Gaurangapada, please accept my humble obiesances.
Could you please explain the significance of wearing a sikha and it's meaning in relation to Guru and GaurangaKrsna. And also the meaning of tying a knot in the sikha? Thank you.
yours, Nava Gauranga dasa.
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
Shikha is a tuft of hair at the back of head specifically kept by Vaishnavas and brahmanas. It shows the following two things:
(1) The Vaishnavas following a descending spiritual path that is they depend on the mercy of the Supreme Lord at every step to pull them out of Maya. So when we are drowning in Maya and only our head is out of the water, Guru and Gauranga can still pull us out comfortably by holding our head by this tuft of head called the shikha. So the shikha shows the subordination and dependence of the devotee on the causelessmercy of Lord Gauranga-Krishna at all times. The Mayavadis follow the ascending path since they egotistically confident of achieve God and coming out of illusion by the dint of their insignificant efforts or sadhan. So they do not keep a shikha because they do not need the mercy of the Lord.
(2) Shikha is also like a spiritual antenna on the top of head meant to show to the Lord and that we are aspiring recepients of His causeless mercy.
Tuft of Hair (sikha)
from Pancharatra Pradipa
According to the Vedic culture, when a person undergoes the
cuda-karana-samskara (hair-cutting ceremony) and upanayana (Vedic
initiation), he must shave his head, leaving a tuft of hair called a sikha
. One must have a sikha to perform any kind of yajna. Therefore in Indian
tradition all the brahmanas, Vaisnava or otherwise, keep a sikha.
Although there seem to be no sastric injunctions regarding the size of the
sikha, Gaudiya Vaisnavas traditionally keep the sikha about the size of a
calf's hoofprint, approximately 1.5 inches (5 - 6 cm.) in diameter. Srila
Prabhupada mentioned this in a conversation with some of his disciples in
Hawaii: "Gaudiya Vaisnava sikha is an inch and a half across -- no bigger.
Bigger sikha means another sampradaya.... And they have to be knotted."
(May 6, 1972, Hawaii; Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta V, page 93)
The sikha may be any length, but it should be kept tightly knotted and only
untied when you are washing,The Hari-bhakti-vilasa observes that members
of the upper classes even tie the sikha before taking the final ablutions
of a bath. This particularly applies when bathing in a body of water such
as a river or a lake, in which case to not tie the sikha prior to bathing
is considered low class and disrespectful to the sacred rite of bathing.
You may tie it in a simple manner for bathing, retying it more carefully
after the bath.* cleaning, or oiling it. Also, when going to sleep,
attending funeral rites, or observing a period of mourning, you should
keep the sikha untied. Since an untied sikha is a sign of a death in the
family, it is inauspicious to go about one's daily duties with an untied
sikha. It is also said that if one keeps the sikha untied, the body may
While tying your sikha after bathing, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, or, if
initiated with Gayatri mantras, silently chant the Brahma-gayatri (first
line of Gayatri). The sikha should not be braided (traditionally only
women braid their hair), nor should it be kept long and disheveled.
Naturally, if the sikha is too short to be tied, it is all right to leave
it open, but it should not be disheveled.*
Shrila Prabhupada's letters
...but every one of my disciples must have the flag & marks of tilak on forehead. This is essential.
Letter to: Damodara -- Calcutta 13 October, 1967
...in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilak, flag on head, & beads
on neck. These are essential features of a Vaisnava.
Letter to: Brahmananda -- Calcutta 14 October, 1967
I never objected to any of my students dressing like nice American
gentleman, clean shaved; those who are my disciples must have flag, tilak &
beads on neck without fail.
Letter to: Kirtanananda -- Calcutta 16 October, 1967
Householders may wear dhotis in the Temple, or as they like, but not of the
saffron color. They may wear white, yellow, or whatever. Outside the Temple
they may wear American gentleman's dress, with Tilaka, flag, and beads.
Letter to: Balai -- San Francisco 12 March, 1968
The Vaisnavas, with tilaka, with kunti, with chanting beads, as soon as you
see... And practically you know. As soon as they see these Hare Krsna
movement people, they also chant, "Hare Krsna," giving a chance to the
others. The dress is also required. You should be always equipped with
tilaka, kunti, and sikha, sutra. Then, as soon as a common man sees, "Oh,
here is a Hare Krsna man. Hare Krsna," he'll chant. Automatically you give a
chance to chant Hare Krsna.
So this is required. The foolish rascals, they say that "What is the
necessity of this, that?" No. This is necessity. You must always remain
dressed like a Vaisnava. That is necessity.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.19 -- Nairobi, October 29, 1975
Vaisnava must have dvadasa-tilaka, sikha, sutra, kunti, and there are many
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128 -- Bhubanesvara, January 24, 1977
...we must have always our tilak and sikha and there is no compromise for
Letter to: Brahmananda -- Seattle 6 October, 1968
...our real dress is the tilaka and sikha.
Letter to: Raktak -- London, 25 September, 1969
...we should always keep sikha and teelock.
Letter to: Jagadisa -- Bhaktivedanta Manor 23 July, 1973
Regarding what is a Vaisnava, Vaisnava means that when others see him, they
will also chant Hare Krsna. So why not give them the chance of seeing by
wearing the beads, tilaka, and sikha?
Letter to: Sudama -- Bombay 10 December, 1973
According to sastra anyone who wears tilaka and sikha and kunti over and
above the Vaisnava dress or Vaisnava sannyasi must be accepted especially
while chanting Hare Krishna mantra with bead bags. Kindly convince them and
induce them to allow these Vaisnavas to enter Jagannatha Temple.
Letter to: Syamasundara -- Bombay 8 April, 1974