I'll continue to rationalize and make meaning out of the various inexplicable things about Hindusim. I have now earned the sobriquet "Rational Hindu" which doubly makes sense because I also work at the Rational group in IBM.
Almost every one of us here have been asked about the red dot we keep on our forehead. Growing up in India, we simply took that for granted. If we asked, we were simply told that it was religious reasons. That did it. No further questions were (to be) asked, for asking so would have been looked upon as sacrilegious. But now we are really forced to think. Why really do we keep it ?
What do Hindusim's chakras, New Age Spirituality, Japanese Reiki, Tibetan Tantra and Chinese Quigong all have in common ? They all believe in a concept where the physical body is said to have energy centers. They are considered the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies. Seven major chakras or energy centers are generally believed to exist, located within the subtle body.
These seven chakras are located along the spinal column starting from the tail bone and going all the way to top of the head. One school of thought believes that these chakra are related to the body's ductless endocrine glands and lymphatic system since a major endocrine gland is present in the vicinity of each chakra.
Another school of thought believes that these chakras are related to the nerve ganglia or plexuses. Strong energy centers or chakras are formed at the points where the sympatic (Ida nadi), parasympatic (pingala nadi) and central nervous system (shushumna nadi) criss cross one another.
The following are the seven primary chakras with the endocrine glands they relate to in ( )
1. Muladhara: Base or Root Chakra (ovaries/prostate)
2. Swadhisthana: Sacral Chakra (pancreas)
3. Manipura: Solar Plexus Chakra (adrenal gland)
4. Anahata: Heart Chakra (thymus)
5. Vishuddha: Throat Chakra (thyroid)
6. Ajna: Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pineal gland)
7. Sahasrara: Crown Chakra (pitutary gland)
"The Aagna chakra, located between the brows is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up. Ajna is symbolised by a lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colour white, indigo or deep blue. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher & lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level."
Interesingly, Aagna chakra is also called Bhru-Madhya (in the middle of the brow). Hmmm, does the English word "brow" trace it's origin to the Sanskri word 'Bhru' ? I digress.
The Lalitha Sahasranama also talks about these chakras in 2 different set of verses.
Aagna chakarantharalastha Rudra granthi vibhedini - 103
Aagna chakrabjanilaya, shukla varna, shadanana - 521
So could the reason to keep the kumkuma possibly be to stimulate the Aagna chakra ? By thus stimulating the Aagna chakra, isit possible to stimulate the pineal gland ? If it does, then regulating your sleep and wake cycles should give us good sleep when we do and keep us alert when we are not. Maybe it could lead to a clarity of thought and perception.
The primary scientific reason could have been to stimulate this chakra every day. Now turmeric, out of which kumkuma is made, also happens to be a very good epilator. Isn't it doubly convenient that as you are stimulating the Aagna chakra, you are also giving yourself a cosmetic treatment.
With time, the real benefits and reasons for keeping the kumkuma may have been lost. It got reduced a symbolic act. And once it got reduced to symbolism, it was just a forehead marking. It morphed into different markings, each a club membership to a different sect. Speak about wearing the religion on a sleeve, we took it to a whole new level (pun intended), to the forehead.