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Ash widely used as a purifying substance and, when mixed in a paste, for marking the body with sectarian insignia, particularly amongst Śaivas. Indicating his great ascetic and purificatory power, Śiva himself is smeared in ashes, a practice followed by his yogic devotees during initiation. (Mythologically, this is said to be a result of Śiva's incineration of Kāma, the god of Love.) Although specifically associated with the cremation ground culture of Śaiva ascetics, ashes also have a general symbolic and theological significance in Hinduism as a medium of purification and an index of spiritual power. A characteristic activity of Sat(h)ya Sai Baba has been the ‘mental’ production of sacred, miracle-working ash (vibhūti).

Subjects: Hinduism.

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