What is the significance of Chandan in Puja?
We make so many offering to the gods, rice, flowers, food and adorn them with Kunku and Chandan. Chandan is the yellow powder we use in Puja… but why do we offer Chandan to our deities?
So what actually is Chandan? Chandan, the fragrant wood (chandanam), is sacred in Hinduism. Chandan word is derived from the Sanskrit root Cadi, meaning ‘to delight’ or ‘that which delights’. Chandan is the powder of Sandalwood. We use it to put a tilak on the deity and devotees. A Chandan tilak is applied between the eyes brows, this is the area some call the third eye. The centre of human intellect and where thoughts lie. It stimulates the Anjani Chakra the centre of our thoughts. When we apply the tilak to the forehead of the deity and attracts the deity’ s divine energies and bring in positive energies. It also has a cooling effect and cools the mind keeping us calm. Chandan has satvik elements to enhance ones spirituality. The fragrance attracts the deities and positive energies.
The Ramayana of Valmiki (Ayodhya Kanda 15th Sarga, verse 35), describing Rama in his palace, says that his body was smeared with Sandalwood paste.
Bhagavata Purana (10th Skanda, chapter 42, verse 5) mentions that the upper part of Lord Krishna’s body was anointed with sandalwood paste. Krishna is invited to Mathura by his wicked uncle King Kansa. Krishna and his brother Balarama were walking in Mathura when they saw a woman with a hump on her back coming with a plate of sandalwood paste. She could not walk straight and people called her names. 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. 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" while she was bent and could not walk straight, Krishna laughed and said that she was really beautiful - 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 straight. She was overwhelmed with joy and thanked Krishna.
The practice of using sandalwood in the funeral pyres of Hindus was known from ancient times and it continues even today. Kalidasa, in his Sanskrit poem, Raghuvamsa, mentions sandalwood being used in the funeral pyre of the Ikshvaku queen, Indumati.