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* 15 Aug 2021
Manthiram Avadhu Neeru (Thiruneetrupathigam)
Koon Pandiyan (Tamil: கூன் பாண்டியன், "The hunch-backed Pandyan") was the nickname of a king who ruled Madurai around 7th century. Some historians identify him with the Pandyan king Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman. He converted from Shaivism to Jainism, but then re-converted under the influence of Sambandar. Sambandar is said to have cured his hunched back using vibuthi or Thiruneeru (sacred ash) and the song “Manthiram Avadhu Neeru”, after which he was known as Sundara Pandya ("Beautiful Pandyan").
The king Koon Pandian had embraced Jainism, but wife Mangaiarkkarasi and his minister Kulachirai Nayanar were both Shaivites. When the king suffered from boils and incurable fever, the two invited the Shaivite saint Sambandar to Madurai. Sambandar is said to have cured his fever and his hunched back. After this, the king became a Shaivite, and several of his subjects converted to Shaivism during his rule. The Tamil poet Sekkizhar honored Koon Pandiyan, Kulachirai and Mangaiarkkarasi by naming them among the 63 Nayanars in Periya Puranam.

The queen and the minister wanted the king to embrace Saivism, but it did not seem possible, given the king’s fanaticism. It was around this time that Appar and Sambandar made the door of the temple in Vedaranyam open and close with their verses. So the queen dispatched Kulachirai Nayanar to fetch Sambandar to Madurai, to see if he could help change the king’s mind. Sambandar was willing to leave at once with Kulachirai Nayanar, but Thirunavukkarasar felt the time was not quite auspicious. Sambandar, however, pointed out that since all the planets were controlled by Lord Shiva, no devotee of Shiva would be harmed by any planet. So Sambandar left for Madurai.
Source: Staunch devotion, The Hindu,  May 15, 2009

* 14 Aug 2021
Vibhuti or sacred ash (also known as Thiruneeru, Thunnooru, bhasma)
- it is a great medium to transfer or transmit energy, and it has an ability to help direct and control the energy body
- symbolically, it is a constant reminder of the mortal nature of life
- sacred ash applied at particular points (chakras) makes them more sensitive
- it can be applied between the eyebrows, known as the agna chakra, at the pit of the throat known as the vishuddhi chakra, and in the center of the chest where the ribcage meets, known as the anahata chakra
- it is made out of cow dung or rice husk
- you should pick up vibhuti by pinching it between your thumb and ring finger
Source: Vibhuti - The Sacred Ash: How and Where to Apply it,
- It also has medicinal effects - gives relief from headache, cold.

The common man, devotee may not be aware of these reasons.  I feel, application of vibuthi is considered a psychological shield, a belief that God, a higher source is by your side offering protection and guidance.

* Jul 2021
Agarbathis are incense sticks or cones which emit a soothing fragrance when lit/burnt. It is used commonly in all Hindu households as part of the daily puja ritual and in temples. Incense sticks are also used by the Buddhists.
Dipped Agarbatties:
Powders of Charcoal, Gigatu, White chips, etc. are mixed with water to semi solid paste. This composition is taken on a wooden
plank and applied to sticks by rolling with hands. Then raw sticks are dipped in suitable perfumery compound diluted with white oil or other solvents like diethyl phthalate (D.E.P.) and dried and packed.

Masala Agarbatties:
The powder of charcoal, gigatu, white chips, indigenous herbs, resin, etc. are mixed along with perfumery compound consisting of essential oils, aromatic chemicals, purified resins and natural fixative like Civet, musk, etc. to a semi solid paste with the required quantity of water. This compound is applied to bamboo sticks by hand rolling and dried.