(55) What is the purpose of a shikhã (choti)?
The shikhã is a tuft of hair on the head (see photo). It is also known as choti (Hindi) and chotli (Gujarati.). Like the tilak and janoi, it is one of the most prominent, visible features of Sanãtan Dharma. Usually a simple knot is tied near its end. The shãstras declare that any religious rite such as a yagna/homa, is fruitless without a shikhã (Kãtyãyan Smruti 1/4). It is kept after undergoing chaul samskãra. When the gurukul system of education prevailed, the pupil was eligible to study only after having a shikhã and janoi. It helps one attain self-discipline, since it keeps the buddhi (intellect) under control. The shikhã helps a person: control his desires, generate noble thoughts, observe dharma, attain wisdom and gain ãtmic strength. The shikhã is usually kept by Vaishnav sadhus and brahmins, especially those performing pujã rituals. It was also kept by kshatriyas and vaishyas.
Significance of its position on the head
Sushrut rishi, the foremost surgeon of Ayurveda, describes the master sensitive spot on the head as Adhipati Marma, where there is a nexus of all nerves, and a joint (Sushrut Samhitã 6/71). The shikhã protects this spot. Below this spot, in the brain, occurs the Brahmarandhra, where the sushumnã (nerve) arrives from the lower part of the body. In Yog, Brahmarandhra is the highest, seventh chakra, with the thousand-petalled lotus. It is the centre of wisdom. The knotted shikhã helps boost this centre and conserve its subtle energy known as ojas.