The Holy Ash, that decorates the bodies of Lord shiva and shaivites, is very sacred and there are prescriptions on how it needs to be adored and adorned. Here are few of those. The two ways of getting adorned with holy ash are tripuNDram, uddUlanam. The first is applying the holy ash in the form of three distinct bands and the second is sprinkling it on the part of the body.
One simple way would be to chant thirunIRRuppadhikam (1) while taking the Holy ash and while getting adorned with that chant the aghora panchAxaram(The aghora Holy Five Letters) which is shivAya namaH.
With clean hands take the Holy Ash chanting the sadyojAdAdi mantras and the mA no mahantam mantra from shrI rudram.
Those who perform rituals, perform shiva pUja should first take the holy ash without adding water and sprinkle on their head, forehead, chest and two shoulders. Later using the right hand index, middle and the ring finger take the holy ash, keep in the left hand, close it with right hand and chant these mantras
om nivRiti kalAyai namaH om pratiShTA kalAyai namaH om vidyA kalAyai namaH om shAnti kalAyai namaH om shAntyatIta kalAyai namaH
om IshAnAya namaH om tatpuruShAya namaH om aghorAya namaH om vAmadevAya namaH om sadyojAdAya namaH
om hRidayAya namaH om shirashe namaH om shikAyai namaH om kavachAya namaH om netrAya namaH om astrAya namaH
Then saying hRidayAya namaH, add water and saying kavachAya vauShaT, mix it. Chant the first four of the above said panchabrahma mantram and apply (with the three fingers of the right hand mentioned above - index, middle and ring fingers) the holy ash paste on the first four places of the body. (See below for the list of places where to apply holy ash). Chant the fifth mantram when applying at the other parts of the body. While applying face up, so that the holy ash does not spill down on the ground. If by mistake the holy ash spills on the ground, clean that area with water.
vibhUti can be worn either in 32 places or 16 places or 8 places or five places.
Head Forehead Two ears Two eyes Nose Mouth Neck Two shoulders Two elbows Two wrists Chest Two ribs Navel Two sides of groin Buttocks Two UrUs Two thighs Two knees Two ankles Two feet Total 32 Places
Head Forehead 2 ears Neck 2 Shoulders 2 Elbows 2 Wrists Chest Navel 2 Ribs Back Total 16 places
Head Forehead 2 ears 2 Shoulders Chest Navel Total 8 places
Forehead 2 Shoulders Chest Navel Total 5 places
One of the ways of taking bath as prescribed by vedas is known as Agneyam. It is defined as Agneyam bhasmasnAnam. That is Agneyam bath is nothing but bathing in the holy ash.
The holy ash has very good medicinal value. This could prevent/cure 81 diseases that are out of air (vAta), and 64 of diseases caused by bile(pittam), and 215 of phlegm (kapham).
The Holy Ash is the most ancient symbol. It is hailed in the vedas along with rudrAxam(2). Even the devotees of Lord viShNu used to wear this originally (kariyamEni michai veLiya nIRu chiRidhEyidum periya kOlath thadaNkaNNan, nIRu chevvE idakkANil nedumAladiyAr enROdum - divya prabhandham). The following scriptures talk about the glory of the Holy Ash.