vibhoothy... the Holy ashes
vibhoothi is visheshena bhoothiH --more valuable than the most valuable--sacred of the most sacred... the residue left after agni burns all dirt in the shape of avidya and that being done in the name of the Lord of Lord Parameshwara Shiva .. the remaining ashes become the greatest and purest wealth..
It is said that the angry sage Durvasas once visited hell at the invitation of Yama.. and saw a wide round deep well where the sinful souls were being boiled in oil and incarcerated..
The sage bent his forehead down to have a closer look and a few specks of the holy ashes from his forehead just fell into the well..
The well was transformed into heaven and the sinners released, the purana says..
The whole body of sins just get burned in contact with rudra who has taken the form of agni.. so the ashes have no sin left in them .
Therefore they are the sinless wealth..
Pure ashes are chemically neutral in absolute terms and it is not expected that one should add any cosmetics..
In palani they burn kattazhai and add perfumes. That is a commercial activity, a big business.
That apart, wearing of ashes.. and we are supposed to wear ashes on all parts of the body..from head to heel..
it is a symbol of getting one with Shiva..
may my mind be filled with the idea of Shiva..
The essesnce of Vibhoothi is the Panchaksharam(नमःशिवाय) which is chanted while burning it.
Perhaps the ashes have a tendency to absorb water.. so some smart guy may say that it is an anti inflammatory agent..
But in reality it is divine. Really the ashes represent Shiva..
Of course in one of the worship of Shiva by aghors, the dead bodies and ashes from cremation ground are ingredients...
but that is not practiced by Iyers or Shivacharyas and other devotees