Gemstones in Indian Religions

Lecture held by James Mchugh, Los Angeles

India and neighboring regions were the main sources of many gemstones in the Old World. Pre-modern Indian texts on gemology display a complex knowledge, both practical and mythological, of the origins, locations, properties, and evaluation of many types of gemstone. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism gemstones play a number of important and varied roles, from sanctifying the foundations of temples to constituting the building blocks of heavens. This paper introduces the mythological origins and supernatural potencies of the main gemstones as found in textual sources, and also presents an explanatory survey of the main religious contexts where gemstones were used. The paper will also consider the methodological difficulties in comparing textual sources with material finds.

Lecture held during the conference “Gemstones in the first Millennium AD. Mines, Trade, Workshops and Symbolism.” October 21st, 2015 at the Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (Germany).

Foto: Carvings of strings of jewels from a 6th century CE cave at Badami India. (J. Mchugh)


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