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Sri Garuda Puranam
Some Western Questions...

 Literacy in Theory and Practice
 by Brian V Street 
 Provided by Cambridge University Press

Quoting John Parry - 1982. ‘Popular Attitudes Towards Hindu Religious Texts'

Regarding The Garuda Purana, "There are, in practice, many written versions of this book each under the same title but with different content.  Yet each version claims the same authority that (Parry) showed was associated with texts where the content did not change (although, as he points out, even in that case interpretation varied).  Parry compared an English translation of The Garuda Purana and found... that the content is quite different.  Moreover, 'it is dubious whether either of them bears any relationship to the ancient texts of the same name since the contents of none of the existing versions conform to what is said about The Garuda Purana in better autenticated Puranas."  Parry also came across a trust in Benares set up to produce an 'authorized' version of the classical texts, which is now using western scholarship to restore the Puranas to their "original" form.  The western techniques employed to this end had, he points out, been developed with relation to different kinds of 'text', where a single author could be identified and different versions of his or her text were to be compared.  In the case of the Puranas, however, 'it is very doubtful that there ever was a single original written text - the probability being that we are dealing with a number of quite different recensions which evolved out of the oral traditions in the regions form which each comes."

Sri Garuda Puranam, The Garuda Purana

The Garuda Purana is the primary volume of religious texts dealing with The Sacred Pearls.  While it is indicated that Krishna himself learned the Vedic disciplines, including gemology, from Acarya Sandipani Muni:

Srimad Bhagavatam - Prabhupada Edition

"The Lord (Krishna) learned all the Vedas with their different branches simply by hearing them once from His teacher, Sandipani Muni, whom He rewarded by bringing back his dead son from the region of Yamaloka."

One of the key authors indicated regarding The Garuda Purana, Sri Suta Goswami, quoted in the chapter below, is credited with a photographic memory who later transcribed the entire text of much of the Vedic literature:

"When Sukadeva Goswami gave his lecture there in the audience was Suta Goswami a very sharp hearing man, Srutidhara. Srutidhara is one who having only once heard something keeps it in his memory, and Suta, having those qualities, was present in that meeting. The fourth sitting was in Naimisaranya where the rsis, apprehending the manifestation, of Kali-yuga, commenced and engaged themselves in a one thousand year campaign, yajna. Finding Suta Goswami they said, "We have got a good opportunity in the evening to hear about the Absolute and we heard that you, Suta, were present in that mysterious and famous assembly where Sukadeva gave his lecture about Bhagavatam and you memorized it all perfectly. We now humbly request that you deliver by way of lecture to us that Bhagavatam." Suta Goswami accepted their proposal and that was the last sitting in the form of regular evening lectures. Sixty thousand or so rsis, the scholars and performers of sacrifices, assembled to hear from him. It was after this sitting that Vyasadeva took the whole thing and compiled it in book form and made it public. "

This text, a discussion between Lord Vishnu and the winged deity Garuda, is the key text describing The Sacred Pearls and is quoted (from the book cited on the right) for your examination:

Chapter LXIX (69)

" Suta said "Pearls are found in the temples of elephants and wild boars, in conch shells, in oysters, in the hoods of cobras, and in the hollow stems of bamboos.  The origin of a species of pearls is ascribed to the effect of thunder...

Pearls found in the stems of bamboos or in the temples of elephants and wild boars or in the mouths of whales or in the entrails of conch-shells, are devoid of lustre, though possessed of other auspicious virtues.

Of the eight species of pearls described by the connoisseurs of gems, those obtained from conch shells and the temple of elephants should be deemed as standing in the bottom of the list as regards colour and brilliancy.  A conch shell pearl is usually as big as a large Kona (point of rapier) and assumes a color similar to that of the mollusk it is found in.

A pearl found in the temple of an elephant is marked by the absence of any definite colour and is lustreless like a pearl found in the stem of a bamboo.  A pearl found in the mouth of a fish is a perfect sphere in shape and is marked by a yellowish hue, like the back of a pathenam fish as is occasionally found in side the mouth of a whale that frequents the unfathomable depths of ocean beds.  A boar pearl resembles the tip of its tusk in color, and is obtained in certain quarters of the globe and is blissful like the boar incarnation of the divine Vishnu.  A pearl obtained from inside the hollow stem of a bamboo, resembles a hailstone in color, and is found only in bamboo that grows in the land of the honest and the pious, and not in every type of that grass.

A pearl found in the hood of a cobra is round in shape like the one obtained from the mouth of a fish and emits a dazzling effulgence from its own natural seat.  After copious washing such a pearl assumes the lustre of a well-polished sword.  The possessor of a cobra or serpent pearl meets with rare good fortune, and becomes a pious and illustrious king in time, with a treasury full of other species of precious gems.

Dark clouds, hung down and heavily charged with rain, and roaring with the voice of the eternal trumpets blown upon at the time of universal dissolution and spangled with flashes of lightning, closely envelop the sky, at the time, when the Bramhana, well versed in the religious and ceremonial proceedings, after inquiring about the acquisition of such a pearl, and having done the necessary rite of protection unto it, formally takes it into the interior of the house of its possessor.  Neither the serpents, nor the Rakshas (demons,) nor diseases, nor disturbances of any kind would assail the man amidst whose treasure such a snake pearl would lie.

A cloud-grown pearl rarely reaches this mortal globe, and usually falls to the lot of the celestials.  By illuminating the four quarters of the sky with its native lustre, a cloud-begotten pearl, like the sun dispels the gloom of a cloudy day.  Outshining the combined effulgence of the fire, the moon, and the myriads of scintillating stars, such a pearl, like the dawn of day, can dispel the gloom of even the darkest night on earth.  The whole earth, girdled by the four oceans containing innumerable gems in the fathomless depths, can not be deemed as the adequate price of such a pearl, even if she be covered over with layers of pure gold.  A man, born in indigence and of humble parents, but happening to be the possessor of such a pearl, only through the transformation of a good deed done in a previous existence, is sure to be the paramount sovereign of the entire surface of the Earth.  Not to the good deeds of the king alone, but to the better fortune of the whole humanity, should be ascribed the advent of such a man on earth, and no evil would ever strike the land to the extent of a thousand Yojanas (about 8000 to 9000 miles) round the place of his birth. "



Some Eastern Answers...


The Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi-1, India
 Pubishers note to The Garuda-Puranam, A Prose English Translation

"It is true that the Puranas in their present form have been very often questioned by modern scholars...  The Puranas do not lose even the least amount of their importance if a considerable portion of the present texts be proved to be later compositions or contain any reference of such events that took place only in the near past; because, the Puranas form a special class of literature in which the tradition and not the textual accuracy is of sole importance.  If judged with this criterion every Purana will betray many traits of remote antiquity, as their tradition is proved beyond doubt to have started in the hoary past...
The Puranas are the only source to trace the development of the Present Hindu religion, the popular form of which is far more Puranic than it is Vedic.  To speak in brief, the Puranas record how the Indian mind thought over centuries."