Cultures & Traditions

Temple Jewelry in India

Temples held vast wealth in gold and gems, much of it in the form of jewelry given to deities over the centuries by devotees. Adornment is part of the act of worship, performed along with feeding, bathing, and entertaining a deity. Priests clothe, crown, and adorn icons according to the time of day and season, and jewelry is an expression of the greatness of a deity. It is believed that an icon’s power increases when it is more splendidly dressed. Sacred texts envision the heavens to be aglow with precious gems and metals, a vision reproduced when a temple’s inner shrine opens to reveal the gold and gems surrounding its principal deity. Wealthy temples have extensive repositories stocked by devotees who believe they will reap merit from their gifts to the gods. Buddhist reliquaries were often filled with gold, silver, and precious stones. Family shrines are also richly adorned. Families dress and accessorize smaller icons, which were generally preferred at home, with miniature jewelry and garments.

Adapted from

Text labels from When Gold Blossoms: Indian Jewelry from the Susan L. Beningson Collection, Accessed on TAZ (ID 201283), 7 January 2015.

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