Published: 08 Nov 2017

Gold in the Vedas!

Vedic society was rich and prosperous. Vedic women wore gold and silver jewellery. We have read references to gem stones as well. We have read about their dance and music. Naturally, the women would have dressed themselves for the occasion. Though Vedas are religious books, we find a lot of secular matter in them. Indian sculptures that are available from the 3rd century BCE show lot of different types of jewels. Every part of the sculpture has a jewel. When we look at Greek statues, we see bare bodies. When we look at Sumerian and Babylonian statues we see scanty jewellery. Only the Egyptian women wore some jewellery like the Hindus. They probably imported the jewellery or its idea from India.

  1. Candra denotes gold in the Rig Veda (RV 2-2-4, 3-31-5, TS 1-2-7-1; KS 2-6; VS 4-26; SB 3-3-3-4) and other Vedic texts.
    Jatarupa is also used to denote gold. Hiranya in the sense of gold is also frequently referred to in the RV and later texts.
  2. The extraction of gold from earth (RV 1-117-5; AV 12-1-6; 12-1-26; 12-1-44) was known to Vedic people.
    Washing for gold is mentioned in the Taittiriya Samhita (TS 6-1-71-) and Satapatha Brahmana (SB 2-1-1-5). Gold is also recovered from the river beds and that is why the Indus was called Hiranmaya in the RV (10-75-8) The Sarasvati is also depicted as Hiranyavartani (AV 6-61-7)
  3. Hiranya means ornaments in gold in the RV (1-122-2; VS 15-50)
  4. A golden currency, weights of gold, ’astaaprud’, is mentioned in the Kataka Samhita (11-1) and Taittiriya Samhita (3-4-1-4)
  5. A golden satamana means 100 krishnalas (Kunthumani in Tamil) in the Satapatha Brahmana (5-5-3-16)
  6. Gold was obtained by smelting from ore (SB 6-1-3-5; 12-4-3-1)
  7. Gold as a gift is also recorded in the RV (6-47-23) where we learn ten lumps of gold (dasa hiranya pindam) were given to a priest by Divodasa.
    Brahadaranyaka Upanishad also mentioned1000 gold pieces tied to the horns of cows as a prize for the greatest scholar. Yajnavalkya got it. Giving thousand gold pieces continued until the Sangam period in Tamil Nadu.
    My comments: The extraction of gold by smelting shows the advancement in metallurgy. The golden currency shows the wealth of the country. Unfortunately, we get golden coins only from first century BCE now. Hindus recycle gold every now and then. King Divodasa giving ten bars of gold to a priest shows the enormous wealth of the country. If the gold currency is confirmed by some archaeological discovery then India will be the first currency to use golden currency. 

Beliefs about Gold

  1. The Atharva Veda refers to a belief of the people: one that dies of old age becomes who he wears it (gold …. For life time thee,for splendour thee and for force and strength  - that with the brilliance of gold thou might shine out among the people.
  2. The terms Anja or Anji in the sense of ornaments is found in the RV (1-64-4) but the word alamkara occurs for the first time in satapata Brahmana (3-4-1-36; 13-8-4-7) and Chandogya Upanishad (8-8-5)
  3. During a marriage, gold ornaments were gifted to the daughter by the father, as for example, niska in the RV (2-33-10) and kurira in the RV (10-85-8) means the head ornament, karnasobhana – ear rings (RV 8-78-3). The AV mentioned Tirita (8-6-7), parihasta (hand clap) and (amulet) in Kausika sutra (35—11)
  4. The Atharva Veda refers to
    Pravarta (ear ornament) 15-2-1
    Golden amulets- 1-35
    Niskariva (necklace of niska coins; Kasu Maalai in Tamil) –5-14-3
    Kurira (head ornament) – 6-138-2
  5. Vajasaneyi Samhita mentioned goldsmith (30-17) and jeweller (30-7) manikara. SB mentioned golden chain as rukma pasa (6-7-1-7)
  6. Rig Veda mentioned women wearing golden ornaments on breast (RV 1-166-10) vakshasu rukma
  7. Indra is said to have worn golden bracelets in his arms. Maruts are also said to have worn golden ornaments like young suitors and sons of a wealthy house (RV 5-60-4; 8-5-28; 8-68-3). Asvins are invited to ascend a car with golden seats. Sankyayana Grhya sutra states that in ‘simantonayanna’ the wife is to sing merrily by wearing many gold ornaments (1-122-16)

There are many more references to golden and silver ornaments, gems (mani) in the Vedic literature.

My Comments: The absence of cognate words (for gold, jewels) in Indo European languages and such customs in Europe around 1700 BCE (Rig Vedic period) show that Vedic civilisation originated in India. Presenting or gifting gold coins is also seen only in India. Vedic Hindus were not migrants. As I mentioned earlier we see very scanty jewels or no jewels at all in Europe. They were not able to make any golden gifts.

Gem Stones in the Vedas

  1. The word Mani figures in RV (1-33-8) and AV (1-29-1;2-4-1;8-5-1 which may be gems or jewels.) Mani occurs in Sangam Tamil literature over 400 times to denote gems. So, we can take it as gems. Mani is also mentioned in TS (7-3-14-1), KS (35-15), AB (4-6) as amulets for all kinds of evil.
  2. It is evident that the mani could be strung on a thread (sutra), which is referred to in Panchavimsa Brahmana (PB 20-16-6) and elsewhere (JUB 1-18-8, 3-4-13, JB 2-248, SB 12-3-4-2) (The simile sutra mani gana eva occurs in Bhagavad Gita and Sangam Tamil literature)
  3. Mani is worn around the neck: manigriva (RV 1-122-14)

  Gold Standard

  1. Gold weighing a hundred grains (SB 12-7-2-13), four gold plates weighing a hundred grains (SB 13-4-1-6) are found in SB.
  2. SB mentioned a gift of 300 gold coins (SB 5-5-5-16). Satamana or measures of hundred mean weight of a hundred krishnalas (seeds of Abrus precatorius)./li>
  3. Even today the word ‘satamana’ is used in all the mantras where gifts are involved.
  4. Tamils and other communities were using the Gunja seeds (krishnala) for weighing gold until the last century.
  5. Mani in the Rig Veda denotes diamond or pearl according to scholars. Durga in his commentary on Nirukta says that it denotes Sun stone (crystal used as a burning glass)
  6. Hiranya mani in Rig Veda may mean gem studded gold ornaments. Tamil and Sanskrit literature mentioned it in later day literature.
Source : Speaking Tree