4 THE BOOK OF THE PEARL
more before the Christian era, as the word krisana and
its derivatives —which occur a half dozen times in the Rigveda, the
oldest of the Vedas—are generally translated as signifying "pearl."
Even if this interpretation of the term be called into question on the
ground that the Hindus of the Panjab were not well acquainted with the
sea, there can be little or no doubt that the Atharvaveda, at least
five hundred years before the Christian era, alludes to an amulet made of pearls and used as a sort of talisman in a hymn1 of magic formulas.
two great epics of ancient India, the Ramayana and the Ma-habharata,
refer to pearls. The Ramayana speaks of a necklace of twenty-seven
pearls, and has pearl drillers to accompany a great military
expedition.2 An old myth recounts the offerings made by the
elements as gifts worthy of the deity : the air offered the rainbow,
the fire a meteor, the earth a ruby, and the sea a pearl. The rainbow
formed a halo about the god, the meteor served as a lamp, the ruby
decorated the forehead, and the pearl was worn upon the heart.
literature of Hinduism frequently associates the pearl with Krishna,
the eighth avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, the most popular god of
Hindu worship. One legend credits its discovery to the adorable
Krishna, who drew it from the depths of the sea to adorn his daughter
Panda'ia on her nuptial day. Another version makes the pearl a trophy
of the victory of Krishna over the monster Pankagna, and it was used by
the victor as a decoration for his bride.
the classic period of Sanskrit literature, about the first century of
the Christian era, there were abundant references to pearls, generally
called mukta (literally "the pure") ; and there are dozens of
words for pearl necklaces, circlets, strings, and ornamental festoons,
particularly in the dramas of Kalidasa—the Hindu Shakspere, who lived
about the third century A.D.—and of his successors.
the Mahavansa and the Dipavansa, the ancient chronicle histories of
Ceylon in the Pali language, are several early Cingalese records of
pearl production and estimation.3 The Mahavansa lists pearls among the native products sent from Ceylon about 550 b.c., King
Wijayo sending his father-in-law gifts of pearls and chanks to the
value of two lacs of rupees; and notes that about 300 B.c., several
varieties of Ceylon pearls were carried as presents by an embassy to
the ancient civilization of China, pearls were likewise esteemed ;
;this is evidenced by the frequent mention of them in traditional
history, their "employment in the veneration of idols, and as tribute