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Himalayan Artifact Information

In response to many customer requests, we have created information blurbs below that you may wish to display with some of the distinctly Himalayan cultural items that you sell.  If you instruct your web browser to print this page onto 8.5 x 11 inch paper, you will get a couple of pages of blurbs.  Cut them out and display them as you like. 

Please note that these blurbs are based partly on information in the book titled Short Description of Gods, Goddesses, and Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal, published in 1999 by the Handicraft Association of Nepal, in Kathmandu.  (We offer this very useful little book for the retail price of $8.)  Countless other sources of such information have been assimilated into these blurbs, based on discussions with silver dealers and other craftspeople in Nepal, Tibetan Buddhist monks and devotees in the USA, various websites, and even customers who seemed to be knowledgeable on relevant topics.  Given the many undocumented sources, I will make the same disclaimer as the book does:  There could be some inaccuracies, or, at least, some concepts that don't translate well into our language.  For those of you who spot such problems, we apologize and we thank you for any notes you might send to us about corrections or clarifications.



Bell and Dorje:

The bell represents the female aspect of sentient beings and symbolizes wisdom.  It is held in the left hand while the Dorje or Vajra, the thunderbolt that destroys all kinds of ignorance and represents the male principle, is held in the right hand.  They are always used  together in ritual ceremonies and the two together are believed to lead to enlightenment.

Coin Bottles:

Coin Bottles were created when Tibetans who fled the Chinese to seek refuge in other countries found themselves with worthless coins to make these charming eyeliner bottles and sold them in exchange for the more useful currency of their host country.  Today, there are no new Tibetan coins so these bottles are made of Bhutanese coins.  In Western countries the bottles are often used for pendants which can contain thick wax perfumes (not oils).  There is also a rumor that if a wish blown into the bottle is corked quickly enough, the wish will come true.

Singing Bowls:

Created in the monasteries of Tibet and Nepal, the singing bowls are individually spun and hammered from a combination of 7 metals (bell metal).  Each bowl produces a unique harmony when it is played by dragging a wooden dowel around the outside of its rim or when it is struck with the heel of the hand.  It is believed that these harmonies are the vibrations of the prayers and praises to God which are chanted as the bowls are created.



Often used to clear the ethers before a Buddhist ceremony, tingshas, which are made of bell metal, are used to help create a balanced or centered state.  also, they may be used to fix a moment or place in one's memory.


Medicine Bracelets:

Throughout Asia and Africa, medicine bracelets are used as preventative medicine to help ward off arthritis.  It is also claimed that the combination of copper, brass, and nickel silver improves one's overall sense of energy and well-being.  Many of the medicine bracelet designs are combined with semiprecious stones to which modern crystal therapists attribute emotional healing properties.


Tibetan Prayer Wheels:

For over 1,000 years, Tibetan monks and Buddhist devotees have used prayer wheels to churn the ethers.  The prayer wheels are handmade and each contains a prayer which is usually an invocation for peace and prosperity.  As the wheel is rotated clockwise 9looking at it from the top down) prayers written in Sanskrit are believed to be released into the ethers along with the thoughts and prayers of the person turning the wheel.  This practice, which is very much alive in Tibet and Nepal today, is intended to keep one's mind centered so as to focus on the desired result.


Medicinal Prayer Bracelets:

Throughout Asia and Africa, medicine bracelets are used as preventative medicine to help ward off arthritis.  It is also claimed that the combination of copper, brass, and nickel silver improves one's well-being.  Some of the medicine bracelets have inscriptions usually written in Tibetan or Nepali.  The most common prayer is OM MA NE PAD ME HUM (six letters), which asks for long life and good fortune.


Gau (Prayer Box):

These often elaborately decorated portable shrines originally may have contained nail clippings from the Dalai Lama, or a piece of robe, scrap of food, or hair from a high-ranking lama's head.  Today they are more likely to hold Buddhist relics and mantras (prayers written on paper).  Though they are usually worn as a protective pendant, they may be seen worn in the top knot of an aristocrat to assure divine intervention in decision making.


Prayer Stones:

Carved by pilgrims on journeys back to Buddha's homeland and important Tibetan Buddhist Stupas, these white or gray river stones usually are inscribed with the Sanskrit letter 'OM' for 'God,' or a longer prayer such as 'OM MA NE PAD ME HUM,' meaning 'God give long life and good fortune.'  Other symbols inscribed on these stones may include the Compassionate Eyes of Buddha or his hands or feet.


Salagrama (Black River Stones):

This ammonite is more than 150 million years old and three times more ancient than the Himalayas themselves, and it is proof that the Himalayas were once beneath the ocean waves.  The mysterious universal spiral (a fossil of a chambered nautilus) is said to be the earthly manifestation of Great Vishnu, Preserver of all life, and therefore sacred.  The stones are opened by hurling them against a boulder and if they shatter they are considered 'uncooked' or 'not ready to come out yet.'  I have retrieved some stones that are cooked.  No two stones will ever appear to be broken in the same way.



The enchanted dagger or magic dart is used for the ritual slaying of evil or foe.  Used by Tibetan lamaist magicians, these ornate daggers are made of bronze, iron, wood, or ivory.  A true initiate of Tibetan secret lore would believe that the power or the weapon does not depend on the substance of which it is carved, but on what is communicated to it by the sorcerer that uses it and that, as time goes on, a portion of this energy remains and its strength increases as it becomes possessed with spiritual energy.


Willendorf Goddess:

Unearthed near Willendorf, Austria, the Willendorf Goddess was originally carved in limestone and is approximately 30,000 years old.  She is the oldest sculpture of a human form yet uncovered.  It is believed that she may have been planted feet first near the hearth to protect the home.  This primordial mother-goddess replica crafted of sterling silver represents the abundance, bulk and stability of Earth.


Tantric Buddhist Skulls:

The ritual decoration of these ornate skulls originated as long ago as the 14th century.  It is said that during the cremation of a powerful monk, his skull rolled out of the fire and toward the feet of the monks attending the cremation.  This was taken as a sign that his skull should not be destroyed but glorified and used as a focal point in meditation.  Today, there is still a belief that skulls can be used to capture and contain the flesh and blood of a demon



For centuries, the Tibetan Buddhists have produced delicate and poignantly beautiful oil painting accented with gold to be used as a focal point in meditation.  Often the paintings are of a mandala, a representation of Hell, Fire, and Lotus-- in other words a representation of all of creation and the cycle of life.