Mani stone

From Ladakh (now part of India and Pakistan)
19th-20th century AD

Prayer-stone from a Tibetan mountain-pass

This round, flat stone is inscribed across two rows with the syllables of a mantra, carved in Tibetan script. Mantras are groups of sacred syllables and sounds that have particular power. The mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, the patron deity of Tibet, is the famous Om mani padme hum. The sound 'om' precedes most prayers in Buddhist and Hindu ritual. The remainder of this Buddhist mantra can be translated as 'Oh you in whose lotus is a jewel'. This is an invocation of Mahavidya, the great goddess of knowledge. This magical sound is believed to reverberate throughout the entire universe as the triumphant power of freedom.

The mantra is found all over Tibet, printed on paper scrolls, carved on architectural panels or inscribed on stones such as this one. Often the characters are picked out in brightly coloured paint. Mani or jewel stones such as this are carved and deposited as votive objects all over the sacred landscape of Tibet. They may be built into stone cairns, especially at the summits of mountain passes or at the entrances to settlements. Huge groups of them may be found together, all with the same mantra repeated over and over again.

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Width: 18.140 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1962.7-23.1


Gift of Lt. Col. C.E.S. Bower


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