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Symbols of Riches

In both Hindu and Buddhist Himalayan art, precious substances are more than a feast for the eyes, they are metaphors for spiritual transformation. These are just a few of the many symbols that represent a wide range of physical and spiritual assets and are repeated in many of the paintings, sculptures, and textiles in this exhibition, both overtly and covertly.

Gold, a symbol of purity and truth as well as the artistic realization of light and, by extension, enlightenment, holds different meanings when fashioned into particular earring shapes.

The Queen's earrings, seen at left, designate peace, prosperity, and beauty. The Minister's earrings, seen at right, signify intelligent counsel.
Ivory symbolizes power—both military might and spiritual strength—and longevity. The elephant embodies these powers, as represented by the crossed ivory tusks seen on the left.  
The unicorn horn, or, as seen on the left, rhinoceros horn, represents the removal of poisons (mental and physical) and enhanced potency.  

The white pearl, as seen on the left, denotes the moon and feminine energy.

Conversely, the red coral branch, seen to the right, signifies the sun and masculine energy.

Images of gold and silver ingots, such as the one seen on the left, and punch-marked coins, seen on the right, suggest rewards promised to the faithful.
The Victory Banner on the left is an ensign of perpetual successes—representing victory in both spiritual and material matters. The General's crossed gems at right, however, are a symbol of military prowess and denote the ability to overcome negativities, real and imagined.
Flaming or wish-granting jewels, called cintimani, appear both singly, and—as seen on the left—piled in a heap. They provide boundless riches, illuminate the darkness, control weather, heal illness, and promote longevity.  

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