Written by London swaminathan
Date: 12 January 2017
Time uploaded in London:- 20-20
Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.
Tamil literature lists 20 places as the sources of pearls . Biologists know only one place where pearl is born. Sanskrit literature lists only eight places but these are not scientifically proved.
Twenty places according to Tamil verse from Uvamana Sangraham and Rathina Surukkam:
Horn of elephant/tusk
Horn of boar
Areca nut Tree
Special Type of Banana Tree
Chalanchalam (Rare Type of right whorld Chank
Hear of Fish
Head of Crane
Neck of women
Head of a crocodile
Teeth of cows
Varahamihira lists the following eight places in his Brhat Samhita:-
Following is from 2015 post: “Eight Types of Pearls: Varahamihira’s 1500 year old Price list”
Pearls are produced by:
Elephants, Oysters, Snakes, Clouds, Chanks, Bamboos, Whales, Boar (Brhat Samhita, Chapter 81)
Pearls come from eight areas
Simhalaka (Sri Lanka), Paraloka (Travancore coast), Surashtra (Gujarat), Tampraparani River (in South Tamil Nadu), Parasava (Iran), a Nothern country, Pandya vataka and the Himalayas.
Kautilya’s Artha Shastra (Third Century BCE) mentioned Pandya Kavata pearl. Fahien (399-414 CE) mentioned Simhala/Sri Lankan pearls.
Paraloka is a confusing term. There is one river called Parali in Kerala and there is an island Parali in the Lakshadweep. But the interesting thing is that itself sounds pearl in Tamil (Paral in Tamil is pearl in English and this town name is Paral+i).
Pearls are also obtained from the head and tusks of Bhadra class of elephants, says Varahamihira. But Varahamihira makes it clear that he repeats what the ancients believed about the elephant pearls. (This means they are not found even in Varahamihira days who lived around 510 CE)
He speaks about the pearls found in Boar tusk, Whales etc. Then he gives details about the pearls that are found in the seventh layer of winds. But the heaven dwellers will catch them before it falls on to earth!
Then he categorises Nagaratna as pearls. If the kings wear Nagaratna pearls enemies will be destroyed and his reputation will increase.
Kalidasa speaks of pearls from the head of elephants
From my 2012 post “Gem Stones in Kalidasa and Sangam Literature”
Pearl in the Oyster
If the rain falls on Swati star day the oysters open their mouth to drink the rain drops and the rain drops become pearls-This was the belief of ancient Indians including Tamils.
Bhartruhari and Sangam Tamil literature say that the pearls are created by the oysters on a particular day,I.e. The oysters open their mouths when there is rain falling down on a day under the star Swati(one of the 27 stars ). Biologists say that the sand particles that enter the living oysters secrete a liquid which covers the irritant to become a pearl.
Malavi.1-6: Kalidasa says , ‘the skill of a teacher imparted to a worthy pupil attains greater excellence, as the water of a cloud is turned in to a pearl in a sea shell.In Puram 380 ,Karuvur Kathapillay says the same about the origin of pearls. Bhartruhari makes it more specific by saying the rain on Swati Nakshatra days become pearls. Biologits also confirm on full moon days lot of sea animals like corals release their eggs or spores. So far as India is concerned it might have happened in that particular (Swati star with Moon) season.
Kalidasa gives more similes about pearls. He describes the river that is running circling a mountain as a garland of pearls ( Ragu.13-48 and Mega.-49)
Other references from Kalidasa: sweat drops as pearl:Rtu.6-7; tears as pearls: Mega 46, Ragu VI 28,,Vikra V 15; smile-KumarI-44, water drops on lotus leaf:Kumara VII 89
Pearls obtained from the head of elephants:Kumarasambhava 1-6, Raghu.9-65; In Tamil literature: Murugu 304, Malaipadu 517, Puram 170Natri.202, Kurinchi.36, Akam.282 etc.
In Tamil the teeth are compared to the pearls: Ainkur. 185, Akam 27
Since Gulf of Mannar is the main source of pearls in India ,thre are innumerable references to pearls in Tamil literature. Even Kautilya refers to the pearls from Pandya country. Korkai was the harbour city where the pearl fishing was flourishing. Aink 185,188, Akam 27,130 and Natri 23mention pearls from Korkai.
(for more information, go to the two articles mentioned by me