Adorned image of Khadga Jogini Goddess of Sankhu, Nepal
In Hinduism images of deities are traditionally decorated with jewelry. According to Hindu belief all precious metals and gem stones are believed to be ritually pure and any pollution or contamination they may catch is removed simply by washing. So such adornments are suitable for deities decoration.
The purpose of adorning the deity image with jewelry is to impress the mind of the viewer to whom such a show of wealth is awe inspiring.
Bejeweled image of a Buddhist deity, Samyak festival, Patan, Nepal
It is common practice in these countries when pilgrims visiting a temple donate some of their jewelry. Sometimes there is a direct association between a type of jewelry donated and a request from a deity. For example, women desiring marriage or children often give bangles. In some big and famous temples the amount of accumulated jewelry and precious objects over the years can be immense. The most valuable pieces become the festive ornaments placed on the image at special times such as the Holi and Divali festivals and on the occasion of the deity's birthday. After use they are returned to the temple treasury and replaced by the jewelry used on ordinary days.
temple jewelry, pendants and a necklace. 18th century. Photo from here
After contact with the deity image, jewelry is believed to gain a special sanctity and so, if damaged or broken and therefore sold, it will have a higher price than its actual market value.
Even small images are adorned. Samyak festival, Patan, Nepal
Bejeweled deities in the Sita Amman temple, Sri Lanka
Decorated with numerous jewelry an image of Rato Machhendranath deity, Patan, Nepal (this temple is destroyed now by the earthquake)
A viewing the sacred image of a Hindu deity in a temple is called darshana. In many large temples, upon payment of an appropriate fee, temple authorities will arrange a private darshana of the deity adorned in diamonds, ruby, emerald, sapphire or pearl jewelry. The most costly and beneficial is the diamond darshana.
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