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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown
All rights reserved.

Syamantaka Ruby OR Shyamantaka Sapphire?

By Richard Shaw Brown

The following is my all-time favorite gemstone story. This legend is derived from the 10th Canto of the great Bhagavata Maha-purana : Book 10, Chapter VII. Over 5,000 years ago, at the end of the Dvarpara-yuga or the "Copper Age," the 8th Incarnation of Lord Vishnu appeared on the Earth as Lord Krishna. During the latter part of His sojourn on this planet Krishna was involved in a misunderstanding over a wonderful ruby known as the Syamantaka gem.

There was a King named Satrajit who was a devotee of Surya, the Sun-god. After many years of worship King Satrajit was finally blessed by the Sun-god who gave him a fabulous ruby as a reward for his dedication. This ruby was named "Syamantaka" and it had the power to produce 1.5 tons (8 bhara) of gold daily for it's owner. Such was the great brilliance of this gem that people mistook King Satrajit to be the Sun-god himself where ever he wore the jewel. One day Satrajit went to visit Lord Krishna on His island Kingdom of Dvaraka. Krishna, understanding Satrajit's inflated ego and attachment, asked him to give the gem to the Yadu King Ugrasena. When Satrajit refused, Krishna relented and said nothing further about the matter. But the devoted denizens of Dvaraka were surprised and soon gossip spread throughout the Kingdom.

Later, the brother of Satrajit, Prasena, borrowed the gem and went boldly into the forest to hunt. Unknown to anyone, Prasena was killed by a great lion who was in turn killed by Jambavan, the King of Bears, who took the Syamantaka jewel into his cave and gave it to his child to play with. Soon the news of the gems disappearance turned into ugly rumors that perhaps Krishna was responsible for the theft. Sensing the people's doubt, Lord Krishna ventured out to search for the gem accompanied by a large group of followers. Later they found the dead bodies of both Prasena and the lion. Finally they came to the cave of Jambavan and Krishna entered the cave alone, leaving his associates out side. Seeing Krishna and not knowing his true greatness, Jambavan engaged Him in mortal combat. After the fighting had continued unabated for over 14 days and nights Jambavan began losing strength while Krishna was still strong and getting stronger. At this point Jambavan realized Krishna's true identity and offered Krishna the jewel and his daughter in apology.

When Krishna returned triumphantly to Dvaraka the truth became known and the Lord returned the Syamantaka gem to King Satrajit. The legend of the gem continues, but the most memorable part of the legend involves Lord Krishna.

Of course most devotees already know this story, but a mistake of spelling wrongly as "Shyamantaka" has led to the incorrect idea that Syamantaka was a blue sapphire (Saturn's gem). Even Amar Chitra Katha comic books in India, as well as BBT artists make this mistake, and they spell as Shyamantaka and show the Sun God is giving a blue sapphire to Satrajit. This is completely incorrect. If anyone looks at the Sanskrit they will see it is not spelled Shyamantaka, the real spelling is "SYAMANTAKA" which means the Ruby (Sun's gem) after which this story is named. The story also describes how the people mistook King Satrajit "as the Sungod" whenever he wore the gem, so it was surely not a blue sapphire (Saturn's gem).

I hope this is clear and the misconception, mistaken spelling, and wrong depiction can be corrected.

Contact the author>>>Richard S. Brown, GIA, PG