Monday, August 03, 2009



An antique Pema Raka carnelian bead. The Tibetan name Pema Raka originates from the sanskrit words Padma meaning Lotus flower and Rakta meaning red or blood--and so we have a translation of  blood lotus or red lotus. Pema Raka beads range from orange to deep red in colour and come in a variety of shapes. They might also display crystalline banding and inclusions. It is interesting to note that this name is also given to rubies in both the Tibetan materia medica and Indian Ayurvedic texts. Tibetans texts mention that there are nine varieties of ruby, which may also be called Pema Marpo. In Tibetan medicine the Pema Raka is believed to protect from evil spirits and to absorb illnesses. I have yet to ascertain if  Tibetans actually regard carnelian as one of the nine varieties of Ruby or whether these beads have mistakenly been given this name. In Tibetan medicine the Pema Raka is believed to protect from evil spirits and to absorb illnesses.

It has been suggested that the majority of Pema Raka are unlikely to be more than 300 years old (+ or -) and are of Chinese origin (still unproven). However, there is also a widely held belief that some Pema Raka could be as much as 2000 years old, and traded to Tibet from Afghanistan or central Asia (also unproven). The great weathering and wear at the perforations does point to a much earlier period for some beads. In our opinion there are clearly different periods of manufacture with some being ancient and others being antique. Whether the carnelian is from the same source also needs more investigation. Since Pema Raka are used as an ingredient in Tibetan medicine, it is likely they have been in circulation since at least the 12th century.


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