Nava (Nine) + Ratna (Gem) = Navaratna
Navaratna is a Sanskrit compound word, which means, Nine (Nava) Gems (Ratnas).
The Navartana basically indicates the nine planets of our solar system that governs each of the gems.
- Ruby (or Maanikyam, Manik) for Sun (Surya)
- Pearl (or Muktaphalam, Moti) for the Moon (Chandra)
- Emerald (or Marathakam, Panna) for Mercury (Budha)
- Red Coral (or Vidrumam, Moonga) for Mars (Mangala)
- Yellow Sapphire (or Pukhraj) for Jupiter (Brhaspati)
- Diamond (or Vajram, Heera) for Venus (Shukra)
- Blue Sapphire (or Nilam, Neelam) for Saturn (Shani)
- Hessonite (or Gomed) for the ascending lunar position in astrology (Rahu)
- Cat’s Eye (or Vaiduryam, Vaidurya, Lehsuniya) for the descending lunar position (Ketu)
Image Reference: Sampat Jewelers
The jewellery created using the nine gemstones are known as Navaratna Jewellery. This can be typically in the form of rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings, prayer beads, armbands, bracelets, chokers.
Based on Astrology, it is believed that a person’s life on Earth is affected by the nine planets (or the Navagrahas) in our solar system. Hence wearing Navaratna jewelry can balance the energies of the planets, promoting physical and mental wellbeing.
Navratna Hasli, North India, 19th Century, Private Collection
Source: Usha Bala Krishnan, Meera Sushil Kumar
Even though the origins of this precious combination of nine gems is unknown, its popularity and beauty go beyond the borders of India, covering almost all Asian countries like Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, irrespective of their culture or religion. However, it is undoubtedly the most popular in India.
Historical Significance of Navaratna Jewelry
During the ancient time, Navaratna Jewelry was predominantly worn by the kings and the emperors (Maharaja) in the form of an amulet. Since each of these gemstones is associated with a celestial deity, the combination of these nine gems is believed to invoke the cosmic powers of heavenly bodies in totality. The royal rulers in ancient India revered gemstones as Hindu Gods and the Navaratna were implied to represent the universe in totality according to the Hindu religion. The nine gems were considered so powerful that only the kings and emperors were given the privilege of wearing certain types of Navaratna Jewelry due to their perceived potency.
Image: 19th Century piece from North India. From the collection of The National Museum India
In order to harness the full spiritual potential of these gems, they are traditionally set in a specific arrangement.
The ruby (representing the Sun) in the center, surrounded (clockwise from the top) by a diamond, a natural pearl, red coral, hessonite, a blue sapphire, cat's eye, a yellow sapphire, and an emerald. This is the same placement as the Nava-graha Yantra.
It is considered inauspicious to place any gem other than a ruby or a red spinel in the center of the nine gems arrangement.
Since the Sun is the center of the solar system, its representative gem ruby is positioned in the heart of a Navaratna Talisman.
Traditionally each stone in the ornament should be of the same size so that all the planets were represented equally, though sometimes the centre stone representing the sun is slightly bigger than the rest.
The most common arrangements are a square with three stones on each side and one in the centre forming a square or a circle.
In addition the stones can be arranged as two overlapping squares or a long rectangle. In prayer beads nine gemstone beads are repeated in twelve units making a total of 108 beads (the twelve repeats are an allusion of the twelve months of the year).
Navaratna in other languages
- Navaratna in Sinhalese, Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Kannada, Burmese, Bengali and Indonesian
- Nabaratna in Odia
- Navaratinam in Tamil
- Navaratnalu in Telugu
- Navaratnam in Malayalam
- Nawaratna in Malay
- Nawarator Noppharat in Thai
- Nawarat in Burmese
Noppharat Ratchawaraphon: Thailand
In Thailand, the Navaratna is officially recognised as a national and royal symbol of the king. A high award given by the king is called "Noppharat Ratchawaraphon" (the Ancient Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems)
The Order is conferred upon Buddhist members of the Royal Family, as well as high ranking dignitaries, who have served the Kingdom and are affiliated with Buddhism. Awarded to both men (Knight) and women (Dame), the Dame awards are distinguished by the use of a bow ribbon. The Order is limited to 27 members. Original institution date unknown, believed to be during the 12th century.
Source and image courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum: Pair of armlets with Navaratna (nine jewels). Made or commissioned by PyariLal of Delhi (probably a shop[ or commissioning firm). Gold bordered with pearls and enamelled on the back and sides, and set with hessonite garnet, sapphire yellow (293-1871) or yellow beryl (293A-1871) or chrysoberyl (293A-1871) mother-of-pearl and red coral.
Referencing of Navratna in other fields
The concept of nine royal gems also had an interesting manifestation in the form of nine important courtiers, who excelled in diverse fields like medicine, arts, literature etc.
Emperor Vikramaditya’s court was adorned by nine gems: Amarsimha (Sanskrit Lexicographer & a Poet), Dhanvantri (Physician), Harisena (Poet), Kahapanaka (Astrologer), Sanku (Architect), Varahamihira (Astronomer), Vararuchi (Grammarian & Scholar), Vetalbhatta (Magician) and the great Kalidasa (Poet & Play writer)
Emperor Akbar and his Navratnas - Mid 19th Century - Olympia Auctions
The concept of Navratnas was also adopted by Emperor Akbar. His nine gems were: Raja Birbal (‘Vidushak’ or scholarly entertainer), Miyaan Tansen (Musician), Abul Fazal (Translator and Biographer), Faizi (Poet laureate), Raja Man Singh (Military Commander), Raja Todar Mal (Finance Minister), Mullah Do Piaza (Advisor), Faqir Aziao-Din (Sufi Mystic) and Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana (Mystic, poet, Translator and Scholar).
The Indian Government has also adapted the concept of Navratna for its large Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). The Government of India initially awarded the Navratna status to nine public sector undertakings (PSUs) in 1997. Over the years, the list of Navratna Companies has expanded to 14,
We have had a few interesting pieces Navratna pieces in our collection over the years.
While historically Navratna Jewellery has been worn for this healing powers, more recently it is gaining popularity for its visual appeal & aesthetics and its ability to blend seamlessly with most Indian outfits. But regardless of one's reason to adorn the beautiful Navratna, it is bound to make a statement and will be a piece that is cherished and passed on for generations to come.