Posted on: October 22, 2018

Find it at The Met – Chintamani Motif

Known as a symbol of good luck, the chintamani motif can be found on many Ottoman and Persian handicrafts from the 15th and 16th centuries. Visit the Metropolitan Museum to see its vast collection of these beautiful artifacts along with other treasures in its Islamic Art wing.

Depicted as three circles in a triangular formation accompanied by two wavy lines, the chintamani design traces its origins back to Buddhism. Found as early as 1000 AD in the paintings at the Mogao Caves, it is thought to have been a depiction of three pearls surrounded by celestial flames. According to Buddhist symbolism, pearls are representations of the moon, thus relating the chintamani pattern to that of the flaming pearl. Both images stand for wisdom and truth in addition to good luck and prosperity.

Ewer, Turkey circa 1580-85

Thanks to the Silk Road, this design made its way westward into south and central Asia. The name chintamani┬ácomes from Sanskrit, translating to ‘auspicious jewel,’ and was meant to bring good luck. This shows that the symbol held its meaning as it entered new lands and cultures.

Woven Textile, Turkey circa 16th century

The chintamani motif found its place in the Ottoman and Persian empires in a big way in the 15th and 16th centuries. It can be found across many mediums from this era such as jewelry, pottery, and textiles. It retained its connotation as a symbol of good luck, but by this point, its story had changed to suit the culture it served. The pattern of circles and lines was now equated to the spots of a leopard and the stripes of a tiger respectively. These animals were indigenous to the region and were often reflected in traditional arts and handicrafts. The reason that the Ottomans and Persians incorporated the chintamani pattern into daily life was to protect its owner from the evil eye. The concept behind adorning items with this symbol of prosperity is that precious and beautiful people or objects can incite jealousy from onlookers, and as such, one needs defense from the ill wishes of others.

Ushak Carpet, Turkey circa first half 17th century

Ushak Carpet detail, Turkey circa first half 17th century

Over the last century, the chintamani design has moved across continents and cultures, becoming a prevalent motif in many histories. It can even be found in contemporary works. Even though some of the specifics have changed, its allusion to good luck and prosperity still hold true. Now that you know what to look for, see if you can spot this meaningful symbol in your everyday life!