Mystery Pendant

The Mystery Pendant from Bhutan

I’m helping to solve a mystery object acquired from Bhutan by somebody on Reddit.  The message read:

My employee’s mom got this for her on a trip to Bhutan; bus does not know what the symbols mean. Can anyone help me with it?

You can read the comments on reddit but nobody seemed to be answering.   I’ve included a photo here just in case it gets removed from the other site.

The Clue

The top letter looks like Om: ॐ

How did we see this?  It looks like a 3!  Of course once you think that something starts with Om, it is most likely the mantra “om mani padme hum”. A big problem with reading an object like this is the fact that the designer has used calligraphy rather than plain writing. For example I can read Arabic script which has been produced on a computer but I cannot read anything that has been crafted elegantly by the a calligrapher on religious plaques.

A bit of searching gave me this pendant from Amazon:

Pendant with OM MANI PADME HUM

You can clearly see the same calligraphic writing font on both pendants.

If the mantra was written in Dzongkha using the standard Tibetan alphabet then it would look like this:

OM MANI PADME HUM in Dzongkha

What is it then?

Some more searching on Himalayan Scripts I managed to stumble upon “Ranjana Script”.  These are the scripts that appear on the prayer wheels (I even have a small hand held wheel here and I can find exactly these symbols on it).  Here is a picture of of the mantra in the script.  You can see the same letters on the pendants but the horizontal top connecting line obviously isn’t there.  If you know Devanagari script (the script that is used for writing Hindi) you can see that these scripts are closely related to each other.

The word Ranjana sounded like India and it turns out to be a Sanskrit word meaning Entertaining.  We also found that the Ranjana Script was a derivative of Bhrami Script.

OM MANI PADME HUM in Ranjana Script
OM MANI PADME HUM in Devenagari Script

The Middle Symbol

The symbol in the middle caused a large amount of grief for us.  While searching for the Ranjana examples I stumbled upon this symbol:

The symbol is the entire OM MANI PADME HUM mantra in a single symbol.  It’s not quite the same shape as the symbol at the center of the pendant but I wasn’t able to dig up any further matching symbols.  The symbol on the pendant does appear to have the OM in it but everything has been twisted together as a form of a style.

Conclusions

We think we managed to track down what the meaning of the pendant is.  It is OM MANI PADME HUM (you will be able to find many discussions on this on-line) and it appears once around the outside as 6 separate letters in Ranjana Script and as a single symbol in calligraphy at the center.