The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Caste mark stamps - Shanka mudra

These five metallic stamps were used in ancient days by Brahmins of Southern India. These Brahmins would brand themselves with these five mudras (symbols) to identify as followers of Lord Vishnu who is also known as Sri Narayana or Sri Hari. Shaivism or the Vishnu-worshipping division is one of four main sects of Hinduism. The archaic custom of branding specific parts of the body also had a deeper spiritual purpose and is still practised in some parts of South India. In Fiji however, most Hindus do not even know that this form of religious branding even existed during the Girmit era. The first four mudras symbolize the four articles Sri Narayana holds in each of his four arms and the fifth represents the entirety of this Godhead with the mantra "Om Namoh Narayana" to revere his being. The mudra in the order presented here are: Shanka (conch shell); Chakra (spinning discus); Gada (mace); Padma (lotus flower); and Sri Narayan (Lord Vishnu).

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