The Sankara Stones were five smooth-polished stones shaped like lingams, rounded columns used as a symbol of the fertility aspect of Shiva.
According to legend, five stones were given to Sankara by the Hindu god Shiva on Mount Kalisa, along with the message that he should go forth and battle evil with them. The stones contained diamonds inside, which would glow when the stones were brought together, as a way to recount the legend of Shiva emerging from the fiery pillar. The diamonds could give warmth and life, but the stones could also be used for fiery destruction for those who betrayed Shiva.
Sankara used the stones to convert many in India to the worship of Shiva. After his death, however, the stones became lost, scattered by wars and sold on by mercenaries over hundreds of years. By the 1930s, two of these "Sankara Stones" sat buried underground beneath the palace of Pankot while a second pair managed to fall into the possession of a Thuggee high priest's son by the name of Mola Ram.
The last of the five had ended up in a small village called Mayapore located in northern India. It was found in a river and revered by the people of Mayapore because it brought happiness and prosperity to the village. They called it Sivalinga or Shivalinga, and it served as the town's lingam. It had three notches on the side, representing the three levels of the universe according to their beliefs.
Sivalinga was taken from Mayapore by members of the evil Thuggee cult, under the command of Mola Ram, who also kidnapped Mayapore's children. Without the stone, life in Mayapore withered and died. In 1935, Indiana Jones – who had recently survived a plane crash – ended up at the village, and was sent to recover the stone at the behest of Mayapore's shaman, Marhan, and its chieftain. The Thuggee priest Mola Ram had brought his two and Sivalinga to Pankot, and set them in an underground temple dedicated to the goddess Kali, located below Pankot Palace. With the final two stones lying in the caverns below the palace, Mola Ram forced the kidnapped children to work in a mine to locate the last two stones, believing that with the power of the stones, Kali Ma would rule the world.
The three located stones were placed in the alcoves of a large statue inside the temple, until stolen by Indiana Jones. While escaping the mines with the three stones, Jones was pursued by the Thuggee to a rope bridge located over a large chasm. Grappling with Ram for the stones, Jones began incanting in Sanskrit. The Sankara Stones responded and burned a hole through Jones' satchel. Two of them plummeted down into the crocodile-filled waters below but as Sivalinga broke free of the bag, Ram grabbed it before it was lost. It's holy glow was too painful for Ram to bear, however, and he fell to his death while Jones caught the stone. Instead of claiming it for himself, Jones decided that its home was back in Mayapore and he returned it to Marhan.
Unbeknownst to Jones or the surviving Thuggee, the remaining two Sankara stones sat just a few feet away from an excavated area in the mine's wall.
Behind the scenes
In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, while fighting with Mola Ram for the possession of the Sankara Stones, Indiana Jones gets the stones to turn red hot by uttering "Tum Shiva ke vishwaas-ghati ho!", which is Hindi for "You are a betrayer of Shiva".
In 2018, gem miner and mineral aficionado Erik Rintamaki discovered a type of florescent rock in Michigan that he named "Yooperlite" (after the nickname for the people who live in the US state's upper peninsula). The website Nerdist, seeing the Yooperlites' similarity to the Sankara Stones, joked that scientists would be unable to say whether or not the rocks could be used to go forth and battle evil..
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