In this study the author considers the functions and significance attached in ancient India to gold in all its aspects. Among these is the belief that gold is or represents light or the sun; is essentially identical to fire, fiery or brilliant energy, truth, ritual exactitude, prestige, royalty; is regarded as a symbol of life and human spirit, of purity and incorruptibility; its function as amulets and talismans; its relations with the gods; the various uses made of it in rites and ceremonies (soma and animal sacrifices, royal and funeral rites, and so on); ritual utensilia made of gold, symbolic actions transferring its inherent power and finally, its use as a means of purification and expiation.
This study leads to a better understanding of many Vedic texts, of various details of the ancient Indian sacrificial ritual, theology (including, for example, the deification of the sacrificer), speculative thought, cosmogony, of the significance of figures such as the golden goose, the golden Purusa and Hiraṇyagarbha.
Jan Gonda (d. 1991) was Professor of Sanskrit and Indology at Utrecht University from 1932-76, and also taught Indo-European subjects. Author of a prolific number of studies, his last publications are (with Brill):
The Indra Hymns of the ṛgveda (1989) and
Mantra interpretation in the Satapatha-Brāhmana (1988).
Indologists, Sanskrit scholars, students of the comparative history of religion.