The Sankara Stones
As seen in: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
The Power: There are five Sankara Stones. One has been stolen from a small village, where it provided crops and life for the people. Two stones were found beneath Pangkot Palace, with Mola Ram put slave children to work, digging for the other two. Once he has all five, he believes he will have the power to conquer all religions and deliver world dominance for the Godess Kali. Or something.
The Real Life Version: The Sankara Stones are based on the sivalinga, the symbol of the Hindu God Shiva. According to Hindu lore, Sankara was a priest who ascended Mount Kalisa where he met Shiva. Shiva passed on five stones invested with magical properties that Sankara could use to combat evil.
"Shiva lingas" are sacred symbols of Shiva. Originally the cylindrical shape represented the formlessness of creation, then gradually became associated with Shiva. All Shiva temples have sivalinga as the main diety. They can be found in temples and shrines throughout India. There are several types: The Anadi, or Svaymbhu, are considered the most sacred, and originate from heaven itself, falling from the sky. The Jangam are miniature symbols, often cast in stone, clay, metal or other material. They are small enough to be worn as amulets or necklaces, and are often thought of as "movable" lingas.
The Movie Version: Although Lucas came up with the Sankara Stones as a MacGuffin, screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz had a long standing interest in Indian mythology and added colour and detail to the plot device. The Sankara Stone itself was built by effects designer George Gibbs and was simply a plastic casing with a lightbulb inside that illuminated to reveal its power.
Effectiveness as a McGuffin: 3/5. Lucas now feels the Sankara stones were "too esoteric" as a MacGuffin - indeed if you know exactly how they play into saving kidnapped children from an Indian death cult, answers on a post card please...