Kapala (Skull Cup, Thod-pa)

In Tibetan Buddhism the kapala or thod-pa (both meaning “skull cup”) is a highly decorated cup or bowl made from a human skull for ritual use, and represents the symbolic destruction of evil entities. The cup is used to hold offerings of bread or wine, symbolizing blood and flesh, to “wrathful” deities. The kapala, like many implements of Tibetan Buddhism, may be a carryover from ancient practices of human sacrifice.

When creating a kapala, a skull is specially collected, prepared, and elaborately anointed and consecrated before use. Many are decorated with carvings, jewels, or silverwork. The kapala is one of several “charnel ground” implements made from human bone.

Tantric protective deity Mahakala with skull bowl

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March 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

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