Item: cc1270

Tibetan dagger. Gilded Copper Kartika or Gri-gug Flaying Knife, 19th C.



    Length: 20.32 cm

    Width: 15.25 cm

    Thickness: 2.5 cm

    Weight: .75 lb

    Price on request

    Not technically in the realm of temporal arms and armor, this kartika (known as a gri gug in Tibet), or ritual flaying knife, is an object of delicate lines and fine age reflecting metalworking traditions in Tibet, which were applied as much to objects with ritual, and well as profane, purposes. Commonly referred to as a kartika<span style=font-size: 14px;, the crescent- shaped knife is used in the tantric ceremonies of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is considered to be “one of the quintessential attributes of the wrathful Tantric deities (Beer 2003).”

    It was most commonly pictured in Tibetan thangkas as held in the right hand of a dakini (Sanskrit for “Sky dancer”), which was usually a depiction of a priestess who carried the souls of the dead to the sky. It is also known to be depicted in the hands of other esoteric gods, such as various forms of Yamantaka, and found in the iconography of the practice of Chöd. Chöd is a representation of the “Cutting Through the Ego,” or the practices based on the Prajñāpāramitā or “Perfection of Wisdom” sutras, which expound the “emptiness” concept of Buddhist philosophy (Chaoul 2009).

    The form of the kartika is generally similar across its various representations, to include a rounded flaying knife, a hook on one edge, a Vajra as the handle, and often an open Makara head from which the flaying blade emanates. Most interestingly, the form of the kartika is based on the Indian butcher’s knife, or the hand chopper that can still be seen in the hands of cooks throughout the sub-continent (Huntington and Bangdel 2004). This example is of particularly fine quality and made of copper with fine details and gilded embellishments. This classic and advanced form with all of the known elements and a rich reddish brown copper patina indicates that it dates to the 19th century.


    Private U.K. collection

    Jonathan Tucker


    Beer, R. (2003). The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Shambhala Publications; Boulder, CO

    Chaoul, Alejandro. (2009). Chod practice in the Bon tradition. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications

    Huntington, J., Bangdel. D. (2004) The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art. Columbus Museum of Art. Serindia Publications: Columbus, Oh