A Ritual Dagger, © Horniman Museum and Gardens
What a fearsome looking object!
Look closely at the carved dagger. At the top of the blade there is a ‘Makara’, or sea monster with big red eyes and serpents coming out of its mouth. Above that you can see a blue bodied Vajrakilaya with three differently coloured heads. There is a red head to symbolise wrath, a blue head for joy and a white head which symbolises peace.
Tibetan Buddhist ritual daggers (or Phurpas) like this often have a 3 sided blade which represent the three spirit worlds. The lower part of the blade is said to represent "Method" while the handle "Wisdom".
Rather than an actual weapon, it is used by shamans to remove evil spirits and turn negative energies and emotions like greed, desire and envy into positive ones.
Things to think about:
- What are the expressions on the faces on the dagger? Why do you think they are like this?
- Can you think of any other objects that are used in rituals?
- What other creatures, patterns or faces can you see?
Symbolism plays a huge role in many world cultures especially Buddhism. This dagger is a great way of illustrating to students the ideas of spirits and different realms.
Additionally, it is a good introduction to Buddhism as a religion and the different rituals involved.
You can learn more about the dagger and the images presented on it over on the Horniman Museum website.
- This painted dagger has a head of the mythical Makara, a creature made of half-land, half-sea animal.
- What a fearsome looking object!