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Sacred vessel Kapala/Tod.Pa
MPE 142643
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

We don’t know how and when this holy relic reached the museum. An aura of mystery envelopes it and this, along with its deep esoteric meaning, makes it a particularly evocative object.

History of the Object
Among the various receptacles used for offerings in tantric rituals a particularly important place is allotted to the human skull (sansKrit Kapala, tibetan Tod.Pa). During the consacration ritual five “germinal mantric syllables” (bijamantra) have to be visualized. There are the “five nectars” in the kapala: faeces, marrow, semen, blood and urine. From a series of another five bijamantra the “five meats” appear in the same kapala: cow, dog, elephant, horse and man. By boiling and refining these ten substances - it is usual practice to substitute them with active herbs which have the same sacramental valences - a nectar is created which has three characteristics: first a medicine against sickness, then an elixir of immortality and finally the essence of esoteric gnosis, uncontaminated by dissonant emotions. The symbolic significance of these elements is the will to acknowledge and believe that, far from coming from outside, these sacred elements are already within the tantric disciple.

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Type
Other 
Materials
Human skull, metal, semiprecious stones 
Measurements
Width 17.4 cm. Height 37 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Tibet 
Geography
China; Tibet 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
18th Century - 19th Century 
Function
Used for tantric rituals 
Acquisition
Unknown 
Copyright
©Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Roma 
Acknowledgements
Text: Massimiliano Polichetti, Loretta Paderni Photo Giorgio Bronchi, Fabio Naccari ©Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Roma Published in: La Tigre e il Fiore di loto ed. Textilia, Roma, 2001 
Owner
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Rome State property, Italy 
Museum
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico "Luigi Pigorini" 
Credit line
 

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