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Khaṭvaṅga or ritual sceptre. Made of iron and inlaid in gold and silver. The handle surmounted by a vajra above a skull and two human heads, then four leaves draping a vase, crossed vajra-s, a lotus bud, the octagonal shaft tapering to a vajra tip. The stem is intertwined with finely inlaid silver and gold, lotus, chrysanthemum and peony flowers, overhung by four slender leaves. The prongs of the half-vajra-s at both ends and of the crossed vajra-s at the centre issue from animal masks and are suspended on a lotus flower. Marked.
- Production date
Length: 44 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The various elements on the upper part of this sceptre are pierced by a shaft of square section which slides into the long tapering body. A khaṭvāṅga, which can symbolise the Thought of Enlightenment, should have the image of a freshly severed head, a decomposing head, a skull and the vase of life -here finely inlaid with lotus, chrysanthemum and peony flowers and overhung by four slender leaves. The prongs of the half-‘vajras’ at the ends and of the crossed ‘vajras’ at the centre issue from animal masks. This imperially commissioned artefact (the reign mark is around the lowest knop) might have been used for a rite of identification with a particular god.
This is a ritual trident or sceptre symbolizing the possession by its bearer of the infinite treasure of the wisdom of the Buddha and also the Thought of Enlightenment ('Bodhicitta'). The 'vajra' or pronged thunderbolt is emblematic of the unbreakable nature of absolute knowledge.
'Khatvangas' are composed of images of a severed head, a decomposing head, a skull and the vase of life. Buddhist adepts, such as the Indian teachers known as the siddhas, are often depicted carrying such staffs.
We know this particular sceptre was imperially commissioned because it has the emperor's reign mark inscribed around the lowest knop. The gold and silver inlay in the iron body of the sceptre is very skilfully worked. This type of silver inlay is associated with the eastern Tibetan town of Derge.
- On display (G33/dc33b/s1)
- Exhibition history
2002 5 Nov, Paris-Musee Guimet, 'The Secret Visions of the 5th Dalaï Lama'
2014 Sep-2015 Jan, BM WCEC, 'Ming: 50 years that changed China'
2020 Sep-2021 Jan, BM, Room 35, 'Tantra: enlightenment to revolution'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number