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Kartika (knife)

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Tibetan Board Carving of Vajrayogini Dakini

A kartika is a small, symbolic crescent knife or 'chopper', used in Vajrayana Buddhist ceremony. It symbolizes the severance of all material and worldly bonds and is crowned with a vajra, which is said to destroy ignorance, and leads to enlightenment. The kartika is a key ritual implement in the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Chöd, or 'cutting through demons'. In Buddhist teachings, this tool is held in the right hand of Yama, the conqueror of death. It is also used in Feng Shui.

For a representation of the kartika, see the implement held in Vajrayogini's right hand within the image to the right. In the iconography of the dakini, she generally appears with the hooked kartika knife in her right hand. Tsultrim Allione describes the kartika:

The traditional interpretation of the hook in Tibetan Buddhist imagery is that of the hook of compassion. It is the hook which pulls beings out of the cycles of transmigration. The hooked crescent-shaped knife of the dakini with its vajra handle pulls one forth from suffering, chops up the ego-centred self and is guided by the diamond clarity of the vajra.[1]

The kartika usually appears as a pair with the kapala, or skullcap.[2]


  1. Allione, Tsultrim (1986). Women of Wisdom. London: Arkana. p. 32. ISBN 1-85063-044-5. 
  2. Harderwijk, Rudy. "Tantric Symbols". Retrieved 2008-09-28. 

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