Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 19th Century
Overall: 380mm (15 inches)
The phurba (kila in Sanskrit) is an implement of power and magic and its origins can be traced back to the ancient Hindu text the Rigveda—believed to be the world’s oldest religious writing. Within the text there is an account of the god Indra slaying the serpent Vrita thus allowing the world to emerge into existence. As the earth floated on the primeval waters with the sky lying flat upon it, Indra stabilised it and propped up the heavens with a mythical mountain named Indrakila (Indra’s Peg). Within Buddhism the phurba is used in rituals, especially in the practice of Dzokchen—the main system of meditation, philosophy, and ritual of the Nyingma lineage of Buddhism in Tibet.
This phurba of bronze shows the triple-faced head of the fierce transcendent deity Vajrakila who vanquishes the demons of the threefold world (the heavens, the earth, and the underworld). The Vajrakila are crowned with a five-spoked half-vajra, while a full vajra acts as the central grip, its outer spokes emerging from the mouths of sea creatures. This grip sits upon a lotus base and atop the head of a large, impressive makara that has a trunk (which has eyes and a mouth of its own). The gaping mouth is swallowing or regurgitating a second makara, which in turn does the same with a fish. Two sides of the blade have snake-heads while the third shows the snakes’ bodies entwined. The triple-edged blade is meant to vanquish the demons of greed, anger and ignorance.
The zoomorphic aspects of the dagger and the pommel are heavily gilded while the bronze has acquired a deep and lustrous red patina. The dagger is contained within a contemporary wooden box.