Object of the Week

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya

(National Museum of Mankind)


Due to spread of covid-19 pandemic the museums throughout the world are closed but identifying different innovative ways to remain connected to their visitors. Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (National Museum of Mankind) has also taken up many new initiatives to face the challenges posed by this pandemic. In one such step it is coming up with a new series entitled ‘Exhibit of the Week’ to showcase its collection from all over India. Initially this series will focus on the masterpieces from its collection which are considered as unique for their contribution to the cultural history of a particular ethnic group or area. These masterpieces belong to the "AA" & "A" category. There are 64 objects in these categories.


Object of the week

28-31 May,  2020


A ritual skull bowl  (external link)


Kapala is a skull bowl used in tantric rituals among Buddhist communities of Himalayan region. This object has intricately carved three basic parts -the base,  the holder and the lid. The main attraction of this object is the presence of an upper part  of human skull used as ritual bowl.

Many Tibetan sculptures and paintings depicting wrathful Buddhist deities are shown with Kapalas in their hands. Impressive Buddhist designs of waves and ripples are nicely depicted representing an ocean of blood. The knob fixed at the top of the lid symbolises Dorje (a ritual weapon). The lower part of the lid is also decorated with a few semi-precious stones.

Kapalas were used for spiritual purposes to achieve higher state of consciousness through tantra. In Buddhist monasteries, it is used as an oblation bowl to hold dough and cakes symbolizing flesh and blood offered to the wrathful deities.  It is also regarded as Karmic vessels that contains bad and good qualities of the dead. It is believed that Kapala can avoid harms if it is used with proper religious instructions and tantric conducts.


Accession No.:   79.21 

Community : Buddhist 

Locality : Ladakh, India 

Measurement : Height – 41.5 cm. Breadth – 19.5 cm.  

Category : ‘AA’

Updated date: 29-05-2020 11:15:31