Kartika (knife)

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Example of a kartika

A kartika is a small, symbolic crescent knife or scraper used in ceremonies for Vajrayana Buddhism. 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. This tool is held in the right hand of Yamantaka, the conqueror of death.

Depictions of Vajrayogini typically contain the kartika as one of her attributes. In the iconography of the dakini, she generally appears with the hooked kartika knife in her right hand. Lama 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 "skull-cup".[2]


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