A „Kapala“ (Sanskrit for „skull“; Tibetan: ཀ་པ་ལ) is a cup made from a human skull used as a ritual bowl in Hinduism and Buddhism. Especially in Tibet, they were often carved or elaborately mounted with precious metals and jewels.
They are used as offering bowl on the altar, filled with wine, blood, bread, cakes or torma (figures made mostly of flour and butter).

Many deities are depicted as carrying the kapala, usually in their left hand or as drinking blood from the kapala. This are per example in…

Kali and Bhairava in Union (18th century, commons.wikimedia.org)Kali and Bhairava in Union
18th century –

Durga, Kali, Shiva (especially in his Bhairava form)…

(Tibetan) Buddhism
Dharmapala („defender of the faith“), Mahakala (“ „beyond time/death“), Ganapati Maha Rakta („The Great Red Lord of Hosts or Ganas“), Yamantaka (a wrathful manifestation of Manjusrī, the bodhisattva of wisdom)…

…to name but a few.

More Infos
Wikipedia: Kapala

All Photos © Barbara-Paraprem – Ethnological Museum, Zurich

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