This fascinating, rare, and early ritual dagger (purbha), large and heavy in the hand, is wrought unaffectedly with a sense of intense, bound activity. The endless-knot grip appears to constrict like taut leather before the eyes. The suggestion of the snake may indicate the purbha is associated with the practice of Mahakala instead.Beyond the attractive green patina and its raised edges smoothed from ritual handling, the purbha’s modeling is remarkable, with faces that convey the subtle contours of high cheekbones and small fangs, secured together by a counterclockwise wrap of the hair into the vajra-finial.
According to legend, Padmasambhava introduced purbhas to Tibet to subdue forces hostile to Buddhism. Extraordinary tales of magic are associated with them, but there are no texts to explain, and their secrets are guarded by practitioners.
Adding to its rarity, this example belongs to Tibet’s indigenous Bon religion. Key markers, in contrast to Buddhist versions of the same period.