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Personified Vajrakila (Phurba), Tibet 16. – 17. Century ( Museum Guimet )

A phurba (also: phurpa , phurbu or phurpu ; Sanskrit : kila (ya) ) is a three-sided ritual object resembling a dagger or nail that is used in shamanistic traditions of the Himalayan region as well as in Buddhism in Tibet and Bon . The deity or yidam associated with the object is called Dorje Phurba or Vajrakila (ya) .


The phurba is one of many iconographic divine attributes ( Tib . : phyag mtshan ) seen in Vajrayana and Hindu deities . When a phurba is blessed and bound for use, it is considered a nirmanakaya form of Dorje Phurba (Tib .: sprul pa ) or Vajrakilaya . It is either used to stab the earth with it, or - as is customary in the shamanistic traditions of the Himalayas - vertically in a basket or container with rice or other soft grain (if the phurba is made of wood). Here one imagines the Phurba as a world axis . With Nepalese shamans the idea of ​​the world tree is more common.

The phurba plays a special role, for example, in marking a suitable prayer place (cf. puja ), although only a person who has been initiated or authorized in its use may use it. The energetic aspect is "combative, angry, nailing, piercing".

The wooden phurbas in particular are also used in shamanic healing rituals. The shape of the Phurba can be found in the handle of the Dhyangro drumstick , which is used in Eastern Nepal for such spiritual healing.

Often two entwined nagas are depicted on the blade of a phurba , which is reminiscent of an Aesculapian or Hermes staff . All energies that appear irreconcilable and separate are supposed to be united through the Phurba.

Form and manufacture

Phurba from Tibet

A phurba can be made of various materials or material components. These include wood, metal, clay, bones, precious stones, horn and crystal. Tibetan phurbas, like most Tibetan tools or instruments, are usually made of brass, iron (especially meteorite iron, Tib .: gnam lcags ) or, less often, of copper.

The pommel of a Phurba shows Dorje Phurba , often with three faces. One is joyful, one is peaceful, and one is angry. It can be shielded by an Ashtamangala umbrella (Tib .: gdugs ; Skt .: Chattra ) or a mushroom cap, a yidam such as Hayagriva , a snow lion , a chörten or similar symbols.

The handle often looks like a vajra (see also Dorje ) or weaving or knotting . Like the pommel and the blade, it always contains a triune motif. The blade usually has three triangular facets or faces that meet at the tip. This is supposed to symbolize the power of the blade to transform the three poisons .


As a tool of exorcism , a phurba is said to be used to ward off demons or thought structures so that their mental currents can be transformed and their own mental obscuration (or obscuration) removed. Another use is the binding and holding down of "negative energies" of an entity , a thought structure, a person or the projection of a group of people in order to purify the environment.

Dorje Phurba can be seen as the destructive (in the sense of termination and liberation) inherent in the Phurba against greed ( Tanha ) (Tib .: sred pa ), attachment ( Upadana ) (Tib .: len pa ) and ignorance ( Avidya ) (Tib. : ma rig pa ) to be seen. Greed, attachment and ignorance are said to be bound by the three sides of a phurba’s blade and transformed by the point. The pommel of a phurba can be blessed before use. It should therefore never be seen or used as a physical weapon, but as a spiritual tool. An epithet or epithet of the Phurba is Diamond Dagger of Emptiness .

Cultural references

In order to be able to work with the spirits and demons of the earth, the country and the place, the indigenous peoples of the Mongolian-Manchurian steppe have nailed them down. Although the Phurba is associated with the Indian Vajrakilaya, it is also related to the tent pegs of the steppe nomads . Piercing the earth with a phurba can be compared to the rite of laying the foundation stone . It is an ancient shamanistic idea that is widespread throughout the region and can be found in the Bon and Vajrayana traditions as well. According to old shamanistic myths, for example, mountains are also viewed as large herrings that are supposed to hold the earth in place. According to folklore, Mount Amnyemachen is said to have been brought from another country specifically for this purpose. The Chörten (cf. Steinmännchen ) can be seen as a further development of this tradition .

Iconographic representation of Dorje Phurbas


A common representation of Dorje Phurbas (Vajrakilayas) as a single figure shows the deity with three heads, six arms and four legs. His three right hands, with the exception of the first hand in the foreground, hold vajras with five and nine spokes. The right hand in the foreground is shown with the palm open in a mudra , as if it were granting a blessing. His three left hands hold three flaming wish-fulfilling jewels (see three jewels ), a trident and a phurba. Dorje Phurba's back is covered with the freshly peeled skin of an elephant - which symbolizes ignorance - whose feet point forward. Across his chest you can see a human skin with hands on his stomach. He wears a chain with several heads suspended from their hair. He also wears a knee-length loincloth and is belted with a tiger skin including head, claws and tail. He wears naga earrings, bracelets and anklets. Dorje Phurba's faces are plump and rather small compared to his body. Despite his large fangs and bulging eyes in his wrathful appearance, he is considered kind, benevolent, and benevolent. Many depictions also show Dorje Phurba as a yab-yum with his companion Diptacakra (Tib. 'Khor lo rgyas' debs ma). Another name for Dorje Phurba is Vajrakumara.

Game and film


  • Robert Beer: The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Serindia Publications, London 1999, pp. 245-249.
  • Siegbert Hummel: The Lamaist Ritual Dagger (Phur bu) and the Old Middle Eastern ´Dirk Figures` . Translated by G. Vogliotti. In: The Tibet Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 23-32.
  • Jisl Lumir: A contribution to the iconographic interpretation of the Tibetan ritual daggers. In: Annals of the Naparstek Museum, No. 1, Prague, 1962, pp. 77–83 and panels 15–16.
  • Martin J. Boord: A Bolt of Lightning From the Blue. The Vast Commentary on Vajrakila that Clearly Defines the Essential Points. edition khordong, Berlin, 2002.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. phyag mtshan (translation options into English)
  2. sprul pa (including translation options into English)
  3. Dharmapala Thangka Center: A Hayagriva Phurba
  4. sred pa (translation options into English)
  5. len pa (translation options into English)
  6. ma rig pa (translation options into English)
  7. ^ Mongolian-Manchurian grassland WWF
  8. Dharmapala Thangka Center: Vajrakumara / Vajrakila ( Thangka )