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Khatvanga – Staff with Human Skull Attached to Bone

Some of us must have noticed the weapon a human skull attached to bone in the hands of tantrics and also in images of certain gods. It is known as Khatvanga. This is a weapon that comes from very ancient times. In modern times, the bone is replaced with decorated wood.

Khatvanga in its original form is very rare but some Tantrics attending the Ambubachi Mela at Kamakhya Temple in Assam holds it.

Khatvanga is a sort of club (gada). The handle is made up of the bone of forearm or leg. The end portion of the bone is attached to human skull.

The bone was replaced by wood during the Chalukya and Hoysala period. They used intricately carved wood.

There are several different types of Khatvanga today without human skull. The skull is made using metal or wood. In some the human skull is attached to Trishul. In some the skull is attached to sword or spear. Some people have created designer Khatvanga in which more than one skull is attached in different styles. But these are not prescribed in ancient texts.

Murtis of Shiva, Goddess Kali, Goddess Chamunda are depicted as holding Khatvanga.

Khatvanga is primarily used to invoke fear. It is a sort of shield to keep enemies away. It is also used by many tantrics to stay aloof from society so that people do not approach them.

Symbolically, the Khatvanga represents the futility of life.