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A kapala (Sanskrit for "skull"), skullcup is a cup made from a human skull used as a ritual implement (bowl) in both Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra (Vajrayana). Especially in Tibet, they were often carved or elaborately mounted with precious metals and jewels. Many of the deities of Tibetan Buddhism, including Mahasiddhas, Dakinis and Dharmapalas are depicted as carrying the kapala, usually in their left hand. Some deities such as the Hindu Chinnamasta and the related Buddhist Vajrayogini are depicted as drinking blood from the Kapala.
In the Buddhist Tantric traditions, the use of human bones to fabricate sundry ritual instruments is considered primarily to bring to mind the reality of impermanence, the practitioner being led to meditate upon the fact that one day...and perhaps sooner than he thinks...his existence too will be reduced down to a few paltry objects. One finds similar meditative considerations in the Theravadin traditions, certain temples keeping skeletons on display as a reminder to the monks of their impermanence. Some monastic ascetics used to take for their sole object of meditation a piece of human bone, this practice was still alive in the 1960's.