This curved flaying-knife is modeled on the Indian ' knife of the butchers', used for skinning animal hides. The gibbous crescent of its blade, which terminates in a sharp point or curved hook, combines the flaying implements of a cutting-knife and scraping blade, and the piercing activity of a dagger or pulling-hook. The blade's crescent is used for cutting through flesh and scraping it clean, separating the outer and inner as 'appearance and emptiness'. The sharp hook or point of the blade is used for the more delicate acts of flaying: the initial incising of the carcass, the pulling out of veins and tendons, and cutting around the orifices of the skin.
An interesting but somewhat disturbing legend is related about the Mahakala 'protector chapel' at Samye monastery in Central Tibet. Traditionally, this forbidding chapel was kept locked for most of the year and entry into its precinct was rarely permitted. The attendant monk who supervised the chapel would each year ceremoniously replace an iron chopper and wooden chopping board which had become blunt and worn down by its nocturnal activities. Even though the chapel was locked and empty, at night the screams of the ethereal miscreants hacked under Mahakala's chopper could be clearly heard from outside the chapel.
Broadly speaking, the category of ritual objects in Tibetan religion includes nearly all objects that serve a religious function. The extensive variety and uses of ritual objects should be noted as one of the defining elements of Tibetan art, for no other culture has generated so wide a range of such implements. The great breadth also holds true for the materials they are made from. These include various metal alloys, precious metals, especially silver, jewels, wood, sculpted butter, and even human bones and ashes, taking the ritual well beyond the usual range of materials familiar among most religious traditions.
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