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Magical Wand

Skt., khatvanga
Tib., thod-dbyug

Sometimes translated as staff or stick, yet with magical powers, khatvanga is best regarded as a magical wand.
In its earliest form, the khatvanga consisted of a large human bone (from arm or leg) with at the top a mounted skull. As such, it occured in the early shamanic traditions of India.

In the Tantric tradition of the Himalayas, where Padmasambhava is said to have used and introduced this magical weapon when exorcising the local, non-Buddhist demons (and deities), the khatvanga took on a different, more symbolic form. Rather than being made form an actual bone, it usually takes the form of a wooden staff surmounted by a human skull, a severed human head, a trident, or a dorje - and sometimes by a combination of some or all of these. It is carried by several Dakinis . . . and protective deities.

Although the general Tibetan term for this type of wand is thod-dbyug, the one of Padmasmbhava is known as 'phrul-gyi hgan-di; where the syllables hgan-di show that his wand was made from a human bone. This specific type of wand is topped with all the above named items except for the trident.

There are other and special forms of the magical wand in both traditions. One such wand is known as pinaka (Tib., klu-shing). It is a wand in the form of a poisonous snake, usually a cobra, and is associated with Shiva. Another case, this one Tibetan, is the flat wand inscribed with magical formula and topped by a dorje; this one is called srid-pa'i khram-byang.