A kapala (Sanskrit: “skull”) or skullcup is a bowl made from a human cranium used as a ritual implement in both Indian and Tibetan Tantra. A tantrika who carries and uses a skull cup is known as a Kapalika.

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 Chinnamasta and the related Buddhist Vajrayogini are depicted as drinking blood from the kapala.

Hindu deities that may be depicted with the kapala include Durga, Kālī and Shiva, especially in the form of Bhairava.

In Tibetan Buddhism, such skullcups are often ornate, having a silver lining and/or rim. Some have ornate lids.

See also