Dril bu, Dorje, and Damaru

My daughter is a doctor at a major East Coast hospital. In the summer of 2012, she trekked for 21 days in through Zanskar, Ladakh with an Indian medical NGO providing free medical care for villagers. She is also a Nyingmapa Tibetan Buddhist – a follower of HH Penor Rimoche, and she asked me if I could find a matching set of ritual implements for her practice.

I’ve been a Karma Kargyu Tibetan Buddhist for over 38 years, so I was well aware of the significance of the ritual tools she requested, and vowed to obtain the finest examples I could.


“Vajra (Devanagari: वज्र;  Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ། dorje;) is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond. Additionally, it is a symbolic ritual object that symbolizes both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).

The Bell, known in Sanskrit as the Ghanta, and in Tibetan as dril bu. The bell is the most common and indispensable musical instrument in tantric Buddhist ritual. Gods and apotheosized lamas alike hold this popular symbol, along with the thunderbolt in their hands. The bell has an elemental function and its sound, like those made by the trumpet and the drum, is regarded as auspicious; it is said to drive away evil spirits. Like the church bell, the Buddhist hand bell sends the message to evil spirits that they must stay away from the consecrated area where the ritual is being performed.” http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/ritual

“A damaru (Skt.damaru; Tibetan ཌཱ་མ་རུ; Devanagari: डमरु) is a small two-headed drum, used in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.Damru is known as the instrument of Lord Shiva.Damru was first created by shiva to produce spiritual sounds by which this whole universe has been created and regulated.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the damaru is part of a collection of sacred implements and musical instrument was adopted from the tantric practices of ancient India. These reached the Land of Snows from the 8th to 12th century, persisting in Tibet as the practice of Vajrayana flourished there, even as it vanished in the subcontinent of India.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damaru


Luckily, one of my old friends from the 80s – when I ran Triplegem Lapidary in Boudha – was in town for Losar and the Slave’s Run. Through him, I had been introduced to an antique dealer named Bishnu, who provides one of the best selections of wholesale antiquities in Kathmandu. The bell and dorje matched set, is a rare find. It is over 200 years old and was used by Nyingmapa Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Sherpa region of northeastern Nepal. The double-sided drum, or damaru, had been used by Nyingmapa Tibetan Buddhists in the Tamang area of Central Nepal.

Like most antique shops I’ve encountered throughout Central Asia, the items on display in the main shop are mainly to attract tourists. The really important artifacts are to be found in the back rooms. I visited Bishnu’s back room with my colleague, Arizona John, a resident of Bali for over 30 years. Besides creating museum quality arts and crafts at his Balinese workshop, he also sells unique artifacts at such places as the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, the biggest such show in the United States.

Below is a peek into the back room!

3 Comments on “Dril bu, Dorje, and Damaru

  1. Pingback: Dril bu, Dorje, and Damaru | THE ARDENT ENTHUSIAST

    • Hi, sorry not to reply sooner, but I just moved to Thailand and things are a bit chaotic. Bishnu’s shop is one Chetrapati not far from the Potala GH, but on the opposite side of the street. Not really marked, but hard to miss. Just ask shopkeepers in the area.

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