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Kartri, Kartrika

Skt., karttrka
Tib., gri-gug; gri-gsug
Chopper, Curved Knife, Flaying Knife

Both an actual tool and an iconographic attribute, the ritual chopper (or flaying knife) is known in both Hindu and Buddhist symbolism; although its shape is different in both.

It is an attribute of several Dharmapala's and certain Dakinis and Yoginis; indicating their manifestation as Tantric deities.

As a ritual tool, this knife is used in what is called Sky-Burial, the Tibetan practice of taking the deceased into the open countryside where the corpse is chopped to pieces and then left to be devoured by carrion birds and other animals. When the kartrika's handle is topped by (half) a dorje - which it usually is - the exact name should be given as vajrakartika and/or rdo-rje grig-gug; yet this is done only sometimes.

In India, it is mainly associated with the fierce aspects of the goddess Kali, symbolizing her destructive powers and sometimes depicted with an eye on the blade.