Folk-Lore/Volume 15/Tibetan Drum and Trumpet

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Tibetan Drum and Trumpet.

(Exhibited at Meeting of Society. See Plate VII. and p. 243.)

The object to the right of Plate VII. is a drum made of the caps of two human skulls secured together at their apices, and with their bases covered by human skin. The drum is beaten by jerking it from one side to the other by the supporting band, so that the two hanging leather bobs strike the skin coverings.

The other object shown is a kaṅ-liṅ, or trumpet made of a human thigh-bone, the lower part of which is covered wnth human skin. Such a trumpet "is sometimes encased in brass, with a wide copper flanged extremity, on which are figured the three eyes and nose of a demon, the oval open extremity being the demon's mouth. In the preparation of these thigh-bone trumpets the bones of criminals or those who have died by violence are preferred, and an elaborate incantation is done, part of which consists in the Lāma eating a portion of the skin of the bone; otherwise its blast would not be sufficiently powerful to summon the demons." (Waddell's The Buddhism of Tibet, p. 300.) A trumpet of this kind is blown at the beginning of a mystery play. A Lama with a thigh-bone trumpet also walks before a corpse on its way to burial or cremation, holding the end of a white band secured to the corpse, and by the use of his trumpet attracts the soul and guides it in the right direction.

Both the objects illustrated are placed upon temple altars. Cannibalism is stated by the Tibetans themselves to have been their ancient custom, and is alleged still to linger in very remote districts. The use of the implements described may be a vestige of the practice.