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Citipati – The Masters of the Ceremony

Citipati are considered to be masters of the ceremony. One is male and the other is female. The Citipati are one of the 75 forms of Mahakala and are visible reminders of the impermanence of everything worldly. They are special protectors of Chakrasamvara and of the Dakini Vajrayogini.

Each holds a special scepter, made of a death’s head with the spine still attached in its right and a skull bowl of blood containing brain in its left hand, while standing on the left leg a top a conch shell. Their mouths are parted in a large grin, showing all their teeth. The figures stand in dance position with their legs intertwined standing at a red sun disc and lotus blossom on a throne. They are surrounded by the red flames of pristine awareness. In the cemetery, the Citipati are supposed to perform a skeleton ritual dance during which they are blow the Tibetan long horns. In most monasteries the dance, symbolic of the cycle of life and death, is performed in the monastery cemetery once in summer und once in winter by monks wearing masks.

According to a Tibetan legend, the two Citipati were two ascetic monks in their former life. Deep in meditation, they did not realize that a thief cut off their heads and threw their bodies in the mud. They changed into wrathful death spirits, with vows of eternal vengeance.

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