Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Sri Lanka
Heenayana vs Vajrayana Buddhist Icons
The assumption presented need to be qualified on a couple of aspects. there are three main sects of Buddhism. Sri Lankan Buddhism belongs primarily to the “Heenayana”sect Though “Mahayana” also existed for many centuries along with Heenayana it was in decline and almost extinct in Sri Lanka at the time in question. The “Vajrayana” Sect to which the ritual weapon illustrated belongs never made a foot hold in Sri Lanka.
While I confess I know not enough of Tibetan Vajrayana Tantric traditions and Iconography, the Vajra being the Thunderbolt or lightening weapon as far as I know always contain either 3 or more prongs. I have never seen a two pronged Vajra at which point it may lose its character as a Vajra.
Though the Vajra as a symbol is used by Hindu and rarely in Mahayana Buddhist figures and several proper Vajra relicts and depictions are found in Sri Lankan collections which again have their roots in Hindu and Mahayana traditions, the Vajra combined ritual objects or practices (for which the ritual knife in the image belongs to) are un-known here.
The ”axe” in # 15 is not Sinhalese.
There is no doubt that almost all early Sinhala arts were influenced by Buddhist and also Hindu cultural values and icons but I feel that the Vajra is a rather unlikely candidate as its general iconic use is very rare in Sinhala art.