detail of thangka of Rang-rig Togden showing his gÇod Damaru

gÇod Damaru

the gÇod drum of Rang-rig Togden

Khandro Déchen comments:
Rang-rig Togden possessed a wonderful gÇod drum. This thangka does not exactly show the drum as it was, inasmuch as the shape is the conventional shape for a gÇod drum. It does, however, show the suture marks which would have existed on the original drum. The drum was lined internally with dakini script which was placed there by his Root Teacher, Jomo Pema ’ö-Zér.

As an emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo – Rang-rig Togden possessed a degree of the former’s skill in the arts of construction. He crafted the drum from five male skulls and five female skulls. The skulls were riveted together as five lobes linked by other sections of skull. These two large lotus-shaped bowls constituted the sides of an immense gÇod drum, which was three spans in diameter and was skinned with the belly-skins of a male and female crocodile. The leather furbishments were made from the skin of a drong (’brong), a wild yak, and the strikers were said to have been stuffed with the pubic hair of male and female yeti.

Aro Lingma took this gÇod drum with her when she left her parents’ retreat cave and travelled north to meet her future sang-yab, ’a-Shul Pema Legden. After meeting ’a-Shul Pema Legden, Aro Lingma presented him with her father’s gÇod drum and he used it until the time of his death. ’a-Shul Pema Legden replaced the rotted chö’phen of the drum with the Chinese brocade chö’phen from a drum he had used in Khordong – and it is thus the straight-sided style of chö’phen which is now emulated within the Confederate Sanghas of Aro.

The drum was then passed to A-Kyong Düd’dül Dorje, who replaced the worn-out leather band around the waist of the drum with an iron band. The black iron band was inlaid with gold (in the style made famous in Dér-gé in Kham) with scenes from the Eight Great Charnel Grounds* – the Dür Khrod Gyèd (dur khrod rGyad).

On A-Kyong Düd’dül Dorje’s death the drum was kept for the incarnation of Aro Yeshé, as he never participated in any form of outer ritual practice. No trace has been found of this gÇod drum at this time.


*According to Kyabjé Künzang Dorje Rinpoche, the Eight Great Charnel-grounds are:
1. Kili-ki Drok or Kili-kil Keng ru-chan (ki li ki sgrogs or Ki li kil keng rus can – Karankin): The Skeleton-filled Charnel-ground.
2. Tashi Tshal (bKra shis tshal – Laksmi-vana).
3. Ku-la Dzog (sKu la rDzogs): Perfected Body Charnel-ground which lay in the South.
4. Jigten Tseg (’jig rTen brTsegs): World Mound Charnel-ground which lay in the North.
5. Dür Ga-wa’i Tshal (dur khrod dGa’ ba’i tshal): Joyful Grove Charnel-ground.
6. Sil-wa Tshal, (bsil ba tshal – Sitavana): The Cool Grove which lay in the East.
7. Pema Tseg (pad ma brtsegs): The Lotus Mound Charnel-ground which lay to the West.
8. Sangchen Rolpa (gSang chen rol pa): The Secret Play Charnel-ground which lay to the to the southwest.