The Kāpālika tradition was a non-Puranic, tantric form of Shaivism in India, whose members wrote the Bhairava Tantras, including the subdivision called the Kaula Tantras. These groups are generally known as Kāpālikas, the “skull-men,” so called because they carried a skull-topped staff (khatvanga) and cranium begging bowl. Unlike the respectable Brahmin householder, the Kāpālika ascetic imitated his ferocious deity, and covered himself in the ashes from the cremation ground, and propitated his gods with the impure substances of blood, meat, alcohol, and sexual fluids from intercourse unconstrained by caste restrictions. The Kāpālikas thus flaunted impurity rules and went against Vedic injunctions. The aim was power through evoking deities, especially goddesses.

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