The singing bowl is a type of bell which is a ritual object used in the Himalayan region (Tibet and Nepal) since ancient times. When “played” with a wooden stick, the metal bowl emits a resounding sound that assists in meditation and releases mantras.
The sides and rim of singing bowls vibrate to produce sound. Singing bowls were traditionally used throughout Asia and the tradition of making sound with bronze bowls could go back 3,000 years to the bronze age.
The pitch of the bowl depends on its thickness, size and weight. The pitch is fixed but may be controlled as to tone and volume by the force of the tap, the hardness of the striking stick, and the point of percussion. Creating a contemplative and calming sound, singing bowls are used throughout the Himalayas in monasteries and homes to aid meditation. The sound of a singing bowl can be used to mark the beginning or end of a meditation period, or during meditation to focus the mind. It is also believed that mantras chanted during the making of a singing bowl are released into the universe when the bowl is played thus having a similar function as a prayer wheel.
Hand made singing bowls are produced in the centuries old tradition but we actually know extremely little regarding the Singing Bowls of Tibet. We find nothing concerning these specific instruments in books dealing with the ritual music of Tibet. Although ‘Begging Bowls’ are mentioned as being part of the practitioner’s belongings, these are said to be made of iron or steel. Sacrificial Bowls adorning the Buddhist altars, whilst often possessing a pleasing sound, are likewise of a different shape to the ‘singing bowls.’ From the scores of recordings which have become increasingly available featuring Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Music, we find no recorded appearances or mention of the ‘singing bowls.’ Furthermore, travellers in the Himalayas find few or no answers to their questions concerning the origin, history or the traditional uses of the bowls within the context of spiritual discipline. The questioning of visiting lamas or peoples of Tibet very seldom improves upon this situation.
The metal and construction technique is exactly the same as the antiques, only the workmanship is not as good. Also the tone improves as they age, so new bowls never sound as warm and mellow as a real antique.