Tibetan singing bowls history is not known well. Singing bowls belong to the standing bells “bell family”, and these kinds of instruments were met, made out from bronze alloy, already in China around 2000 years BC. Traditionally we associate them with shamanic Himalayan Bon Po culture, that was widely spread in the region of today’s Tibet, Nepal and India. It’s not clear whether they were used as instruments or food containers, however their properties, to give rich harmonic sounds might be strong clue, that they were used for spiritual and religious rituals.
MYSTERIOUS TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS HISTORY
Singing bowls are very often called Tibetan, Nepalese or Himalayan. The first idea would be that they were used in Buddhist monasteries all along Tibet and so on. Interesting thing is that there are no written proofs for that, even though Tibetan alphabet is at least in use from 7th century. Things getting much more mysterious, when we hear about people spending years on researching sacred music of Tibet, and never hearing about bowls being significant or even in use at the religious ceremonies.
It could happen that Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, destroying and demolishing monasteries, contributed to the loss of information about that. Nevertheless, after mass emigration of Tibetan nation, singing bowls slowly started appearing in the western world. That may show us, that even if not talked about, they were definitely needed and used for some reasons. There are speculations that usage of bowls was a secret and powerful practice that was reserved only for some highest lamas. It wasn’t shared with people and even with other fellow monks and speaking about it was forbidden. Most likely they were used for astral travels, as their powerful resonance could help to free consciousness from the body.
JUST GRAIN VESSELS THAT SOUND ANGELIC?
Tibetans asked what are all these bowls needed for, says that they were vessels for food, grains or water. People were also using them as cups to drink tea, or giving bowls as practical and beautiful wedding gifts. Somehow it’s not so easy to reveal Tibetan singing bowls history in relation to spirituality and their musical properties. Nevertheless, we can follow some clues. The materials used to build them were usually alloys of cooper and tin but it is known, there were also different metals involved like lead, mercury, iron, silver or even gold! Folklore tales says about meteorite iron being used to hammer them, and that would be a reason why they sound so heavenly.
Tibetan bowls were build with enormous accuracy. Just one strike could give a sound lasting for minutes, but moreover the sound was full of beautiful harmonics. Some singing bowls were hammered the way, that it was possible to deliver different kind of tones, depending on where you striked the bowl. That definitely points the musical properties of these devices, not to mention thick edges around, that could help with keeping sustain.
BOWLS AND CHAKRAS
Lack of evidences of any meaningful use, yet obvious fact of their properties makes them very mysterious subjects. Growing cases of their beneficial effects on body and mind, rising popularity of Tibetan bowls among people interested with spirituality and sound therapies is even adding to that. Some antique singing bowls voices are in tune with alpha and theta waves that are naturally part of the brain activity. According to esoteric wisdom of the east, different vibrations of bowls may directly reacting with energetic centers of the body known as chakras. What helps to balance them, helps the energy to flow freely through our energetic body, that has highly healing potential. There are seven chakras and traditionally singing bowls were hammered out of seven metallic components I mentioned above. Each metal was relating to a different energetic center. This also correlated to seven planets from our solar system.
It’s enough to put ourselves back in time for an experiment. Imagine how different life was back then. There was no classical music, no rock and roll, no radio, no concerts every weekend. Each instrument already seemed magical to a common Joe of the past. I believe sounds given by these ancient instruments could affect people even much stronger than today. Daily believes were already pretty animistic, giving individual spirits to animals, plants and objects. Wouldn’t rich and harmonic sound of the singing bowl took “ancient Joe” high to heavenly realms? I think it definitely would and I could also imagine that somebody would like to keep it secret, realizing how beautiful, yet scary is the potential of it. Maybe this experiment can take us closer to understand Tibetan singing bowls history.
It’s highly logical that bells of different kind, at their origins, were just simple daily use vessels and people accidentally found out how to generate sound from them. Later on, they specialized at mastering the craftsmanship, experimenting with materials and so on. Craftsmen were spending all life, generation after generation, to master their skills. Experts of our times will most often say that antique singing bowls sound much better than ones made today. Some people would say that they were used for ritual reasons, where they were empowered with all the highly vibrating intentions. Other case it’s the aging process and simple fact of being stricked many times, which generated micro changes in the structure of the bowl, that are giving them certain individual character. All of that can give us unique, yet powerful sound.
Maybe then, their secret lays within them and all we need to do is to close our eyes and go for a ride within. Open ourselves for the message encrypted in them, and allow the sound speak to us. Maybe we can’t find anything certain about Tibetan singing bowls history because there’s no history behind them. One of the effects they have on the mind, it is stopping internal dialogue. Maybe their vibration eternally sings same truth, not letting the past to ever affect the present?
If you know something more about it, feel welcomed to share within the comment section and I will be more than happy to read it and answer you.
All the best,
Founder of Sound & Bowl