Types of Singing Bowls
Many people who are new to singing bowl consider there are only one type of singing bowl and all the singing bowl are same, but in fact there are multiple types of singing bowl. Some researchers have found almost 50 different types of Himalayas singing bowls. But there are only 9 basics kinds of singing bowl available in market today. To name, they are Jambati, Thadobati, Manipuri, Mani, Lingam, Pedestal/Naga, Trapezoid, and Ultabati singing bowl. Few of these singing bowls are very easily found in market but few are too hard to find. Each of these bowls have their own unique appearance and produces unique sound. Here we have explained the basics singing bowls found in Nepal today.
1. Jambati Singing Bowl
Jambati singing bowl are the heaviest and in some cases largest singing bowl. These singing bowls have quite high and graceful curved walls with a flat bottom. The lip of the singing bowls might vary. Some bowls have inward-facing lip that may be plain or grooved. In some bowls the lip is merely the sheared top of the wall, and does not turn inward. There are classical etching lines on Jambati bowls below the rim on the outside and circular markings inside at the bottom. These hand-beaten bowls have attractive hand hammer markings arising from the forging process. They are particularly visible on the outside of the bowl where they subtly reflect the light. High quality bowls tend to have smaller hammer marks, and sometimes an incised (not dot punched) inscription in the form of a mantra, name or dedication. Jambati singing bowls are mostly used in healing therapies, chakra balancing, sound bathing and meditations.
2. Thadobati Singing Bowl
Thado means “straight”. These bowls have relatively vertical sides and a flat bottom. Thadobati singing bowl have straight high-sided walls and a wide flat bottom. Walls might be thick or thin but seldom is graduated. Some bowls have the diameter of the bottom just less than the rim. The physique depends on the weight of the bowls. The small medium weight bowls have plain lips whose thickness equals to the wall itself. The walls are thinner than the heavyweight bowls. Heavier bowls have thicker walls and wider lips. These lips may be well decorated with a beads or sun symbols within the circle. These decorations may be slightly fade away and only beads or sun symbols may be vividly visible. There are extra thick and heavy Thadobati bowls as well which have slightly lumpy and uneven walls. Thadobati Singing Bowls is one of the oldest designed bowls.
3. Remuna Singing Bowl
Remuna singing bowls are similar to Thadobati in shape and timbre. However, there is a small difference between these two bowls. Remuna have inward sloping walls while Thadobati has straight walls. Another difference is Remuna are thinner than Thadobati. Remuna bowls have a flat bottom and the walls tend to curve away till below the middle of the walls and then it gradually curves back towards the rim. Remuna bowls are extremely good and responsive singers, and are among the easiest bowls to play. The origin of the name Remuna is not clear, however there is a Remuna town and district on the northwest side of the Bay of Bengal, south of Bhutan.
4. Manipuri Singing Bowl
Manipuri Singing Bowls are the shallowest of the singing bowl family. They can be thick or thin, plain or highly decorated, but all are characterized by their low profile and small rounded bottom. The rim is often subtly splayed. The lip may be plain and simple or, in thicker bowls, ornamented with symbols. The outer rim is frequently decorated with several incised lines forming a collar. Most Manipuri bowls have diameters of 6 inches or less, and high octave voices. Some antique Manipuri bowls are extensively ornamented both inside and out with a ribbon of mala beads or sun motifs (punched dots within circles) and incised lines just below the rim. Some Manipuri bowls appear to be made from a softer, brighter, and more golden bronze alloy than other bowl forms.
Many will have served a domestic or utilitarian purpose during their lifetime, and regular abrasive cleaning probably accounts for their typically smooth appearance. However, Manipuri, with their diversity of markings are among the more interesting singing bowls. Manipuri are the original singing bowls. When singing bowls first were introduced Western travellers in the 1970s this was by far the most common type. At the time most singing bowls were coming from Tibet on the back of refugees. Due to their metallic content they were easily sold to buyers in India and Nepal. The name Manipuri, however, comes from a state in Northeastern India. This is possibly due to that state being a center of production for brass objects.
5. Mani Singing Bowl
Mani singing bowl is also known as Mudra, these rare singing bowls have thick walls, flat bottoms and are wider in the middle than at the bottom or lip. The lips are extended which faces inward of the bowl. We may find some concentric circles inside of the bowl whereas at the outer side we may notice few lines just below the lips. With some bowls, we may find a circle at the midpoint of the outer walls. Even though these markings are seen, they are fade out. Their inward slope is that of the classic begging bowl though they are much larger. Mani bowls produce a very distinctive sound. Their unusual and self-amplifying shape results in a powerful and penetrating repetitive oscillation or sine wave. Most bowls are extremely responsive and easy to play, but some can be a little temperamental and slow to get going. All Mani respond well when played around the rim with a hardwood ringer.
6. Lingam Singing Bowl
Lingam or Lingham refers to male principle sometimes embodied as the Hindu god Shiva. They are easily identified by a conical protrusion, the lingam, in the centre of the basin. This is usually matched by a navel-like impression on the flat underside when the bowl is turned over. Lingam bowls are usually beautifully forged, with even walls and a smooth surface finish. Often, they have a large triangulated and grooved inward facing lip. The sound of an old lingam bowl is very special…sweet and sonorous, sometimes pulsating, and often with a long sustain. Due to its unusual shape and unique design, these singing bowls are also hard to find bowls.
7. Pedestal/ Naga Singing Bowl
Naga Singing Bowls are forged in two part, the bowl itself, and a circular metal band, or pedestal, upon which the bowl is securely and permanently mounted. The bowl has a rounded bottom and would not stand upright without the support of its pedestal. These types of singing bowls are relatively rare and are little known about the origin and date of production. Naga bowls are quite bulbous, with the midpoint having a larger circumference than the rim. For small and medium weight bowls the lips are plain. For the thicker and heavier bowls, the lips are grooved. Naga bowls are played around the rim rather than struck. They are extremely responsive and easy to play. Like the Mani bowl, their self-amplifying form produces an unexpectedly loud and bright sound when played around the rim with a ringer.
Antique Naga bowls are very popular with sound therapists and healers, as they can be gripped by the pedestal and held at any angle or distance above, around or below a client during a treatment. Feng Shui practitioners also use them for space clearing.
8. Trapezoid Singing Bowl
Trapezoid bowls have straight, symmetrically sloped in sides and a flat bottom and straight top, viewed from the side a perfect Trapezoid. They all seem to have been made with similar markings, many parallel exterior lines and groups of inner circles. The rims are broad and outward facing with etching lines.
9. Ultabati Singing Bowl
Ultabati singing bowl have a distinguishing feature- that the side of the bowl is curved-in under the rim. These bowls are not very common which makes them difficult to find with better sound quality. Ultabati bowls often have prominent hammer marks. They can come darkened, even black, on the outside and bright in the interior. The rim are typically smooth to touch and remaining portion remained rough. Ultabati singing bowls are characterized by their stunning good looks and vibrant energy. Like the Jambati, they are capable of producing fabulously low tones with very long sustains. But they have finer walls and tend to be a little wider and squatter than the average Jambati, and this difference facilitates a lower vibrational resonance and timbre that can be physically felt some distance away from the bowl’s surface.
This beautiful bowl is made by 4 or 5 highly skilled craftsmen working together, and a lot of valuable metal. Old Ultabati bowls may have their origins in East Nepal. They are often found in a good state of preservation…evidence that they have been well cared for, used for grain storage, or put to some ceremonial, ritual or musical use.