Antique Singing Bowl - Insight

Antique Singing Bowl - Insight

Antique Singing Bowl - Insight

Article written by Brigitte Garvey, Madam Kali

Over the last 30-40 years antique singing bowls have generated much interest from the western world. This mystical and sacred instrument has captured the intrigue of enthusiasts from all walks of life; musicians, antique & bronze collectors, healers, sound engineers, physicists, the Himalayan explorer and more.  While the true origin of the Tibetan singing bowl is somewhat elusive, it has become an enchanting symbol of the mystical spiritualism of the East with its associations to Tibetan Buddhism and ancient shamanic cultures.  The purpose of this article is to offer some valuable insight into the antique singing bowl market, to provide more knowledge and awareness for those interested in making a purchase and to inform you about what we offer in the realm of antiquated bowls.

Simultaneously with the growing interest generated by singing bowl enthusiasts worldwide there has been an emerging number of Western retailers offering modern and antique singing bowls for sale. For many people short of making the trek to the Himalayas, the online market is the most convenient place for singing bowl enthusiasts to seek out their special singing bowl purchase. However, it is important to be wary when seeking to purchase an antique singing bowl either online or in a store.

Throughout my investigations in the Himalayas I discovered that unfortunately there is now a big market for making fake antique singing bowls particularly in the regions of India and Nepal. Many manufactures have mastered well this art of making the bowls look distinctly antique by skilfully applying mustard seed oil and kerosene to create an “antique like” finish. Not only is this dishonest art taking place by manufactures in India and Nepal but there are Western resellers who are knowingly willing to exploit customers by lying about the authenticity of these bowls.

Advice about sourcing an authentic antique singing bowl...
Traditionally singing bowl artisans were not in the practise of dating their singing bowls at their time of creation hence determining the age of genuine antique or old singing bowl is not a straight forward task. Serious antique collectors have drawn on the resources of author Ulrich Schroeder in his book Indo-Tibetan Bronzes. By researching the distinct characteristics of different bronze items with inscribed dates across varying eras, Schroedor was able to ascertain certain common characteristics appearing in the items of a given era. Using these items as a baseline he created a system whereby date approximations could be attributed to other dateless bronze items.

For example, an important method in identifying the age of a bronze object is by examining the smoothness of the metal, quality metal that has aged over hundreds of years will reveal a characteristic smoothness that only comes through a genuine aging process.  A newly hammered bowl will usually display clear dimples from the hammer marks however with age these dimples will smooth over to create congruency in the metal of the patina. Yet it can require competent skill to identify this component against a fake. Another factor to consider is the structure of the bowl itself. Traditionally the craftsmen were able to skilfully hammer the bowl into shape with very fine walls, creating a special resonance and sound. This is a fine art and difficult to come by these days. The maker of the Kali premium bowls employs the best artisans in the Himalayan region to achieve this fineness in the structure of the wall of the bowl. Yet even for these artisans this process is sometimes costly and difficult as often the bowls can break during the making process requiring them to begin again. Finally, it is important to examine the colour of the metal. A genuine antique bowl will reveal shimmers of aged metal components unseen in a modern day bowl, yet in this regard the kerosene and mustard seed oil tricks can be deceiving.

The most prominent regions singing bowls can be sourced is throughout the Himalayas, particularly Nepal, Tibet and the North Eastern Indian region of Baipur. There is historical evidence to show that singing bowls have been frequently produced in these regions of the Himalayas for centuries. However, the surge of fascination with antique singing bowls over the last 40 years or so has meant that many of these genuine 17th & 18th century (400 year old bowls) singing bowls have already been procured by savvy enthusiasts. Through consultation with many local sources in Nepal and India we came to discover that genuine antique bowls are rare to come across these days. In addition, it is not uncommon for a genuine antique singing bowl to cost in the thousands of dollars. We recommend that if you are interested in purchasing such a bowl you only do so if there is a 30 day money back guarantee and you can have your bowl authenticated by a local professional post purchase.

In terms of what we at Madam Kali offer, a touch of Himalayan history is infused into both our wholesale and retail product offerings in a unique way...

For over seven years we have been sourcing a delightful range of beautiful sounding yet unique and affordable antiquated singing bowls. While it is hard to tell exactly, most of these bowls would be considered under 100 years old and have been collected from different regions of the Himalayas where often they have been kept in the homes for some decades. In the past we have sold many antiquated bowls to satisfied customers however due to the work involved we are now only offering these bowls through our wholesale agreement. The following is some information on the various antiquated bowls offered by Madam Kali:

The Collectors Healing Bowl is a very unique bowl due to its distinct base and its unique “goblet” like shape. It can be held at the base for dynamic movement enabling the user to circle around the aura of a space or person with its vibrations. Its thick quality metal and shape generates strong and permeating vibrations. This is a popular bowl for tharapists whereby it can be applied dynamically in conjunction with a range of different healing modalities.

A distinct characteristic of the Thadobati bowl is its high straight walls which create a powerful, clear and direct sound vibrations. “Thado” in Nepalese means “straight” in reference to the structure of this bowl. The Thadobati bowl is both easy to play and beautiful sounding. For this reason it is always a popular bowl type among singing bowl enthusiasts. 

The Manipuri bowl is renowned for its unique “dish like” shape and outward directed lip. This particular bowl making art was common in the Manipur region of North Eastern India. It is this distinct structure of the Manipuri bowl which gives it a gentle yet expansive and uplifting vibration. These bowls are more abundant in smaller sizes whereby they work well when placed on the body at different chakra points and gently struck or ideally they can be used gently around the head region. However, they do come also in larger sizes. The Manipuri bowl is often not as popular as the other bowl types because of its softer resonance. However, if you are prepared to take the time and patience to connect with the Manipuri bowl it can prove to be the most special of bowls among one’s collection.

The Jambati bowl displays a more traditional cup like bowl shape. Jam refers to “group” in Nepalese and may make reference to the fact several craftsmen were required to hammer these often larger sized bowls into shape. Within the structure of the Jambati bowls the metal tends to be lighter and thinner lending the bowl to emanate very subtle and finely penetrating vibrations. Because of their uniqueness, quality Jambati bowls are highly sought after and are the most expensive of the antiquated bowls. However, to a degree this expense is offset by the fact that these bowls are generally lighter. The Madam Kali wholesale rate is based on the weight of purchase therefore it is possible to purchase some beautiful sounding Jambati bowls for a reasonable price. The Jambati bowl is also versatile in that it comes in a range of different sizes.

In summary, many of our antiqued bowls are imperfect in appearance as they have history and character to them which is essentially what makes them unique. In addition, the mark-up we put on our antiquated singing bowls is no greater than the mark up on our range of modern bowls. We pay more for these bowls because they are antiquated and unique, hence why in turn they cost more than the modern hand-beaten bowl for you the customer. This principle applies to the pricing of all our products. Madam Kali is a business that prides itself on integrity. In addition, to ensure the integrity of our product we spend several hours sorting through and playing the bowls to find the best quality ones in terms of both sound and appearance.

A touch of antique singing bowl in our Premium bowl range...
If you are not a wholesale customer and are just after a bowl for yourself each of our premium range bowls offered through our online shop are in fact infused with elements of an authentic antique bowl dating back to the 17th or 18th century. Fifteen years ago when our Nepalese singing bowl artisan first created the premium bowl in collaboration with a renowned German engineer/sound healer, together they discovered that adding a genuine antique bowl to the simmering bronze metal alloy dramatically enhanced the final product. As a local our singing bowl maker has access and knowledge to acquire authentic antique bowls circulating in the Himalayan region. Because of both the expense and scarcity of sourcing the antique bowls only one bowl is added per 500kg of melting premium bronze metal however it is enough to instil the metal composition with a touch of authentic Himalayan magic. In additional a small sample of each of the seven metals which are said to align with the seven heavenly plants are also added for alchemical mastery. The end product is a finely crafted superior sounding bowl, alchemically perfected with mystical elements of the Himalayas and celestial elements of the heavenly planets. 

Conclusively, we advise one to be vary wary if paying a large amount of money for an “antique singing bowl” and as we mentioned earlier always ensure you have the option of a 30 day money back guarantee so you can have the age and authenticity of your bowl verified by a professional post purchase. Through our wholesale agreement we offer a range of antiquated bowl which have been collected from various parts of the Himalayas in both India and Nepal. These bowls are very unique with much character and are estimated to range between 40 – 80 years old. In turn our incredible sounding masterfully produced premium bowls are imbued with a touch of genuine ancient Himalayan history with an authentic antique bowl melded into each mixture. Wherever you choose to source your bowl from we wish that your purchase is both satisfying and rewarding.


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