The Singing Bowl Types

 

Some researchers have identified almost 50 types of antique Himalayan singing bowl, but there are only seven or eight basic kinds, each with its own characteristic shape and sound, and perhaps another seven less familiar types with subtle variations of form.  There is general consensus among experts about the naming and classification of the major bowl types, but little agreement about the classification of their less common variants.   Some bowl authorities have assigned their own unique names to them, and whilst these may become generally accepted over the course of time, the present situation is that another specialist may call the same bowl form something entirely different.

 

We have chosen to classify our antique singing bowls as follows (measurements and prices are approximate and for guidance only) : -

 

Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 


 

THADOBATI TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape: High Wall, Straight Side, Flat Bottom, Plain Lip (Grooved in Heavy Bowls)

Vocal Range: 5 Octaves (Typically 3rd and 4th). Ease of Play: Good, Very Responsive

Size: Small to Medium

Diameter: 4 – 9 inches (10 – 23 cm)

Height: 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10cm)

Weight: 0.5 – 1.75 lb    (0.227 – 1.25 kg)

 

Price Range:

Small: £50 - £150 ($80 - $240)

Medium: £100 - £225 ($160 - $360)

Large: £225 - £350 ($360 - $560)

Large Premium Quality: £450 - £750 ($720 - $1,200)

 

Thadobati Singing Bowls are among the oldest bowl forms, with some examples dating back to at least the 15th century.  Many show signs of considerable use, with hammered surfaces and engraved markings worn smooth over the years.   Old Thadobati bowls are fairly numerous and relatively inexpensive, so they are often the first bowl a person buys, but their quality varies considerably and good ones are increasingly hard to find.

 

Thadobati bowls are characterized by having almost straight high-sided walls and a wide flat bottom, the diameter of which is sometimes only a little less than the rim.  Walls can be thick or thin, but are seldom graduated.   The lip is usually plain on small and medium weight bowls, and rarely thicker than the wall itself.  Heavy bowls often have thicker and wider lips that may be grooved or decorated with a ribbon of mala beads or sun symbols (dots within circles).  Often the circles are worn down and only the dots remain.  Extra-thick and heavy Thadobati bowls frequently have slightly lumpy and uneven walls due to difficulties encountered during the forging process.

 

Decoration elsewhere is fairly minimal…perhaps just a row or two of punched dots or gashes below the rim on the external wall and some concentric circles radiating from the centre of the basin.   A few bowls are more extensively decorated with a ribbon of mala beads or suns set within a pair of incised parallel lines below the outer rim, or sometimes between a pair of concentric circles at the bowl’s centre.

 

Sometimes the outer wall has a decorative fringe of sun motifs arranged as downward facing triangles, and occasionally one finds an irregular sequence of sacred or ritually made gashes or fine-tuning cuts below the rim (the tone of a bowl can be altered by removing metal).  Some old bowls carry dot-punched inscriptions or dedications, and these add both interest and value.

 

Very few Thadobati singing bowls have talking or fountain abilities, but they do have wonderful singing voices covering about 4 octaves (some notes are rarer than others).  They are generally hand held and are easy and rewarding to play with either a suede or wooden ringer, although small bowls respond better to the latter.   The rim note is more commonly played than the struck fundamental note, and the rim note may change with the type of ringer used.  Large bowls sound best with a suede ringer. Large, thick and heavy bowls in a good state of preservation (free of major stains and blemishes) with a superb sound and long sustain are highly prized by collectors.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Thadobati singing bowls.

 

Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 


 

JAMBATI TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape:  Gracefully Curved Wall, Small Flat Bottom, Wide Plain Inward-Facing Lip

Vocal Range:  4 Octaves (Typically 2nd and 3rd). Ease of Play:  Good, Very Responsive

Size: Large

Diameter: 9 - 16 inches (23 – 40 cm)

Height: 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20cm)

Weight: 2.2 – 14.3 lb    (1 – 6.5 kg)

 

Price Range:

Large: £400 - £2,000 ($640 - $3,200)

Average Price: £800 - £1,500 ($1,280 - $2,400)

Huge (Premium Quality): £2,000 - £5,500 ($3,200 - $8,800)

 

Jambati Singing Bowls are the largest and heaviest of the singing bowl family, and arguably the most beautiful.  These stunning singing bowls are characterized by quite high and gracefully curved walls, a small flat bottom, and typically a generous triangulated 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.  Decoration is minimal and usually confined to a few simple incised lines forming a band or collar close to the outer rim, and several incised concentric circles radiating from the centre of the basin.

 

These hand-beaten bowls nearly always have attractive hammer markings arising from the forging process.  They are particularly evident 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.

 

It takes 3 or 4 highly skilled craftsmen working together to forge a single Jambati bowl…and a lot of valuable metal.  Commissioning such a bowl would have been a major expense for its original Himalayan owner.

 

Most of the old Jambati bowls around today are thought to date from the 17th to 19th century.  Many are found in an excellent state of preservation for their age…evidence that they have been well cared for, or put to a ceremonial, ritual or musical use.  Larger bowls may also have been used for grain storage during their lifetime.

 

Jambati singing bowls are capable of producing wonderfully low and sonorous tones with a long sustain.  Fundamental notes generally range from the 2nd to 4th octave when struck with a padded mallet.  The rim note is usually the same if played with a suede ringer, but may be higher if a wooden one is used.  Many bowls have complex multiple overtones.  Some fundamental notes, such as F and G, are fairly abundant, while others like A and D are extremely illusive.  Low second octave bowls are particularly sought-after.

 

Some people choose only to strike their Jambati bowl, while others prefer to play them.  Both methods require a little practice to realize a bowl's full potential.  A medium weight Jambati can be held in the hand and played around the rim with a suede ringer, but the larger bowls are too heavy and need to be placed on a mat or cushion.  Jambati bowls are not known for their talking ability, but many are capable of producing vibrant surface patterns and spectacular fountains when played around the rim with a little water inside.  This is particularly true of large bowls with a low octave note.  Jambati bowls are commonly used in a variety of healing therapies including chakra balancing and sound bathing.

 

This is my all-time favourite bowl type, and if I could only have one singing bowl it would be a large Jambati!  These handsome antique bowls look and sound wonderful, and no collection would be complete without at least one.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Jambati singing bowls.   Thadobati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 


 

NAGA PEDESTAL SINGING BOWLS

 

 

Basic Shape:  Chalice-Like with Fine Rounded Bulbous Wall and Bottom, Circular Pedestal Support

Vocal Range:  5 Octaves (Typically 4th). Ease of Play:  Good, Very Responsive

Size:  Small to Medium

Diameter: 2 - 8 inches (5 – 20 cm)

Height: 2 - 8 inches (10 – 20cm)

Weight: 0.5 – 3.3 lb    (0.23 – 1.5 kg)

 

Price Range:

Small: £100 - £225 ($160 - $360)

Medium:  £175 - £400 ($280 - $640)

Average Price: £325 ($520)

Premium Quality: £450 - £600 ($720 - $960)

 

Naga Singing Bowls are forged in two parts…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.  Naga bowls are quite bulbous, with the midpoint having a larger circumference than the rim.  Ornamentation is traditionally limited to four pairs of finely incised parallel lines just below the outer rim, and occasionally a small circle in the centre of the bowl.  The lip is normally plain but may be grooved on thicker and heavier bowls.

 

Little is known about the age and origin of these unusual singing bowls beyond the fact that they have a unique form and are now relatively rare. Most singing bowls are mounted on cushions when not in use, but this would seem inappropriate and unnecessary for a bowl with a built-in stand, the base of which is best suited to a hard flat surface.  Their generally good state of preservation indicates that they have been well cared for, and suggests that they may have served a musical, ceremonial or sacred purpose…possibly as offering bowls.  This view is supported by the high proportion of Naga Pedestal bowls (about 25%) with inscriptions or dedications dot-punched (never engraved) on the outside wall.  Sometimes these inscriptions begin and end with a delicate dot-punched drawing of an animal, a fish or peacock for example, or sometimes a lotus.  Illustrated inscriptions add both interest and value to the bowl.

 

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.  Their notes are quite often concert pitch, and tend to be in the middle to high octaves.  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.

 

I am particularly fond of Naga bowls as I love the way it's possible to transport the sound that is held within the bowl after it has been played around the rim (the sustain).  Naga bowls also display well when not in use.  They also make attractive receptacles for sacred items such as prayer beads.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Naga Pedestal singing bowls.

 

Thadobati - JambatiMani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 


 

MANI SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape:  Conical and squat, bulbous tapering wall, wide grooved inward-facing lip, flat bottom

Vocal Range:  3rd – 6th Octave (Typically 4thand 5th). Ease of Play:  Mostly easy, some are temperamental

Size:  Small to Medium

Diameter: 4 - 9 inches (10 – 23 cm)

Height: 2 - 5 inches (10 – 13 cm)

Weight: 14 oz – 5.5 lb    (0.4 – 2.5 kg)

 

Price Range:

Small: £170 - £275 ($270 - $440)

Medium:  £250 - £450 ($400 - $675)

Premium Quality: £450 - £1,000 ($675 - $1,600)

 

 

 

Mani Singing Bowls have a strong physical presence, a powerful voice and a character all their own.   They are distinguished by their unique sound and unusual conical form that hardly varies from one bowl to the next.  Mani are very substantial and heavy flat-bottomed bowls with conical walls that taper towards the mouth.  Their lips are wide and inward facing, and their bulbous bellies have a circumference that is usually greater than their base or rim.  Mani singing bowls date from the 16th to 18th century and are very rare and increasingly difficult to source.

 

Decorative markings are limited to a grooved lip, some small concentric circles inside, a few bands of incised lines just below the outer rim and occasionally around the mid-point of the belly.  Their walls are smooth inside and out.  Mani bowls do not talk or fountain, and I have never seen one bearing an inscription.

 

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.  Some people like to play them in pairs for their unique harmonic and entrainment qualities.

 

Mani bowls are occasionally known as Charma bowls, and likened to an elephant’s foot, and a begging bowl (possibly because tossed coins would be trapped inside by the lip and unlikely to bounce out).  However, it is hard to imagine these bowls having any other purpose than to sing.  Their distinctive sound and unique appearance contrast nicely with other bowl forms and adds interest and variety to any collection.

 

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Mani Singing Bowls.

 

Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 

 


 

ULTABATI SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape:  Large and Caldron-like, round bottom, scooped rim and downward-sloping lip.

Vocal Range:  2nd and 3rd Octave. Ease of Play:  Very Easy with a little practice.

Size:  Large - Huge

Diameter: 10 - 16 inches (25 - 40 cm)

Height: 4.5 – 6.5 inches (11 – 16.5 cm)

Weight: 3.3 - 10 lb    (1.5 – 4.5 kg)

 

Price Range: £450 - £1,250 ($700 - $2,000)

Premium Quality: £900 - £2,000 ($1,400 - $3,200)

 

 

Ultabati Singing Bowls are impressively large, capacious and caldron-like.  Their external walls frequently have two contrasting surface finishes…one for the first 3 or 4 cm band below the rim (the collar), and another for everything beneath it.  Its downward-sloping lip and gently scooped collar will typically be smooth to the touch and a natural bronze colour, while the rest of the bowl will normally be finely textured with hammer markings.

 

Sometimes this lower surface will be blackened or mottled to contrast with the collar, and sometimes it is left a natural bronze.  A single incised line normally marks the boundary between the two contrasting areas.  The inside of the bowl is often finely polished to a beautiful golden bronze, and there may be several incised decorative concentric circles radiating from its centre.   Occasionally a large bowl will be found with an incised (not punched) inscription below the collar.

 

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.  Their fundamental notes focus on the low second and third octaves whether struck with a padded mallet or played around the rim with a leather ringer.  Many are capable of producing the low humming OM sound that is favored by Buddhists and, with a little water inside, most will make vibrant surface patterns and produce spectacular fountains.

 

It takes 3 or 4 highly skilled craftsmen working together to forge a single Ultabati singing bowl, and a lot of valuable metal.  Buying or bartering for one would have been a major event for its original Himalayan owner.  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.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Ultabati Singing Bowls.    Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 

 


 

 

MANIPURI TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape:  Low shallow profile, gently splayed rim, small rounded bottom

Vocal Range:  3rd – 6th Octave. Ease of Play:  Very easy, especially with wooden ringer.

Size:  Small to Medium

Diameter: 3.5 - 9 inches (9 - 24 cm)

Height: 1.5 – 4 inches (4 – 10 cm)

Weight: 0.5 – 3.3 lb    (0.25 – 1.5 kg)

 

Price Range:

Small: £50 - £175 ($75 - $275)

Medium: £150 - £275 ($240 - £$425)

Premium Quality: £250 - £450 ($400 - $700)

 

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 have talking abilities, but they rarely fountain.  Antique Manipuri bowls are rather pretty, responsive, and relatively inexpensive… and for these reasons they are often the first bowl purchased.

 

Most Manipuri singing bowls are easy to play, but their rounded bottoms make small or light specimens rotate in the hand, so these are best played balanced on the fingertips.

 

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.  Most have concentric circles radiating out from the centre of the bowl, although these are often faint due to wear.  Sometimes the external walls are decorated with sacred geometric symbols, or an irregular sequence of ritually made gashes, or fine-tuning cuts (the tone of a bowl can be altered by removing metal).   It is rare to find one with an inscription.  Large Manipuri bowls, once commonplace in the 1980s, are now quite rare, and heavy bowls even more so.

 

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.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Manipuri Singing Bowls.  Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Lingam - Remuna - Unusual

 

 


 

 

LINGAM TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS

 

Basic Shape:  Low shallow profile, protrusion in centre of bowl, bold lip, flat bottom with navel

Vocal Range:  3rd – 6th Octave, unique sound. Ease of Play:  Variable

Size:  Small to Medium

Diameter: 3.5 - 10 inches (9 - 25 cm)

Height: 1.5 – 4 inches (4 – 10 cm)

Weight: 0.5 – 5 lb (0.25 – 2.25 kg)

 

Price Range:

Small: £250 - £400 ($400 - $640)

Large: £400 - £1,200 ($640 - $1,900)

Premium Quality: £850 - £3,000 ($1,350 - $4,800)

 

 

Lingam Singing Bowls are without doubt the rarest of all Himalayan singing bowls.  They are also among the oldest, with some dating back to at least the 16th century.  They were made for ritual and ceremonial use, and have an amazing purity of sound.   Named after the male principle, 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.

 

Bowls come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but frequently have a low and shallow profile.  The smallest antique lingam bowl in our collection (not for sale) stands just over 1½ inches high (4 cm) and has a diameter of 4 ½ inches (11 ½ cm), while a large lingam bowl might measure 10 inches (25cm) across and weigh as much as 4 ½ pounds (2 kilos).

 

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.  Decoration is fairly consistent and minimal…perhaps a couple of concentric circles at the foot of the protruding lingam to define it, and one or two larger circles radiating from the centre of the bowl.  There are nearly always a few decorative lines just below the rim on the outer wall and, very occasionally, high up on the inside too.   Some lingam bowls have inscriptions.

 

The sound of an old lingam bowl is very special…sweet and sonorous, sometimes pulsating, and often with a long sustain.  Notes tend to occupy the middle and higher octaves, and the fundamental and rim notes are usually the same.  A few have extraordinary fountain abilities…the exact water volume sometimes being determined by tilting and filling the interval between engraved lines inside the bowl (this may also be the case with other bowl forms such as the Jambati).

 

Lingam bowls have massive aesthetic appeal and seldom come on the market (it’s usually ‘finders-keepers’) but when they do collectors and practitioners quickly snap them up, and prices have rocketed in recent years.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Lingam Singing Bowls.  Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Manipuri - Ultabati - Remuna - Unusual

 

 


 

REMUNA SINGING BOWL

 

Basic Shape:  Low slightly bulbous profile, thin smooth wall, plain lip

Vocal Range:  3rd – 5th Octave, unique sound. Ease of Play:  Very easy

Size:  Medium

Diameter: 6 - 8 inches (15 - 20 cm)

Height: 3 – 4.5 inches (7.5 – 11.5 cm)

Weight: 1 – 1.75 lb (0.5 – 0.75 kg)

 

Price Range: £150 - £400 ($235 - $635)

Premium Quality: £350 - £500 ($350 - $775)

 

Remuna Singing Bowls have a simple and rather refined profile that gently curves away from a medium-size flat base before gracefully curving back towards the rim.  The widest part of their moderately bulbous belly is typically just below the midpoint.  They have thin smooth walls and a plain lip.  Decorative markings, if any, are limited to a few concentric circles in the centre of the bowl, and perhaps an incised line below the outer rim and around the belly.  Some bowls have a small raised area, or mound, in the centre of the basin, otherwise there is little variation in form apart from size.  Remuna bowls are often found in a good state of preservation.  Some carry a small inscription.

 

Remuna bowls are extremely good and responsive singers, and are among the easiest bowls to play.  Their struck notes are often surprisingly low for a medium size bowl, while played rim notes tend to embrace the third to fifth octaves.   A high percentage of old Remuna bowls in my own collection have voices close to concert pitch, but I cannot say if this is generally the case.

 

Click here to VIEW our antique Remuna Singing Bowls.

 

Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Unusual

 

 


 

UNUSUAL SINGING BOWLS

 

There are many factors that may lead us to describe a singing bowl as being unusual…such as its size, weight, decorative features or tonality…but I have chosen uncommon SHAPE as the primary unifying feature for this category.  All the antique bowls in this category are therefore characterized by having an unusual shape or form.  Most are, to a greater or lesser extent, variants of the main bowl types previously described, or hybrids combining elements from two or more bowl types…but some are extremely rare one-of-a-kind bowls with a truly unique form.

 

 

The shape of a bowl contributes much to the quality and character of its singing voice, and unusual bowl forms generally have interesting or even unique sonic properties that are highly prized by practitioners and collectors.  Unusual bowls add both interest and variety to any collection.

 

 

 

Click here to VIEW our Unusual antique Singing Bowls.

 

Thadobati - Jambati - Naga - Mani - Ultabati - Manipuri - Lingam - Remuna