I have always been fascinated by old bells and have collected them for over half a century. In the 1960 they were rustic souvenirs of holidays in Spain…old cowbells and leather goat collars strung with tiny tin bells that rattled more than rang.   My first bronze bells were found in Bali, Java and Sumba in the mid 1980s and later in India, but it was in Nepal that my interest really took off after coming across beautiful old temple and shrine bells, sacred ritual hand-bells, elephant bells and shaman bell-chains, while browsing for singing bowls in Kathmandu’s antique shops. My interest in Temple Bells has been rekindled now that I am making frequent trips to Nepal in connection with my wife’s memorial charity One Golden Angel. As a result I am offering for sale some of my own rare sacred bells while I downsize and refine my collection. Mostly these are antique Indian and Nepali Ghanta (drilbu in Tibetan).



GHANTA is the Sanskrit term for a ritual bell used in Hindu religious practices. They include large bells hung at the gates to temples which devotees ring on entering, small bells that are strung in groups above or adjacent to Hindu and Buddhist shrines, and ornate hand-bells rung by priests during Puja or Yajna in ceremonies such as the waving of light or burning of incense in front of a deity, and while offering food or flowers. Puja rituals are also held by Buddhists, Jains and Hindus to mark life passage events such as a birth or wedding, or at the beginning of a new venture. They can be held in the home, in temples or at festivals.


RINGING: The ringing of a sacred bell is considered auspicious and is said to disengage the mind from ongoing thoughts and distractions and make it more receptive. The clapper attached to the inside of the bell makes a high-pitched sound when rung, and there are bells specially made to produce the long strains of the sound OM although, to be honest, I cannot discern this myself as each bell has its own distinct and unique voice. The sound of the bell also informs a deity of the devotee’s arrival. In Hinduism, the mantra chanted while ringing the bell translates to “I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, so that virtuous and noble forces enter and the demonic and evil forces, from within and without, depart.” The number of times the bell should be sounded depends on the number of letters in the mantra; accordingly the bell should be sounded 8, 16, 24, or 32 times. From the Kundalini Yoga perspective, the sound of a bell energizes Chakras and balances the distribution of energy in the body.


CONSTRUCTION & FORM: Nowadays Temple Bells (Ghanta) are generally made of brass in India, but the antique ones in my collection come mainly from Nepal and have been individually cast in bronze by the lost wax process, and then finished by hand. Each one is therefore unique. The bell’s form has symbolic meaning in Hinduism. Its curved body represents Ananta (infinity), the clapper or tongue represents Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and knowledge, and the handle represents Prana Shakti (life force) and is symbolically linked to Hanuman, Garuda, Nandi (bull) or Sudarshana Chakra (disc). The top of the temple bell handle is usually adorned with a figure. Those intended for use in the worship of Lord Shiva will have a figure of Lord Nandi, while those used in the worship of Lord Vishnu or his avatars as Rama, Narasimha or Krishna, will have a figure of Garuda or Panchajanya shanka (conch) or Sudarshana Chakra (disc).


PROVENANCE: Sacred ritual bells find their way into antique shops when large old properties crumble or are redeveloped and their house temples dismantled. Many public temples and shrines were totally destroyed in Nepal’s 2015 earthquake and their artifacts sold off to antique dealers. Occasionally street shrines are subject to renewal on a special anniversary and their old bells replaced with new.  Ritual hand bells and other ceremonial paraphernalia belonging to deceased priests are also sometimes sold to dealers. Antique temple and ritual bells rarely come onto the market, and when they do their provenance is usually unrecorded.  They are highly sought-after and command premium prices at source from religious and spiritual practitioners, sound therapists and collectors alike.


THE BELLS: The antique ritual bells offered for sale here were sourced in India and Nepal and date from the 18th or 19th century. They represent the finest examples of their kind to be found anywhere in the world. When you buy, handle, and ring one of these antique temple bells you can be confident that it is a genuine and revered holy instrument that has played an important part in countless sacred rituals and ceremonies for at least 100 years. Each bell is a fascinating and beautiful object in its own right, with the look and feel of antiquity…but perhaps more importantly, when it is rung one can sense the spiritual energy, power and purpose with which it is imbued, and the present ineffably connects to the past.




The Maureen Wilkinson Memorial Fund



My beautiful artist and poet wife Maureen passed away on 30th October 2015 following a series of devastating strokes and cancer.  We met on our first day at art school aged 16 and 17 and enjoyed 54 wonderful years together.  Our last holiday was in Nepal in March of last year, just before the earthquakes.  We had been many times before and loved its vibrant culture and people, but were constantly reminded of the extreme poverty and obscene injustices that many suffer.  We were particularly moved by the plight of the tens of thousands of trafficked, enslaved (debt bonded) and orphaned children, and we wondered how we might help lighten their burden in some way on our return home. 


Sadly, Maureen’s illness and premature death prevented the realization of this charitable venture during her lifetime.  I have therefore set up a Memorial Charity in her name, OneGoldenAngel.com, to specifically help some of these desperate children.  She would be heartened to know that her passing was productive of something that offered a lifeline to others.  


Projects will depend on bowl sales, voluntary donations and the sale of prints of Maureen’s own beautiful artwork (more on this later) and various fund-raising activities. The money raised will determine the nature and extent of our commitment…a large amount might fund a safe refuge or children’s home, while a lesser sum might liberate, rehabilitate and support some needy individuals.  


This is an independent hands-on charity with help delivered directly to those in need to ensure maximum benefit without overheads.  It is hoped that in time Maureen’s Memorial Charity will become an enduring and fully-fledged registered charity, and that we will be able to maintain a regular program of support for years to come. In the meantime I will personally ensure that every penny raised will be spent wisely to alleviate suffering.  


Our artist/film-maker son Paul lives and works in Nepal, and he and I are already in contact with a number of independent aid workers and NGOs working directly with rescued and vulnerable children.   I will be returning to Nepal this March (2016) to explore the options and hopefully initiate the first of our projects.  I will keep you informed of progress.  With love and thanks, Fred Wilkinson.

UPDATE - I was there in March/April, again in May, and once more in June. See OneGoldenAngel.com for info.)




Imagine what life is like for an innocent teenage girl trafficked to India for the sex industry...around 10,000 Nepalese girls suffered this fate in 2014.  Imagine what life is like for a young village girl involuntarily sold into domestic servitude and never to see her family again, or a 12-year-old debt-bonded boy destined to work in appalling conditions in a brick factory for the rest of his life.  Imagine what it's like for a child trapped in a fake money-making ‘orphanage’ with neither care nor love.  These are some of the children Maureen's Memorial Charity will help.


PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY in Maureen’s memory.  Thank you, Fred

PATHWAY TO THE BEACH - oil painting by Maureen Wilkinson (prints available)


To view more of Maureen's artwork, and perhaps buy a print in support of this fund, please visit her Facebook Memorial Page HERE.



Maureen Wilkinson - A Brief Biography


Maureen was born in London in 1944. Her father lost his sight in an accident shortly after her birth, and thereafter the family lived in fairly frugal circumstances. Throughout her childhood she acted as her father’s ‘eyes’, describing things to him and guiding his excursions, and these experiences were to have a profound effect upon her later perceptions as an artist and poet. In the early 60’s she studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, where she met and married fellow student Fred Wilkinson. After graduating she exhibited in solo and group shows in the UK and Europe, before working for fifteen years as a teacher to emotionally disturbed adolescents, and later to younger dyslexic pupils.


As a working mother with three young children there was little time during these years to pursue her career as an artist, and instead she translated her visual ideas into poetry. During the 1980’s and 90’s she won several major literary prizes, was published by Peterloo Poets, and had work included in many anthologies. Poems were often inspired by intensely visual ideas or visual sequences, and this resulted in her practice of partnering poetry with some visual works, and the inclusion of text in some pictures.


In 1981 Maureen moved to a small farm in Cornwall with her husband and family. Virtually overnight they became farmers...growing fruit and vegetables, hand-milking two house-cows and rearing pigs, poultry, sheep and cattle in an attempt to become self-sufficient. She was enchanted by the space, solitude and beauty of her new environment, and an awareness of ‘self’ within an intimately known landscape became a profound creative influence.


In the mid 1980s the Wilkinsons embarked on a period of world travel, their trips embracing South America, Nepal, India, China and Thailand, but particularly focusing on the Far East. They eventually made more than 40 trips to the Indonesian island of Bali to study its art and culture. This led in 1988 to the opening of Cornwall’s renowned Morning Price Gallery in Falmouth, specializing in ethnic Art & Crafts from around the world. In the early 90s they opened a second gallery in Falmouth and others in Penzance and Penryn. The Wilkinsons were early pioneers of fair trade. They personally purchased and commissioned their stock directly from artists and craftsmen at source in the country of origin, and later provided well-paid regular employment for about 200 craft families in some of the poorer regions of the world. Their Falmouth Gallery remained open until 2004 when the business emphasis switched from retail to web-based wholesale. Trading as World Art & Crafts the Company supplied fair trade decorative and ethnic handicrafts to retailers throughout the UK and Europe until its eventual sale in 2010. Maureen continued to write and paint throughout this period.


In 2008 Maureen moved to a cliff top home facing the ocean in a remote part of Cornwall, where she lived with her artist/photographer husband Fred and their two red setters. She continued to paint, make collages, and write poetry until shortly before her death. Her last collage ‘The Garden of Dreams’ was based on a beautiful walled garden of that name in Kathmandu that she visited a few days prior to her first stroke. Her last poem ‘Stroke’ reflects on her experience. Sadly, both works were unfinished when she passed away on 30th October 2015 after a series of devastating strokes and cancer.


Maureen was beautiful, enchanting, imaginative, kind and loving…always a joy to be around. She painted, she wrote, she gardened, she baked and she laughed! She was quirky, courageous and adventurous, and put her heart and soul into everything she did. She always saw the best in people, and quietly sought to comfort and heal. She believed in the power of love. She was an inspirational and magical woman…a natural mystic, a woodland spirit! Many will recall her quiet wisdom, ready smile and her laugher. She was my wonderful soul mate for 54 years and I cannot imagine life without her…although I feel her presence everywhere!  Fred Wilkinson.


The Amnesiac's Dream


The Amnesiac's Dream won 1st Prize in the 1990 Peterloo International Open Poetry Competition.  It has been published in the Guardion and numerous poetry journals, and is included in Maureen's collection 'The Blindman Goes from A to B' published by Peterloo Poets (currently out of print).  It seems ironic that this poem, written some 25 years before her death, should so closely mirror Maureen’s condition following the devastating strokes that left her unable to speak or do anything for herself, and with little more than her mind intact. R.I.P. my love.




It seems my face is now a race of clouds:
Some of them dragons, some of them galleons,
or birds, or ghosts of words, or brief charades.
You must excuse me shouting, but my mouth’s
a dome of wind.  I really don’t know who
sent all these dreams, the one about a bowl
of yellow sand, the one about a grave
shaped like a woman’s body made of sky.
The one about the edge that shapes away
into a blindman’s template, and you have
to guess its continent.  I keep consulting
oracles: I’ve been the Empress, the Moon
and the Hanged Man.  I have been swords
crossed in a corn field. I’ve loosed flocks of birds
from my raised hands.  They sky-write in a swarm
of rapid hieroglyphics which reveal
my name, my future, everything, except
I can’t decipher it quite fast enough
to keep pace with the tempo of their wings
erasing air’s white pages, which contain
the poem of myself, which I forgot.


At the same time it seems I am a void
in which impressions darken without trace,
while secretly inside me they remake
this landscape, like the network of a brain
without a wiring diagram.  It seems
I am a crazy bank of films
with different plots, but playing all at once;
a shadow play, a child’s construction kit
made up with some improbable mistakes.
It seems I am decked out in all my loves.  My fingerprints are made
of your warm skin, and time is scars and banners, and it seems
my bones are bedrock granite sunk so deep
they cannot speak, though they know everything.
It seems as if my throat’s an unknown song.
It seems the tides are levied by my breath.
It seems that I might drown in memory.


Maureen Wilkinson






Beyond the door a sea of plunging dark,
a blinding overlay of turbulence,
a star-struck forest-crush of broken airs, a
leafy-lashing fingering of wet
which I now measure, fathom, piece and part
to milk the cow,
to bring the night cow down.


That swell of bovine yellow, sodden dark, too
silage sweet, too bruised with sweeping night
to find in fields. So come
my wallow one,
my grazing manatee, fill out your hide
with wind, with leather wings,
the moon has drowned, the sun’s extinguished, all
the daisy stars
have floated off much higher than our sight
and undulate in phosphorescent tides. Come lumbering plush
below the milky way
though winds lock milk-wet fingers in our path
answer my cry
and bring the night cow down.


What lack of rhyme or reason guides this task, repeated nightly?
Brightly from the hill
My house stands firmly anchored;
tele's on,
electric light has tamed the sucked up air,
the books have formed a regiment of words,
the walls are vertical, the carpet's square,
the roof’s a sanity of tessellation.

The needling rain tattoos my docile flesh and spreads in coloured cold,
like peacock's eyes.
No longer seeing, I reach in the dark
a denser shadowing, a brew of grass, a swaying cauldron-hide,
and the opacity of her black breath.


steaming bulk. We're turning to the light. I hear your sway 
descend the clumping path, the flattened lumping rushes of the hill.
Come coloured cow, the Chagall of my heart
and manifest your density of light.
Come, let me milk the whiteness of the dark.


Maureen Wilkinson


Bringing The Night Cow Down won 1st Prize in the 1987 Peterloo International Open Poetry Competition.  It has been published in the Guardion and numerous poetry journals, and is included in Maureen's collection 'The Blindman Goes from A to B' published by Peterloo Poets (currently out of print).  The picture was painted some 23 years later in 2010.  If you are resident in the UK and would like to buy a print of this picture please scroll up and order a Gift Voucher.  All proceeds go to Maureen's Memorial Fund to help rescue trafficked, enslaved and orphanded children in Nepal.

How to Spot a Fake or Repro Bowl


FAKE ANTIQUE LINGAM BOWL:  We came across several fake or reproduction singing bowls masquerading as authentic antiques on our recent trip to Nepal.  This one caught my eye because it purports to be a rare and valuable antique Lingam bowl, and could so easily have fooled an unsuspecting customer into parting with some serious money.   Here’s what I found:


1).  The shape is good, and based on the high-wall Thadobati type of Lingam, but it has been cast, not forged by hand.  The walls are perfectly regular, with no sign of hammer marks, but it has been ‘finished’ by hand.


2).  Although it appears a bit beaten up, with scars and digs, there’s no sign of actual wear and tear, or stains, as one might expect in an old bowl.  The rim is regular and unworn. 


3).  The deep scars and the band of ritual gashes that encircle the bowl below the rim have been deliberately applied to mislead.  And for good measure they’ve added a few inside too.  Ritual gashes are sometimes found on 18th and 19th century Thadobati and Manipuri bowls…but very rarely on a lingam, and never inside.  If genuine they would appear in seemingly random groups of 3 to 8 cuts separated by gaps, not in a continuous unbroken chain around the bowl as in this example.


4).  The lingam at its centre, and the concentric circles surrounding it, are suspiciously sharp and well defined, with absolutely no evidence of the wear that one might expect from years of use and cleaning.  The navel underneath is small and shallow.


5).  The whole bowl has been ‘antiqued’ with a coat of coloured lacquer to make it look old.  The bowl has no natural surface patina (grime) and just doesn’t look or feel right.   This rare ‘antique’ bowl was also available in several sizes!


6).  It sings and plays quite readily…but has nothing like the quality of sound produced by a genuine hand-forged multi-harmonic antique singing bowl.  This bowl is brand new!


FAKE RARE SINGING BOWL:  These two unusual singing bowls came from the same Nepalese source.  Although they appear virtually identical in all but size, the one on the left is a genuine and valuable antique, while the other is a fairly worthless modern reproduction.  The dealer made no distinction between the two, and it would have been easy for an unsuspecting customer to buy the reproduction bowl mistaking it for the antique.  Here’s what I found:



1).  The shape is good.  It is very like the genuine item, although it’s a little small for this rare bowl form and the walls are thinner than normal.


2).  Although the outer wall is scratched, tarnished and lightly stained as one might expect of an old bowl, the inside tells a different story.  It is bright, spotless, pristine, and there is clear evidence of recent machining.  The lower part of this bowl has been crudely ‘antiqued’ with a coat of coloured lacquer to make it appear more interesting.  The genuine antique bowl on the left also has numerous small stains and a variety of surface blemishes...variety being the keynote!  The outside has a mature and uniform tarnish, while the inside looks used and grubby.


3).  The flat surface of the lip displays recent signs of mechanical buffing, while the playing edge remains completely unworn.  It’s doubtful if the bowl on the right has ever been played around the rim.  The antique bowl has a grooved lip, now faint from wear, and its playing edge is smooth.  Two decorative bands of sun motifs (a dot surrounded by a circle) encircle the bowl below the rim, the lower of the two with drops.


4).  Old bowls sometimes carry inscriptions, and they always add interest and value.  The fake bowl has a nice big one below the rim, but the give-away is its surface texture.  Old inscriptions wear down with handling and cleaning; they feel smooth, while recent ones feel raw and prickly to the touch.  Guess what this one feels like?  Of course, it’s always possible that a new owner of an antique bowl might have decided to have it inscribed…but then it probably wouldn’t have been so quickly in the hands of a bowl dealer.  This bowl is brand new!  The antique bowl on the left carries a large and beautiful dot-punched inscription set between a pair of peacocks.  It is smooth to the touch and overlaid with stains in places.


5).  Singing bowls with this unusual form are extremely uncommon, and yet the one on the right was one of 14 similar bowls on offer…just two of which were authentic antiques, including the excellent specimen on the left.  Unfortunately it proved to be damaged.  It has a 2cm split in the lower wall.  The struck note is still good.  The rim note is not.  Please use the contact form if you are interested in it.


VALUABLE LINGAM OR ‘UPGRADED’ THADOBATI BOWL?  This interesting antique singing bowl looks like a typical Thadobati style Lingam. It has a 6¾" diameter, weighs 1.12 kilos and has nice features…extra thick walls, boldly grooved lip, a decorative band below the rim and circles around a prominent lingam. Lingam bowls are rare and expensive, and as such its Western market value would be around £725 (about $1,125).

However, on close inspection the entire lingam at its centre appears to have been replaced or rebuilt, and this begs the question of whether this is an authentic Lingam bowl that has been repaired or restored...or if it actually started life as a nice but less rare and much cheaper Thadobati with a Western market value of around £250 (about $385).


At today's inflated Lingam prices it's quite possible that this is an ‘upgraded’ Thadobati with a completely new insert or an old lingam cut from a damaged bowl.  In this instance it's difficult to say.


A sensitively restored antique Lingam bowl might have some value if the sound is good, especially if it's a particularly rare specimen, but a fake one is little more than a curiosity...so BUYER BEWARE!  See this bowl here



Inscribed and Engraved Antique Singing Bowls


Only a small percentage of antique singing bowls carry inscriptions.  They are found on all bowl types but are more commonly seen on Thadobati, Manipuri, Jambati and Naga or Chalice bowls.   


Inscribed bowls tend to be superior quality and in a better state of preservation than average, probably because of their ceremonial status and the high esteem in which a former keeper held them.


Inscriptions can be the owner or maker’s name, a sacred mantra, or a dedication to a temple or a deity such as Kali, but rarely a date.  Inscriptions can be added at any time in a bowl’s life and a date, if present, would anyway likely relate to the dedication and not the bowl’s age.  Important bowls may carry several inscriptions, sometimes made years apart.


Inscriptions can be very subtle, and easily missed, so it’s important to check your bowls thoroughly and in daylight.  If the inscriptions are old they may be quite faint.  They will feel smooth, and might be overlaid with scratches and stains.  If they are recent they will feel rough and prickly to the touch. 


Inscriptions are usually found on a bowl’s outer wall between or below a pair of incised parallel lines that form a decorative collar around its rim, but sometimes they are high up on the inside wall, and very occasionally on the bowl’s floor. 


Most inscriptions are built up from tiny dots, surface punctures, that are individually punched into the metal, but they may also be engraved or cut into the surface.  This is particularly the case on larger bowls such as the Jambati and Ultabati.   Engraved inscriptions tend to be shorter than punched ones, and are easier to spot.  They are deeper and catch the light more readily.


Inscriptions are generally composed of a series of characters in a single horizontal line.  The script is typically about a ¼ inch high (6mm), and between 3 and 6 inches in length (8-16cm) although there are exceptions.  It’s not unusual to see a longer inscription, or one that extends to a second line below the first.   Occasionally an inscription will be set between two beautifully dot-punched drawings of a lotus flower, or an animal such as a fish, peacock or elephant…notably on Naga or Chalice bowls, about 25% of which are inscribed.


An inscription always adds interest and value to an antique singing bowl, even if its significance is unknown and its meaning obscure.  Unfortunately, our attempts to have an inscription translated are usually met with failure due to the script being unfamiliar to our Tibetan and Nepalese contacts.   


The 2011 National census lists 123 languages spoken as a mother tongue (first language) in Nepal alone, and it is estimated that roughly 600 languages, representing at least six language families, are spoken across the Greater Himalayan Region, many of which remain virtually undocumented.


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Fred Wilkinson (December 2014)
AntiqueSingingBowls.com and LingamBowls.com