History of the Tibetan/Himalayan Singing Bowls
There are many different theories about where Tibetan singing bowls originated, with both India and Tibet claiming them as their own. This information has been passed down to me from my teachers in Nepal and my personal research into their origin.
According to Tibetan oral traditions, the existence of singing bowls dates back to the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha, 560-480 BCE. The tradition was brought back from India to Tibet, along with the teaching of Buddha, by some great Tantric masters in the Tibetan region. However, the origin and original function of these metal bowls – with their fascinating and ethereal sounds and their undeniable influence on the body, mind and soul – are still surrounded by an aura of mystery.
Some say they are a gift from the shamanistic “Bon” religion, predating Tibetan Buddhism by centuries. Traditionally, monks, nuns and lay Buddhists have used the bowls in rituals, prayers and meditation. But what we are sure of, is that they have been used in the Himalayan region (India, Nepal, Bhutan, China) for over 5000 years, and made their way to Tibet with the advent of Buddhism to that area of the world.
Traditionally, singing bowls did not exist as a musical instrument in Nepal. Bells of different shapes and sizes were used as a sacred sound-making tool before the bowls were introduced. After evolving from a spoon, for centuries bowls were amongst a variety of utensils used for serving foods or liquids, preparing traditional medicines, placing sacred offerings to the deities, begging for food or money, as well as other social-cultural purposes.
The Tibetan singing bowl found its way out of the home in ancient times, and has been used for spiritual and healing purposes ever since. Both antique and new bowls are widely used as an aid to meditation, sound healing and music therapy. They are also used in yoga and religious services and performances. In present times, they have extended beyond cultural and religious usage into becoming a special therapeutic and musical tool that has passed strict scientific tests for their effective healing quality.