A singing bowl is a type of bell that rests on the ground with the opening upward (resting bell). The sound of a hanging bell is the result of striking a swinging tongue. With singing bowls, the sound comes from striking the bowl with a stick or a mallet.
The oldest Himalayan (also called as Tibetan) singing bowls known today are about 800 years old. Some experts say that first singing bowls appeared 2800-3000 years ago. The bronze-making tradition has existed for more than 5000 years, so it's not hard to imagine that these instruments are much older than we tend to think.
There are so many different speculations about the original purpose of singing bowls. The majority of experts claim that they were used as utilitarian vessels for eating, drinking, and storing food. Also, bowls were, and still are, being used for collecting donations. However, the sound properties of singing bowls have been acknowledged for centuries. The variety of shapes of antique bowls indicates that acoustic properties were of primary importance.
In the book “Himalayan Sound Revelations”, Frank Perry elaborates on the history and many other aspects of singing bowls with unparalleled dedication and love. If you find Himalayan singing bowls to be a part of your path, you simply must read this book.
Himalayan singing bowls have been known to Westerners since the late '60s. They made their way to the US and Europe mostly with spiritual seekers that visited the residence of the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala and were exploring India.
Some experts assume that singing bowls were brought to the Westerners with Tibetan refugees escaping Chinese communist occupation. There are a few reasons to doubt this assumption.
First of all, if you ever go to Tibet, you will notice that traveling with your 20lb (10kg) backpack at the altitude of 14700ft (4500 meters) isn't quite the same as hiking in the national park! Just imagine Tibetan monks carrying a load of singing bowls in their bags to AMERICA! Why would they do it?
There is a more primary question to be asked: What are the origins of "Tibetan" singing bowls?
Please see below the quote from the work of Mitch Nur, the leading expert in the field of Himalayan singing bowls. I had the honor to be his student and graduated from a master level certification program back in 2011. I really trust the opinion of Dr. Nur.
"My research suggests that they originated around the Himalayas, and quite possibly in the Zagros Mountains (a theory I am now exploring). Evidence suggests that the metal-smiths of the northern Kunlun mountains (Kham) could have been involved in the early production as well. Keep in mind that 3 things are very important in their production outside of expertise – raw material. You need access to Copper, Tin, and wood to make charcoal for the furnace. Just for the record, Tibet has very little Tin reserves. The Tibetan Bönpo scholar Samten G. Karmay in conversation with me agrees that the bowls did not originate in Tibet, and most likely around Assam. Near Assam, to the east and north, was a Kingdom known as Jang. In early historical texts, this area was known as the Land of Women, and in Scythian history, they once battled an entire army composed of women in armor. So we know that there was an advanced metal culture in this area of the world. But the primary area for Singing Bowls is Nepal (India is second) and the surrounding Himalayan area historically.
I want to point out that the culture of the Singing Bowls stretches from Afghanistan to Burma primarily, but Vietnam has a type of Singing Bowl, and small groups of metal making communities exist in Ladakh, Kashmir, the Kushan Valley in Iran. Bowls similar to the Singing Bowl exist in China, Korea, and Japan, and Singing Bowls have been unearthed in archeological digs in Cambodia and Vietnam".
Almost every yoga studio and wellness center has one of these instruments today, and in spite of the fact that every Tibetan gift shop sells singing bowls, very little is known about their origin. There has been much speculation about the nature of this mysterious bell-like instrument on the one hand, and mounting scientific evidence showing the many health benefits it delivers on the other.
The beautiful, complex simplicity of the singing bowl's voice helps to achieve relaxation, reduce stress, anxiety and physical pain. It has also been known to help normalize blood pressure and simply clear your mind if you give it a chance!
Focusing on the complexity of overtones is a great way to enhance one’s ability to concentrate and sharpen memory. Singing bowls are a perfect tool for meditation and brain function enhancement.
Although little is known about how singing bowls were used in the past, modern practitioners of sound therapy are developing new skills and reinventing techniques for utilizing singing bowls for balance and harmonization. There are many skeptical opinions about singing bowls, but if you know what to do with the bowl – you'll see that it works!