Bodhisattva Trading Company

Singing Bowl Styles

How We Categorize Our Antique Singing Bowls
For those unfamiliar with our website or our company, please refer to this glossary of terms we use to differentiate the numerous styles and construction types of singing bowls. There are countless nuances and intricacies in shape and design to notice!

The bowl makers were very creative and spanned throughout Himalayan cultures over many centuries. We have not yet uncovered all of the Tibetan, Nepali, or Hindi terms which describe the bowls, so we've developed standardized english terms in order to better communicate with our customers (and one another.)

When speaking with other bowl dealers, please use these terms with caution: it’s a little like walking into a Turkish cafe and asking for a Venti Cappucino. If you have any additional information on various types of singing bowls, their indigenous names or provenance, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

Master-quality®   Tibetan Singing Bowls offered by Bodhisattva Trading Co., Inc., are antiques from the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet, and are between 100 and 500 years old.

Our Tibetan Singing Bowls are Master-quality®, meaning they have passed our stringent quality control standards for:
   • Beauty of harmonic balance
   • Ease and smoothness of playing
   • Volume
   • Long lasting sustain
   • Authentic age

Of the tens of thousands of bowls we test each year in the Himalayas, only half of one percent (1 bowl in 200!) achieve this standard.

Double-blue Quality   Double-blues are the "Stradivarius" of singing bowls-the best of the best! Of the five criteria for Master-quality®, Double-blues surpass the rest of the collection in multiple criteria. Their sublime tones form palpable matrices in the air, and linger significantly longer than most singing bowls. The implications of a longer sustain in a healing or meditation context is key, because of the increased "mileage" you get from every strike or rim tone. Also important is the characteristically deeper penetration potential of these powerful pieces. Their quality falls in the top half of the percentage of our collection. Double-blues can be purchased as standalone pieces, and are the most requested of Master-Healing Set collectors worldwide.

Thadobati   Nepali term for a medium sized, (6" - 8+") bowl in which the walls are proportionately higher to the diameter compared to the Manipuri, or Low-wall style. This umbrella term includes the Buddhas, Karmas, Dharmas, Specials, Voids, Void-Yonis and Manis. We almost never use this term because it’s not very descriptive.

Jambati   Nepali term for a larger diameter, (8" - 14+") bowl in which the walls are proportionately higher to the diameter than the Manipuri, or Low-wall style. Fundamental tones can range from the second to the third octave of a piano. The rim tones can spread into the fifth octave.

Manipuri   Said to come from the Manipur region, but this shape is also typically Tibetan. Their walls are lower in ratio to the diameter, with a gradually sloping base. Typically, they range from approximately 4" to 10", and their tones range from the second to fifth octaves.

Low-wall   A thinner constructed, low-wall Manipuri bowl.

Low-wall-thick-lip   A Manipuri bowl with a thicker construction and a triangulated lip. Sometimes these bowls are decorated with sacred geometric patterns (see Void description).

High-wall   Nepali term for a larger diameter bowl in which the walls are proportionately higher to the diameter than the Manipuri, or Low-wall style. See Jambati description.

Buddha   A medium sized (6" - 8") Thadobati bowl. The base, while still round, is not as sloped as a High-wall. We named this style after the Buddha because one of the earliest depictions of him. A 1st Century BCE stone bas-relief from the Ghandaran period features the Buddha holding a bowl this shape. This theme, called "The Offering of the Four Bowls", was also found in a later, 2nd - 3rd Century CE bas-relief (see photo at right). The provenance of this shape generally tends to come from India.

Karma   A medium sized (6" - 8") Thadobati bowl. Similar to the Buddha-type bowl, but with side walls that are less rounded and a bottom which is more flat. Also many have vertical hash marks on the upper exterior walls.

Tara   Another "cousin" of the Buddha type (Thadobati) bowl. It's body is deeper and rounder, giving it a more feminine feel-hence the name. Medium-sized (6" - 8").

Special   Extra-thick construction, Buddha shape. Usually with heavy sacred geometric parallel lines originally incised or cast into the exterior walls. The lines radiate outward from a small circle in the center of the basin. The lip is distinctly grooved.

Void   An enigmatic, premium-quality bowl with geometric design patterns and construction, made with remarkable consistency through the 15th - 19th Centuries. Voids feature a ribbon of dots surrounded by small circles on the exterior wall under the lip. This was an ancient, sacred geometric symbol. It was first seen in astrology as the Sun sign. It represented "the one becoming aware of his or her source"*. In a Himalayan, or Tibetan Buddhist context, we believe this symbol represented recognition of the Void-known in Buddhism as the Doctrine of Dependent Origination. Each individual is inseparable from the All. The dot is the contracted circle; the circle is the expanded above, so below.

A pattern of concentric circles frames the ribbon, and also appears half-way down the exterior wall. Another set of concentric circles orbits out from a small circle in the center of the basin. The patterns of concentric circles were a represented the infinite expansion of vibration into the Universe**. These markings actually depicted the function of the singing bowls: showing wave patterns emanating outward, they remind seekers throughout time that the vibration of our thoughts, words and deeds resonate infinitely out into the Universe.

All Voids have a "pie-lip" construction, a primitive technique we first observed in 10th Century bowl construction. In the forging process, the metal was folded over and then the excess rim trimmed off, rather than simply being sheared off at the top.

Void-Yoni   We believe these special bowls may have been intended as the female counterparts to the Void type. They are identical in construction, but also feature three dot/circle patterns forming a downward-facing triangle, placed in four locations around the bowl’s exterior wall. In the Tantric traditions which were practiced in the Himalayas during this time, downward-facing triangles represented the "Yoni", or female principle.

The repetition of this pattern, in sets of four around the bowl, may refer to the four vectors: North, East, South, West. These may also refer to the four directions of Tibetan Buddhist ritual practices. Rarely, there will only be three sets: the fourth triangle must be invisibly traced between the three physical locations to form the fourth triangle.

Bodhi   A medium-sized (6" - 8") Thadobati bowl. Usually thick in construction, with an outward turned lip.

Dharma   Typically light construction, with slightly concave aperture and a generous belly. Multiple parallel line patterns are lathed around the exterior wall. Often, a dot-line inscription will appear approximately half an inch below the rim on the exterior wall. These bowls may have been partially cast as well as forged. Usually, a set of concentric circles orbit out from a small circle in the center of the basin. The lip is usually grooved.

Cup-bowl   A small-diameter, cup-shaped Thadobati bowl. Diameter ranges approximately 4 - 6 inches.

Lotus   A more globular type of singing bowl with unusually thin and high walls. Like the Lingam type bowls, they have an area in the bottom interior basin which has been forged to produce an upward-pointing protrusion. Sizes range from below 6" to around 8+". Due to the relatively thin walls, many of this type of bowl produce deep struck tones.

Stem   A relatively rare type of singing bowl which has a raised ring attached (usually soldered) to the outside bottom of the bowl. This ring is useful as a grip when the bowl is used in sound healing applications, as the bowl can be easily waved around various parts of the patient's body. Stylistically, a comparison can be made to the porcelain stem cups used by Tibetan nobility, although these have a longer stem.

Mani   "Mani" means "jewel" in Tibetan, although we believe the style originally hails from India. We started finding these only in the last four to five years. Manis are the only example that we know of which is a conically shaped, self-amplifying singing bowl. They tend to produce an almost pure sine wave, and their rim tone and fundamental are the same. Sometimes, higher harmonics can be heard in the struck tones but they tend to be octaves rather than tritones.

Lingam Bowl   Perhaps the rarest of all the Tibetan/Himalayan singing bowls, this type has a conical protrusion coming out of the center of the bowl's interior basin.
* Atala DorothyToy, Explorations in Consciousness, © 2001.  Reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 1997 - Bodhisattva Trading Co., Inc.  All Rights Reserved.


Singing bowls have been in use for over 2,000 years to reduce the effects of stress and support meditation. Our singing bowls and singing bowl sets, as well as the digital recordings of the singing bowls on this site are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it. Om Mani Padme Hum.

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Outside of the United States please call 1-310-838-5350

Satisfaction Guarantee: If, for any reason, you are not completely satisfied with a product, simply return it within 30 days for a replacement or refund of the product price payable by check only. BTC will retain a 10% restocking fee. Sets and custom orders are sold “as is”, and all sales are final.
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