I received the following pictures from a man in Las Vegas who called and said “I have an interesting bell; what is it?” When I received the pictures I knew exactly which ABA “expert” to ask. Al, do you recognize or know anything about it?
Sure. This is a classic Tibetan ritual bell or ghanta. Because the faces and symbols lack sharpness, I suspect it’s a made-for-tourists reproduction. Traditional but variable details determine the bell’s “level” of worship; a complete description fills a volume.
It appears that there’s what should be a circle of 32 upright scepters (each group of 16 separated by a rosary) or vajras around the lower skirt(that would be authentic) — this has significance (in some cases there are only 16). The iconography on this bell suggests that the face might be that of the goddess Prajnaparamita.
The five-prongs on the top are visualized as the Five Transcendent Buddhas or can also symbolize the five jnyanas (knowledge), and can be made in both peaceful and wrathful forms.
If you are hell-bent on pursuing a complete understanding of Tibetan iconography, I have two books that will give you a thorough introduction.
As you probably know, during prayer the double-ended scepter or vajra is held in the right hand, and the bell itself is held between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand.
It’s an interesting bell to have in your collection.
Of what material is the clapper made, and how is it fastened to the bell inside?
Here is the clapper – which clearly is not original (unless I’m way out in left field).
You’re right, that’s not an “original” clapper. Also, their clappers were always attached either by cord or thong. Today’s value? I would guess $50, slightly more if you want to be charitable.
This information has been posted by Admin at the request of Arlene and Al.