Sunday, January 20, 2008
ring out the old and ring in the new
that is what we are all supposed to do at the beginning of a new year.put the past behind you and look to the future.don't carry old baggage.take a positive approach and deal with life's problems confidently and energetically to achieve success in life. and isn't the 'bell' a very apppropriate instrument to signify this act of wishing for better things to happen.
the other day,i read an article in a metals magazine about the timelessness of a finely cast tuned bronze bell.it said that though the demand in europe was declining,the demand in the USA was quite strong and also in regions like asia and australia.would you think that an ancient communcation system would have a future in the 21st century? today,there is demand for bells one manufacturer said is not that people need them,but because they want them.and demand for bells is driven as much for their beauty and longevity as for their sound.
there are bells and bells.western bells,eastern bells,buddhist bells etc etc. and they vary in composition,shape and size.from small carillon bells to the giant bell which could weigh as much as 20 tonnes.the composition and design give the bells their distinguished sounds.generally the composition is 80% copper and 20% tin.some foundries add zinc and lead too.last year near the mount fuji in japan,the largest swinging cast bell weighing 36 tonnes was installed.its diameter is 13 feet!
bells were used all over the world in the medieval days as a communication system. a loud sound could be heard for miles away. while many go for new bells,the old ones are also getting renovated and restored. unlike in the past when ropes were used to ring bells,an electronic keyboard is used these days.in 2001 when ohio state celebrated its bicentennary year,a new bell was cast for each of the 88 counties by using a portable foundry which travelled in a flatbed truck
bells always fascinate me.their shape, their size,the materials used for making them and the sound that emanates.the feeling of tranquility when you hear the bell chiming is awesome.our house is in in front of the rajabai tower(designed on the lines of the big ben at london) across the oval-maidan at mumbai.the chiming of the tower bell also reminds me of the value of time and that time waits for no man.
the role and function of bells throughout the history of civilisation has ranged from very mundane purposes to the sacred or profane.from mourning to joy.it is said that in europe christian peasants were more afraid of swearing falsely by the bells rather than the bible itself.in the bible,the sound of bells is called his "voice".it means divine truth.
there are many legends about bells.the great srivaishnavite acharya sri vedanta desika has an interesting epithet-ghantavatara,"incarnation of the temple bell" of tirupati. his mother while on the holy mountain had a dream that she swallows a bell and just as she swallowed this bell in her dream,the temple bell at the shrine of tirupati disappeared.the ritual bell is reborn as the child later known as venkatesa,the lord of tirumala.
the cathedral bell at avignon,france,rang on its own when a pope died and also it is supposed to have tolled nonstop for 24 hours.
the balinese bells are known for their superb purity of tone. the metalworkers in bali,indonesia, belong to a highly respcted caste called the 'pande'! i visit temples quite frequently and the first thing that i do is to ring the temple bell.it creates an auspicious sound.the sound from a good bell is uninterrupted,reverberating,deep and sonorous.in hindu temples,bells are hung at the entry and rung to inform the deity of the arrival of the devotee.ringing of bells is supposed to arouse the divinity within deities into which life has been infused.the sound of ringing of the bell matches with the chanting of 'om', the lord's universal name. it helps to drown the the inauspicious noises from outside which spoils the concentration of the devotee. it helps the worshipper to find inner peace. it is also believed to protect the devotee from the harmul effects of problems. according to 'skandapurana',ringing of temple bells absolves man from sins committed over hundred births.at home also the bell is an indispensable article in ritualistic worship. it is sounded even before the actual worship commences,in order to invit the gods to assemble and drive away the evil forces. the body of the bell is supposed to represent the divinity of time,viz.,anantha,and the tongue the goddess of speech,sarasvati;the handle signifies the vital principle(prana) in the form of hanuman,garuda,nandi or chakra.
there are temples and churches all over the world famous for their bells.one of the oldest and largest bells in the world is from korea.made in 771 ad,it is 9ft tall and is 5 times the weight of big ben.the 500 year old chenna kesava temple at nandigrama generates the 'om' sound. made of copper during the kakatiya dynasty and weighing 25 kg,it has never been repaired.in orissa,in the district of dhankanal,the mahimadharma temple has a giant size temple bell weighing 120 quintals.it is made of eight metals,has a height of 5 feet,a radius of 14 feet and when harped it can be heard 25 km away. and then there is a giant 36 tonne swinging bellin gotenba city,japan,which is supposed to be the world's largest swinging bell.it has a diameter of about 12 feet and height of about 11 feet!
among roman catholics,the tolling of bells happens usuually during a funeral and before a marriage.on a regular basis bells are rung every day to announce the commencement of prayers.in buddhist temples,it is rung 108 times;eight times in the old year and 100 times in the new year.by ringing the bell you are supposed to have driven away 108 worldly desires.
our body is a living entity of vibrations and sound wavelengths.ringing of bell and chanting of mantras cause the mind to quieten and the body feels supremely relaxed.