Are “Panchadhatu” (5 metals alloy) and “Saptadhatu” (7 metals alloy) grounded in reality or merely myths?
For those immersed in the realm of sound healing or venturing into the domain of singing bowls for the first time, the terms “panchadhatu” and “saptadhatu” often emerge in discussions about the composition of these resonant instruments. When purchasing these bowls, sellers frequently assert that they are crafted from either 7 metals (saptadhatu) or 5 metals (panchadhatu). The seven metals supposedly include Gold, Silver, Iron, Copper, Tin, Lead, and Mercury. However, the veracity of these claims, particularly regarding the inclusion of metals like expensive metals such as gold and silver, and toxic metals such as Lead and Mercury raises questions. Lets understand how these claims came into being and what are singing bowls actually made of!
The origins of the “5 metal” and “7 metal” myth are rooted in various historical and cultural narratives. Some speculate a connection with ancient cosmological beliefs, where the universe was perceived as comprising seven main entities, aligning with the seven metals, including the Sun representing Gold, the Moon for Silver, and the five planets—Mercury, Iron, Copper, Tin, and Lead. Others trace it back to Middle Eastern metal alchemy, where seven metals were deemed sacred. Another theory links it to the ancient alchemical wisdom found in Tibetan texts. And yet another links it to the 7 tissues in the human body also known as Saptadhatus in Ayurveda.
So what are Singing bowls really made of?
Contrary to popular belief, most new bowls available in the market are commonly composed of brass alloy, which is a blend of copper and zinc.
The older handcrafted singing bowls are fashioned from bell-metal, an alloy dominated by copper and tin, with copper present in a significantly higher proportion than tin. In addition to copper and tin, some of the ancient handmade bowls may also incorporate a minimal amount of iron content.
Craftsmen nowadays prefer brass mainly because of its cost-effectiveness, malleability, and ease of machining.
In recent times, some machine-made bowls have even adopted aluminium as their primary material.
Spectral studies on certain singing bowls conducted by researchers from Oxford reveal the existence of other trace elements including Arsenic, Sulphur, Nickel and more, each constituting less than 1%, which are typically impurities or bi-products of bronze making.
Regardless of its origins, the notion of 5 and 7 metals has become intricately woven into the narratives spun by sellers and marketers in the singing bowl industry. As these instruments continue to captivate enthusiasts and practitioners alike, it becomes imperative to unravel the threads of myth and reality that surround their composition.