Bronze bell with bull finial

From Sri Lanka, 18th-19th century AD

For use in a temple dedicated to the god Shiva

Worship at a Hindu temple involves various ritual actions intended to make the deity imminent to the devotee and to purify the worshipper's action in order to bring him closer to a divine state. Bells form a fundamental part of temple worship. Their reverberating sound serves as an allegory of the purity of a musical note, symbolizing the mantra, 'Om'. The importance given to sound reinforces the sacredness of the uttered word and chant in a culture where all the sacred texts are traditionally orally transmitted and never written down.

The bell is typical of the Tamil craftsmanship of southern India and is a product of the Tamil communitites settleed in northern Sri Lanka; it was acquired there by the collector Hugh Nevill at the end of the nineteenth century. Seated on top of its handle is an image of the bull Nandi, the mount of the god Shiva, suggesting that the bell probably comes from a temple dedicated to Shiva.

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Museum number

Asia OA 1898.7-2.175



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