Since ancient times, human beings have used bells for religious and ceremonial purposes. The earliest unearthed bells are pottery bells from Neolithic China. Bells were also used in ancient Assyria, Babylon, Iran, India, Greece, and Egypt. In many cultures and religions, bells are used during prayers and rituals to cleanse and purify the environment and enhance positive energy.
In spiritual circles, bells are associated with Divinity and believed to ward off negative energy. While bells are usually made of brass or bronze, those made for religious purpose often use several other metals, including cadmium, copper, zinc, nickel, lead, chromium and manganese, in a fixed ratio. This is to enhance the chiming effect.
It is believed that bells are designed such that our brain’s left and right sides unite in harmony when they ring. The sound vibrations of a well-designed bell usually last for about seven seconds. The main purpose of ringing the bell at any place of worship is to awaken the senses, spiritually cleanse the mind and enhance awareness or consciousness.
Bell Of Peace And Freedom
Setting aside the religious import, ringing the bell also signifies freedom. Freedom from bondage. Freedom from ignorance and freedom from unrest and instability. During World War II, all church bells were silenced, and rung only to warn inhabitants of an invasion by enemy troops. When the war ended, bells joyously chimed once again. Also, the Liberty Bell, previously called the State House Bell or Old State House Bell, located in Philadelphia, is an iconic symbol of American independence. Thus, bells also signify peace and independence.
Chinese Chime Bells
Bells are considered auspicious according to Chinese tradition. During major ceremonies and the Chinese New Year, bells are rung one hundred and eight times. This number is an aggregate of twelve months, twenty-four hours and seventy-two climate divisions.
The Bianzhong is an ancient Chinese musical instrument consisting of a set of bronze bells, played melodically. China is believed to be one of the earliest countries in the world to manufacture and use musical chimes. These are called Chime Bells.
Wind chimes have a long and varied history, spanning cultures, continents and uses, with archaeological findings dating back almost five thousand years. In South East Asia, remains of wind chimes made of bone, wood, bamboo, and shells, were found dating back to 3000 BC.
Today wind chimes have become quite popular, thanks to Vastu and Feng Sui. Wind chimes are said to ward off misfortune and usher peace, progress, and prosperity at home and office.
Ancient Buddhist Bell
Bells play a crucial role in a variety of Buddhist services and rituals; the sound is considered auspicious, and is believed to bring peace and comfort to all sentient beings. Buddhists also believe that people have one hundred and eight types of worries, and that striking the bell one hundred and eight times can remove worries from the mind.
A copper alloy bell from the site of the Cheonheungsa Temple, in Korea, is widely regarded as one of the largest and most beautiful bells from the Goryeo period (10- 14th century AD). Experts say that the bell is a masterpiece in terms of manufacturing technique and artistic style.
In Hindu tradition, devotees ring the bell before approaching the deity as a ritual gesture of informing the deity about their arrival and dispelling all negative thought from their minds. In Hindu mythology, the temple bell is the spiritual abode of Divinity. The body of the bell represents ‘ananta’, or infinity. while the tongue or clapper inside, which is used to ring the bell. represents ‘Saraswati’ or knowledge. Striking the bell humbles the devotee reminding him that knowledge is infinite
In the Christian tradition, church bells ring throughout the year to mark important occasions in the life of individuals, the church, or the nation. Bells are rung joyfully at church weddings as also on festive occasions like Easter and Christmas. At funerals, bells are rung half-muffled.
At every consecrated Atash Bahram or Adran, priests perform the Boi ceremony before the Holy fire, five times a day and they strike the bell while reciting the words, ‘Dushmata, Duzukht, Dusvarast’ – rejecting all evil thoughts words and deeds. In aggregate, the bell is struck nine times in the process of reciting Dushmata, Duzukht, Dusvarast three times. Only at the Iranshah Atash Bahram, the bell is struck ten times, with the first bell bringing the congregation to attention. The bell is then struck nine times, as it is, at all other Atash Bahrams. Thus, during the ceremony, the priest rings the bell to drive out evil in thought, word, and deed from this world.
Did you know that the Pahlavi-Pazand term, ‘Boi’ is derived from Avestan ‘baodha’, which mean ‘fragrance.’ This ritual involves offering fragrant wood to the Holy Fire. This ceremony is performed five times a day. At a Dadgah this ceremony must be performed at least once a day.
At most Atash Bahram, Machi consisting of six pieces of sandalwood are arranged in the form of a throne for the Holy Fire or Atash Padshah which is regarded as a Spiritual Monarch. However, at Iranshah Atash Bahram nine pieces of sandal wood are used while at Dadyseth Atash Bahram seven pieces are used. Clearly the Sanjana clan as also the Kadmi and Shehenshahi priests have used slightly different ritual practices.
Number six probably signifies the six good creations and the six stages (Gahambaar) in which Ahura Mazda created this universe and therefore represents completeness. Number seven represents the seven Amesha Spenta and thus represents all seven Divinities, while nine is believed to be the number of perfection and the ninth heaven from which the fire of lightening was derived for consecrating the Holy Iranshah Atash Bahram. Interestingly Asho Zarathushtra is also depicted holding a staff of nine knots, once again indicating the perfection of his spiritual leadership.