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Wednesday
Aug052009

one of a finds: jain monk bowls

This exquisitely refined set of jain monk bowls is handmade in Rajasthan, India by the Kharadi muslims for use by the Shwetamber sect of Jain monks. The white-robed Jain monks take five ethical vows—this includes renouncing all wordly possessions, including their name—owning only these nine alms bowls presented to them by their followers. In a journey of humility, the monks travel on foot with only their nesting bowls, going door to door, village to village, seeking followers who fill them with food.

Now an almost extinct woodworking art practiced by only 30 families in the region, the begging bowls or “bhiksha patra” are lathed from local rohida wood, prized for its dense grain and strength. No wood is wasted, with each of the nine bowls scooped from the heart of the bowl before it.

Artisans apprentice for years to make these bowls by first making simple coasters and progressively improving their skill level once each has been mastered. In addition to the difficulty of carving a smaller bowl from the heart of a larger bowl, the walls are only 1/16-inch thin which further tests their skills.

As a continuation of their vow to renounce worldly possessions, when the bowls are no longer of use they are broken into pieces, buried and returned to the earth.

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Reader Comments (2)

These bowls are truly amazing. This is what should be consider real woodworking art. After reading this article, I can only think of the time it must take to master the making of these bowls.
I actually wanted to find terms on woodworking, but am glad I got to this page. It gives me a much better appreciation of bowl making and how hard it really can be.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Wow that is quite remarkable, and the fact that the smaller bowls are made from the heart of the larger bowl is incredible. It must take a very long time tobe able to master it.

May 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom

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