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Entries in monk bowls (1)

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.