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Tiger bells in South Asia


Tiger bells are mainly of the B type, one type A tiger bell and two tiger bells type C are reported.

One bell type C, similar to those found in Nepal; on the catalogue card the country of origin, 'Tibet', is followed by a question mark

Leyden Ethnological Museum, collected in 1948.

Group: unknown, probably common
One type A tiger bell, probably used for dogs.

Collection: Leyden Ethnological Museum, procured in 1957.

Several yak belts with type B tiger bells were sold at the Tibetan Refugee market in New Delhi in the late seventies and early eighties. Belts such as these are in the Rotterdam Ethnological Museum and in the author's collection.

Yak belt, Rotterdam Ethnological Museum

Yak belt with eight bells (two missing), bought in New Delhi, at the
Tibetan Refugee market, 1975 (author's collection)

Type B bell, on the yak belt above
Dimensions: wide 4,5 cm. high 4,1 cm. side 5 cm. hoop 1,6 cm. rectangular

One small type A tiger bell, silver plated, on a silver prayer mill.
Photographed in an antique shop in Singapore.

Two tiger bells, one type B (left) and one type C (right), bought in Lhasa in 2008.

Type B (left): diameter front: 4 cm.; side: 4,5 cm.
Type C (right): diameter front: 3,8 cm.; side: 4,7 cm.

Front view

Bottom view

'Forehead' view

Reported by Toos Suyker and Jan Verdiessen; the bells were donated to them by I. van der Meulen, who visited Lhasa in 2008.

Two alternative tiger bells, dimensions: 34 mm x 25 mm. No further information.

Compare these bells with the bells from Malaysia.

Photograph: courtesy 3Worlds

Fred Wilkinson of the Nonsuch Gallery in England reports:

I have a shaman's tiger bell chain necklace which you may be interested to see, purchased from a Kathmandu antiques dealer in the late 1980s.

On the website we find the following photograph and description:

[The chain] was purchased from a Tibetan antiques dealer in Kathmandu in the late 1980's. This shaman’s bell necklace measures approximately 100 cm (39 inches) end to end, and features 17 bells; 12 of which are wonderfully detailed bronze tiger bells and 4 small brass shrine bells plus a tiny bronze charm bell. The tiger bells on this chain have an average diameter of 4½ cm with a larger one in the middle. All the bells are strung out at intervals along a hand-made iron chain that is attached at both ends to a hand-made iron bow-shaped handgrip measuring 8 cm. An unusual tasseled leather, or snakeskin, amulet or pouch, decorated on one side with 4 cowrie shells, is attached to the iron handgrip.
The chain is more or less similar to the chain from Nepal, except for the pendant which seems to be a metal hanger with a small piece of leather decorated with four cowrey shells. The chain is used by shamans. The tiger bells are of the C type, that occurs mainly in the Himalaya area (see also: Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal). The other bells are conical clapper bells.

Tibetan market (source: unknown). The horses have harnesses
with probably type B tiger bells.

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