Ritual instruments

Ritual Instruments

Musical instruments used in rituals are the horns dung-chengya-ling, and kang-ling; the cymbalsdrum, and kar-dung.

The Long Horn or Dung-Chen

The Long Horn or Dung-Chen is a unique Tibetan traditional ritual music instrument made from brass trumpet, also known as Rag Dung in Tibetan. The tradition of this ritual instrument was started in the year 1040 AD. It was played for inviting Atisha, one of the great Indian Buddhist Masters, who was invited by Lha-Tsun Jang Chup-Woe to preach Buddhism in Tibet.

The Dung-Chen is always played in pairs. A Dunch-Chen is around ten to twelve feet in length. For portability, it is fashioned of four or five separate sections which telescope into each other.

Gya-Ling The Tibetan Reed Shawm

The Gya-Ling as known in Tibetan Language is one the traditional ritual instrument made from a hardwood bore, such as teak or black rosewood. It is a type of flute instrument derived from Indian tradition and named Gya-Ling with reference to its source. It is highly decorated with an elaborate, gilded copper, bell-shaped trumpet end, and a reed mouthpiece with a small resonator made of beaten metal.

It has seven holes at the front and one at the back, quite similar to the Western recorder and its wooden bore is decorated with copper wire, coiled between each holes. Like the long horns, the Gya-Ling is also played in pairs.

Kang Ling: The short Tibetan Horn

The short Tibetan Horn or Kang-Ling is another type of flute ritual instrument that bears same name as the human thighbone trumpet, yet as a monastic instrument it is usually made from beaten brass like long horn, but much smaller in measurement. It is highly decorated with a makara head near the horn end. Its mouthpiece is either rounded like the thighbone trumpet, or has a circular lipped mouthpiece. It is also plays in pairs and is used in both peaceful and wrathful rituals.

Cymbals: Sil Nyan and Bub

These two types of Cymbals are one of the important ritual instruments use for both peaceful and wrathful ritual ceremonies. The smaller pair of Cymbals, “Sil Nyan”, is the flat cymbals with a low central boss, which are held vertically when playing. The larger pairs of Cymbals “Bub” are held horizontally and mainly used in the rites of wrathful deities.

Both pair of Cymbals have cloth handles issuing from their centres, and are played with clashing, rolling, rotating, and muting techniques.

The Ritual Drum: Choe-Nga

The Ritual Drum Choe-Nga is used for both monastic rites of peaceful and wrathful deities along with other ritual instruments. There are a few types of ritual drums, such as the ceremonial drum, the large drum and the small drum. These ritual drums are decorated with silk scarf and paintings. A pair of wooden sickle-shaped drumsticks is use for beating these drums and the drumstick has a padded skin tip and handle.

The Ritual Kar-dung

The Kar-Dung (Sanskrit shankha; Conch Shell) has survived as the original horn trumpet since time immemorial. Ancient Indian epics describe how each hero of mythical warfare carried a mighty white conch shell, which often bore a personal name. Vajrayana Buddhism absorbed the conch as a symbol which fearlessly proclaimed the truth of the dharma. Among the eight symbols, it stands for the fame of the Buddha’s teaching, which spreads in all directions like the sound of the conch trumpet.

Traditionally, the conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism for various ritual purposes; such as for ritual instrument during the prayer ceremony, for making offering, for ritual auspicious symbol and so forth. During actual ritual ceremony, it is played in paired with other ritual instrument.
Ancient Indian belief classifies the conch into male and female varieties. The thicker-shelled bulbous one is thought to be the male (purusha), and the thin-shelled slender conch to be the female (shankhini).

Additionally, there is a fundamental classification of conch shells occurring in nature: those that turn to the left and those which turn to the right. Shells which spiral to the right in a clockwise direction are a rarity and are considered especially sacred. The right-spiraling movement of such a conch is believed to echo the celestial motion of the sun, moon, planets and stars across the heavens. The hair whorls on Buddha’s head spiral to the right, as do his fine body hairs, the long curl between his eyebrows (urna), and also the conch-like swirl of his navel.