Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet
In Hindu and Buddhist religions it is a common practice to offer sound to god along with other offerings like flowers, fruits, water, incense and fire by way of lamp. Hindus offer sound by blowing conch or ring a bell. Buddhist, particularly Tibetan Buddhists offer sound by blowing a trumpet. This trumpet is called Tibetan Dungchen and also Rag-dung. This trumpet is a prayer trumpet or a prayer horn. This musical instrument is used by Buddhist monks as a “sound offering”. This trumpet is also called Lava in Tibetan and Kaa in Nepali. The Dung-chen trumpet is also to be found in Bhutan and the northern mountainous tip of India, Laddakh and it is known as Thunchen in these parts.
The design of the Trumpet
The length of the trumpet when stretched fully is 36 inches long and when collapsed it is 15 inches. This is telescoping in construction consisting of 3 sections. All the sections are collapsible and in collapsed position the top two sections will rest in the bottom large section. The narrow mouth end section is made up of partly copper and partly silver. The trumpet starts with a small size mouthpiece and arches out and ends with wide opening. The mouth end piece has a hole of o.5 inches diameter and into this hole a separate cup like mouth piece that has a small hole of 0.2 inches diameter is screwed tightly. The cup size is 2 inches diameter. It is through this cup like mouth piece that air is blown for producing the sound. The wide end opening is 7 inches diameter.
There are large ring like trims on the outer side of the trumpet while inside is smooth telescopic hallow wind pipe made of copper. The trims are riveted with beautiful silver sheet that has intricate design. The trumpet gives a very beautiful look with copper shining with pink colour and silver with white colour.
How the trumpet is played
The trumpet is always kept on the horizontal position at the time of blowing. The trumpet is played by blowing air into the cup at the narrow end .The other end of the trumpet is always kept on an elevated position above the ground may be on a wooden stool or a plank.
The Tradition of Trumpet blowing
Traditionally the Dungchen trumpet is used in Tibetan monasteries at the time of Praying, ceremonies, rituals and offerings .For The Tibetan Buddhist monks, the divine sound produced by the Dungchen trumpet is associated with the pooja and rituals of Buddhist practices. In Buddhism pooja is a ritual of meditation on one of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas and prayers are offered for invoking the blessings from them. Traditionally the Thunchen trumpet is normally used in pairs. Thunchen trumpeters, called as Thunchen pa, proclaim the beginning of the ceremonies from the temple known as Gamba and these trumpets also escort ritual dances .The thunchen trumpets vary in length from 3 feet to 15 feet .They are exceedingly unwieldy and hence the flared end of the trumpet is kept on a special stand or on the shoulders of the other monks. Traditionally Thunchen trumpets are played in pairs most of the time. The sound of the trumpet is considered as the singing of the elephants.
The story about this trumpet
I have acquired this magnificent trumpet in the year 1968 from the Maha Raja of Vijayanagaram at their Chennai residence. There was a clearance sale of so many items in their house. It is evident from their looks that they are not used from so many years. I have purchased this trumpet along with a copper hanging candle light holder with delicate filigree work. I will introduce the candle holder at a later stage in this website. The trumpet I purchased may not be in use since decades. The whole item was tarnished and almost black in colour. At the time of picking the item I could not make out with what metal is the trumpet is made .It is only by instinct that I have purchased this item with the guess that the Maha Raja should be having something special only in his Palace. Later when I went home and cleaned the item, I could realise with astonishment that it is made out of silver and copper metals. This is a rare antique piece and a pride possession in my collection. They make an excellent decorative item when hanged on a wall or made to stand next to an antique chair. This trumpet is in perfect condition.