bells in Southwest Asia
Tiger bells are of the
shop 'Aarde, werelds wonen'
(Amsterdam), Dolf Heubers found several tiger bells, together
with other bells from Pakistan. Shop owner Marcel van den Burg
gave the following details:
bought the bells from an Afghan trader in a bazaar in Peshawar.
According to the trader the bells come from the border area between
Pakistan and Afghanistan and are 10
to 20 years old. In certain areas, such as Kailash, where Islam
is not the major religion, the bells are used as a personal adornment
on clothes, such as a head dress (I have not seen this myself).
In other areas the bells are used as animal bells (goats, sheep);
never just one bell, but several on a belt. The bells are supposedly
made in a local Afghan foundry.
The tiger bells are
similar to a.o. the tiger bells from Kalimantan,
Tiger bell from furniture
shop De Wereld,
The bell's dimensions are: wide 3,3 cm., high 3,1 cm., side 2,8 cm.,
hoop 1,1 cm
Tiger bell from furniture
shop De Wereld,
The bell's dimensions are: wide 3,4 cm., high 3,1 cm., side 2,3 cm.,
hoop 0,9 cm.
van den Burg traveled again to the area again in June and July 2005.
have received contradicting information and it is difficult to make
any sense of it. Almost everywhere bringing up the subject led to
great surprise. No one had ever paid any attention to the bells. People
were however very willing to think and remember but this did not always
lead to consistent answers.
to one well known Afghan trader all smaller bronze bells that are
locally for sale come from the Punjab, in Pakistan. Only the larger
bells, without any design and mainly used for camels, were produced
in local foundries. The trader does not know any foundries that are
still operating and he thinks that the bells still available are therefore
at least 20 to 30 years old, many often much older.
is not consistent with what I have heard from a Pakistani trader.
He told me he buys smaller bells that are produced and sold in Afghanistan
and in the border area with Pakistan. However he did not know of any
foundry still in operation.
seen myself that the nomadic Kuchi's adorn their goats and sheep with
small bronze bells. Donkeys and an occasional elephant have bells
on their sides
The fact that the
design probably is a tiger's head did not 'ring a bell'. No one
had ever given it a thought
idea that tiger bells were made in a local foundry should therefore
in 2005, by Dolf Heubers. One bell donated to the author in
2006, the second bell in 2012.
the same shop, Dolf Heubers found another tiger bell. This bell
too was acquired by shop owner Marcel van den.Burg in the border
area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The
bell is a fine example of a classic A-type tiger bell and identical
to some of the bells seen in Mongolia, Siberia
and Southeast Asia. The bell is therefore most likely not locally
made but must have arrived into the region from East Asia.
A type tiger bell from
the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area,
identical to some tiger bells from East Asia.
dimensions are: wide 3,3 cm., high 3,2 cm., side 2,5 cm and hoop:
and donated to the author in 2012 by Dolf Heubers.
bronze tiger bell circa 1700-1800 AD from Afghanistan
/ Pakistan. 100% authentic, excellent condition, no
restoration. Views from both sides.
Photographs: courtesy annarbornazarene.org
this bell comes from the border area between Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Dimensions unknown, probably more or less similar
to the bells described above.
In a paper
Sufis, and Mystics, the author dr. Muhammad Humayun Sidky
describes the arrival of shamanism in Afghanistan:
Asia, shamanism was once prevalent among the Turkic peoples, originally
occupying the area of the Altai mountains. By the sixth century the
Turks had invaded the Central Asian steppes, bringing with them their
shamanistic beliefs along with cults of ancestors, stones, mountains,
and the earth goddess Otukan. Such beliefs seem to have been shared
by the Uzbeks of the Oxus delta, and the Mongols and Turkmen. The
concept of Tanggri, the heaven or sky deity, along with associated
shamanistic beliefs, was brought to Central Asia by the Hsiun-Nu (the
Huns). These people originally occupied the Mongolian steppes to the
northwest of China but, in the middle of the sixth century, were able
to conquer the Central Asian steppes and defeat the Hephthalites of
From the 7th
century Islam became more and more dominant. However in folk religion
many shamanistic rituals and practices have remained.
The full paper
can be found at:
is: Malang, Sufis and Mystics; an ethnographic and historical
study of shamanism in Afghanistan, published in the Asian
Folklore Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2 (1990), 275-301
are a mixed group who live in the northeast of Pakistan and central
and northeast Afghanistan. Some of their ancestors already lived
in the area during Buddhist times, between appr. 300 B.C. and
700 A.C. Another group are descendant of soldiers in the Mongol
armies that invaded many parts of Asia during the 13th to 15th
century. These soldiers were mostly Turkic from Central Asia,
and people of Mongolian origin. Both were animists and had shamans.
The soldiers arrived in northeast Pakistan and Afghanistan; many
settled there and mixed with the original inhabitants who had
by then converted to Islam.
bells found in the area were most likely brought there by the
shamans of the Mongols and the ancestors of the Hazara, during
the invasions in the 13th to 15th century. Muslims do not use
jingle bells or other types of bells, neither in religious nor
in profane activities. To them all types of bells are too closely
related to heathen practices. It is therefore remarkable that
several examples of tiger bells are reported in the Middle
East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and
Turkey. They probably survived as amulets
for humans, or, later, as ornaments for animals.
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