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LEXICON

 

 

alms bowl

Container used by Buddhist monks to collect alms, rounded in shape and usually made of metal. Alms bowls have been in use for over 2,500 years and are still so today, for early morning bintabaat or alms-gathering by monks (fig.). It part of the borikaan, i.e. eight articles Buddhist monks are permitted to have for daily life. The process of alms bowl making is time-consuming allowing only a couple of bowls a day to be completed, though the entire process for each alms bowl to complete takes about five days. It can weigh around two kilos and is assembled of eight pieces of metal, representing the eight spokes of the dhammachakka, the Buddhist Wheel of Law, and the Eightfold Path (fig.). A first metal strip is beaten into a circular form to make the rim. Then three pieces are beaten to form a cross-like convex framework, with four triangular pieces fitting in to complete the sides. The bowl is then welded in a kiln and shaped. Afterwards it is repeatedly rubbed smooth and heated again to make its surface gleam (fig.). In Thai, they are called baat and they can be covered with a lid called fah baat. It is generally carried in a talokbaat, a removable bag with shoulder strap. It can also be placed on a stand, usually woven from thinly cleaved rattan-like bamboo sticks and strips called tok, and referred to as kha baat (ขาบาตร). Many new alms bowls are mass-produced, but traditional handmade alms bowls are still made today in Bangkok's Ban Baat or ‘Alms Bowl Village’, off Bamrung Meuang Road in Pomprap Sattruphai district, where this fading craft has been passed down over generations. Here, different styles of bowls of varied complexity are produced, i.e. the original and traditionally rather angular shaped baat song thai deum, i.e. ‘old-shaped Thai alms bowl’; the compressed, flat-bottomed, old-style baat song takoh, i.e. ‘persimmon (fig.)-shaped alms bowl’; the rounded baat song manao, i.e. ‘lemon-shaped alms bowl’; the small, low-rimmed baat song look chan, i.e. ‘Gold Apple-shaped alms bowl’; and baat song hua seua, i.e. ‘tiger head (fig.)-shaped alms bowl’, with a cutback base, that allows for it to be placed on the floor. Whereas the first two models have been in use for centuries, the manao and look chan styles have been in use for around 90 years, while the newest tiger head model has been in use for about 30 years only. Alms bowl are sometimes called begging-bowl. See also kapala and tiab.