Conch Shell (Shankha/शंख) has an important role in Hindu worship system. We only know about a few types of conch shells, but the world of conch shells is very vast, which are used in various types of religious rituals and eating purposes.
So let us know – what is it and why does it have religious significance? Do check out our other exciting articles and don’t forget to share our articles. 🔮 Cool Facts
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| What is a conch shell?
The conch is nothing but the shell or shell of a large sea snail. In science, it is a gastropod mollusc of the Strombidae family. The gastropods commonly known as snails and slugs, belong to a large taxonomic class of invertebrates within the phylum Mollusca called Gastropoda.
Strombidae, commonly known as the true conchs, is a taxonomic family of medium-sized to very large sea snails in the superfamily Stromboidea, and the Epifamily Neostromboidae.
Snails in the family Strombidae are used by humans in a wide range of ways, mostly as food or decoration. But Some species have been used in human culture for centuries. In the Caribbean, Bermuda and southeastern United States, the queen conch ‘Aliger gigas‘ is sought after for its conch pearls, which have been used in jewelry since the Victorian era.
But in Indian culture it becomes more important because of its religious value. What is the religious value of these conch shells; We are going to discuss briefly but first remember that these are of many types, which you can see in the pictures, but most of the conch shells of this family are not of our religious importance. Conch shells of religious importance to us mostly belong to the Turbinellidae family.
All small and large species of such live shellfish or snails are eaten as seafood in East Asia and other countries of the world.
Many creatures of this family are also found around us. As you must have recognized it, although it has nothing to do with the sea. It lives on land or in fresh water only.
Many such creatures living on land or in fresh water are also eaten in North India. For example you can see below a creature of the same family which is eaten in Bihar, in North Bihar it is commonly called Doka.
Overall, conch-like species are also from the Strombidae family and also from the Turbinellidae family. But remember here that the type of conch that is of our religious importance mainly belongs to the family Turbinellidae family, which we call Turbinella pyrum, which looks something like this.
These species are sometimes known as “chanks” or “chank shells”. One species in this genus is the sacred chank, Turbinella pyrum; We call it “Shankha” for the cultural and religious use.
| Types and Characteristics of Conch Shell
As we know, it is used as a blowing instrument by piercing the spiral spire of the conch shell. The sound emitted by different types of conch shells is also different. In its earliest references, the conch is described as a trumpet and thus became a symbol of Vishnu.
The surface of the shell is hard, brittle and translucent. Like all snail shells, its interior is hollow. The inner surface of the shell is very shiny and smooth. In Hinduism, shiny, white, soft conch shells and heavy with pointed ends are most sought after.
Depending on the direction of coiling, there are two varieties of conch shell: Vamavarta and Dakshinavarta shankha.
In Hinduism, a Dakshinavarta shankha is a symbol of infinite space and is associated with Vishnu. The Vamavarta shankha represents the reversal of the laws of nature and is associated with Shiva.
The Dakshinavarta shankha conch shell is believed to be the abode of Goddess Lakshmi. This type of conch is considered ideal for medicinal use. It is a very rare variety from the Indian Ocean.
The Dakshinavarta shankha (conch shell) is considered a rare “jewel” or gemstone and is adorned with great qualities. It is also believed that it bestows longevity, fame and wealth in proportion to its brightness, whiteness and spaciousness. Even if there is a defect in such a conch, offering it in gold restores the properties of the conch.
Why do conch shells have religious significance?
It is used as a blowing instrument by piercing the spiral spire of similar conch shells. The sound emitted by different types of conch shells is also different.
According to Hindu belief, one of the fourteen gems obtained from the churning of the ocean is a conch shell. Both Lakshmi and Vishnu hold conch shell in their hands.
According to the Vedas, the sound of conch shells is a symbol of victory. The war of Mahabharata also begins with the sound of conch shells by different warriors.
Krishna blew Panchjanya, Yudhishthira Anant Vijay, Bhima Paundra, Arjuna Devadatta, Nakula Sughosh and Sahadeva blew the conch shells Manipuspaka. At the same time, the name of Bhishma’s conch was Gaganabh, Duryodhana’s conch was vidaraka and Karna’s conch was Hiranyagarbha.
It is a belief that the sound emanating from conch shells is of a particular frequency. So that it has a positive effect on the environment there. The whole atmosphere becomes devotional, hence it is considered a sacred energy and symbol of Om sound.
According to the Brahmavaivarta Purana, the conch is a deity like the moon and the sun. Varuna resides in the central part, Brahma in the back and Ganga and Saraswati in the front.
Usually the conch shell opens on the opposite hand side. The conch shell of Lakshmi is going to open in the Dakshinavarti i.e. on the right hand side. On the other hand, the conch shell of Vishnu is going to open on the Vamavarti i.e. on the opposite hand side.
In Buddhism, the conch is included as one of the eight auspicious symbols, also known as the Ashtamangala. The right-facing white conch, representing the elegant, deep, melodious and pervasive sound of Buddhism, awakens the disciples from a deep sleep of ignorance and urges them to fulfill their own well-being and that of others .
uses of conch
In Ayurveda medicinal formulations, conch is used to treat many diseases. It is prepared in the form of conch shell. Shankha bhasma contains calcium, iron and magnesium and is believed to have acidity and digestive properties.
It was used as a votive offering and as a charm to keep away the dangers of the sea. It was the earliest known sound-producing instrument as a manifestation of sound, and other elements came later, so it is considered the origin of the elements. It is identified by the elements themselves.
At the time of worship in Hindu temples and homes, the conch is blown. It is also used to bathe images of deities, especially Vishnu, and for ritual purification.
Shankh is used as a material for making bangles, bracelets and other items. Due to its aquatic origin and resemblance to the vulva, it is also said to represent female fertility. In ancient Greece, shells with pearls are also mentioned as a symbol of sexual love and marriage, and the mother goddess.
Various magic and sorcery objects are also closely associated with this trumpet. This type of device existed long before the Buddhist period. Hindu women also wear bangles made of conch shells. It looks something like this.
The conch was the royal state emblem of Travancore and was also inscribed on the royal flag of the Kingdom of Jaffna. It is also the election symbol of the Indian political party Biju Janata Dal. The conch shell was also used by the Sikh warriors before starting the war. Maryada is still performed by all Nihangs while performing Aarti prayers and is also used in Hola Mohalla festival.
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