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See this Shankh in Hindu Scriptures; site for the description of various Shankh Shankh-2
Shankh? In English language we can say it conch shell.
Shaastra say "bone" is impure, BUT, Conch Shell (Indian Turbinella Pyrum) is super-pure, even to bathe the Deities. Even Lakshmee and Her Lord Naaraayan carry one in Their hand. Shaastra doesn't say any shell or every shell is pure, it's only Indian Shankh (Turbinella Pyrum) that is pure. And these come in two types, normal left side opening, and special right side opening (Valaampuree Dakshin-vartee Turbinella Pyrum).
Both are ruled by Goddess Lakshmee. It is not required to have right-side opening. Left side (normal) opening Shankh is also perfect for Poojaa. And Lakshmee Shankh is even better than perfect. It is said by Conchologists that only one Lakshmee Shank is found among 1,000 normal Indian Shankh. And all Indian Shankh are pure and auspicious.
But common Lightning Whelk (busycon contrarium), with no internal formation and no ridges in the conch cavity - is a bogus non-pure shell. And as you mention so many temples use this non-conch shell, and they're doing Poojaa with an impure non-conch shell simply because they have been hoodwinked by con men. It is embarrassing to know that temples use the wrong shell. And in many temples they openly display the fact that they have been cheated on a bogus Conch. And worse than that, they tell the public that they have a real Shree Lakshmee Conch, even though that is untrue.
Fact: The left side opening or the right side opening Turbinella Pyrum Indian Conch - with 3 to 7 ridges in the conch cavity, and special internal structure is the only Shankh that is Vaidik. The normal left-side opening Conch is of very low price, even less than the bogus ones (Lightning Whelk), and only the Indian Shankh is correct for Poojaa. Genuine Vallampuree Lakshmee Shankh, Turbinella Pyrum Conch shells are sold by gram by weight. Normal size is about 60-120 grams. Depending on quality and number of ridges in the conch cavity they sell for between Rs. 1,000 up to Rs. 3,000 per gram. This means that a genuine Lakshmee Shank can be had for a few thousand dollars ONLY.
Shankh in Indian Mythology
The Legends of Shankh or Conch Shell
Shankh and Vishnu
Vishnu presented a mighty spear (Shool) to Lord Shiv, to fight with the demon, and sent him to provoke the demon for and encounter. As Shiv was fighting with Shankhchood, Vishnu took the form of Shankhchood and went to Tulasee (Shankhchood's wife), inviting her for amorous play. Tulasee not realizing that it was not really her husband, yielded to him. Her chastity was thus lost, and immediately Shiv was able to break the armor of Shankhchood into pieces, and kill him.
Tulasee, when she discovered the fraud played on her, became grief-stricken, inconsolable, and cursed Vishnu to become a stone for his hard-heartedness (Paashaano bhava, yatah paashaana-hradayo hyasi). Soon she realized that it was Vishnu, her own Lord, and fell at His feet, imploring him to forgive her. Vishnu, asked her to leave her body and allow her spirit to ascend to Golok. She would, there, become one with Lakshmee. Her body here would be transformed into a holy stream in the Himaalayan ranges and will be called as Gandakee River, and Vishnu would dwell in her bosom as Shaalgraam stones; her tresses of hair would become the sacred plant called Tulasee. The bones of her husband here, Shankhchood, would become the holy conch shell of different types which would be employed in the worship of Vishnu.
There are slight variations in the story, as for instance, in Padm Puraan, where Shankhachood and Tulasee become Jalandhar and Vrindaa. But the involvement of Vishnu in the story is prominent, and the prohibition against the use of conch-shell in the worship of Shiv is explained by the fight that Shankhchood by Shiv. The conch-shell is sacred for all other gods, and it especially signifies the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. We read in the Puraan quoted above (Brahm-Vaivart, Prakrti-khand, 18, 1-7):
Shankh and Shaalgraam
Shankh as a Means of Announcement
In the Geetaa, we read that Krishn’s conch shell was named "Paanch-janya", Bheem’s conch shell's name was "Paundra". Yudhishthira’s conch shell's name was "Anant Vijaya", Nakul’s conch shell's name was "Sughosh" and Sahadev’s conch shell's name was "Mani-pushpak" (Geetaa 1:15-16). Each of the other prominent warriors like Dhrishtdyumn, Saatyaki, Shikhandee, Drupad etc had their own conch shell to blow. The loud sound from the conch shell is described as "Ghosh", "Shankh-rav", or "Shankh-svan".
Shankh in Other Religions
And in religious lore, especially in Buddhism as well, it is one of the eight auspicious signs (Asht-Mangal), the other seven knot (Granthi), wheel (Chakra), banner (Pataakaa), and a pair of fish (Meen). The conch shell here symbolizes the Dharm teaching (Dharm Shankh), even as the Parasol stands for the Divine protection, Vase for Immortality, Flower for Mercy, Knot for Eternity, Wheel for truth and Banner for victory.
Shankh in Indian Dance
Many Kinds of Conch Shells
According to Skand Puraan, the sacred conch-shell must be dazzling white in color, like cow’s milk, and must have a long neck and broad body; it must be long in the front portion. When blown, it should emit a long central line. The right-convoluted shell is meritorious.
Not all forms of conch-shell obtained from the sea are suitable to be used in worship. They are all bi-valve shells (Shambook), and many occur in many colors. The wise folk can discern the acceptable characteristics (Lakshan) in them. The good conch shell are available only at some places, and not everywhere in the ocean.
The Skand Puraan (Setu Mahaatmya section) eulogizes the seaside in Raameshwaram in different sites: Paundra Shankh where the river Kaaveree joins the sea; Anant Vijaya Shankh in the Eastern coast near Somnath; Mani-pushpak Shankh in Agni Teerth to the West of Raameshwaram in the South; Sughosh Shankh in Shankh Teerth in the region between the Vat (a collection of sixteen Vat trees - banyan trees, in Vajra Mandal on the banks of the river Yamunaa) and the sea; Paanchajanya Shankh in Kush-sthalee (another name for Dwaarakaa, more particularly Chakra Teeth), and Devdatt Shankh in the region where the river Taamraparnee flows and the shrine to Sangameshwar is located. Of these varieties, the text says that Paanchjanya Shankh is the best.
Harivansh (89:15-17) discusses a separate legend of Shankh and associates Paanchjanya Shankh with Vishnu, because Krishna Killed the whale-demon called Panchajan in the seas, and the conch-shells were formed out the bones of this demon (‘pancha-jana daitya-viseshe bhavah pancha-janyah’, ‘pancha-jano nama daityah samudre timira-rupa asit; tad asthi-jatam’ etc). Amar Kosh gives Vishnu Shankh as the synonym of Paanchjanya Shankh. Sometimes, the name Paanchjanya is given to a rare and freak formation of a conch shell also in which the cavity contains within it another smaller conch-shell attached to it. A specimen preserved in the Chaamundeshwaree Temple atop the hill in Mysore contains still another (third) conch-shell. All good Shankh are said to be Paanchjanya Shankh.
The conch-shell, is said to have the preserve of all the gods and goddesses : Brahma on the seat of conch shell (Shankh Peeth or Shankhaadhaar), Soorya in the middle of the conch-shell, and Chandra at the tip. On the right side of the conch-shell are seated Aaditya, Varun, Som, Vaayu and Agni Dev. Shankh is presided over by the twin-gods Sun and Moon, and Varun is its deity. At the back of the conch shell is Prajaapati, and in front is the river-goddesses Gangaa and Saraswatee (Vaikhaanasagama). So even to look at a conch-shell, or to touch it would mean eradication of sins, like darkness disappearing on sunrise.
Worshipping of Vishnu without the employment of conch shell and without adoring it, would take away all the advantages of such worship; and this is the boon that Vishnu himself has bestowed on the conch shell. Even before the worship of Vishnu is commenced, one should bow before the conch-shell and worship it briefly. This would secure the fulfillment of all desires and the obtainment of Vishnu’s own realm. Vishnu or Shaalgraam Shilaa must be bathed in water through the conch-shell.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 03/29/13