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See this    Shankh in Hindu Scriptures;   site for the description of various Shankh     Shankh-2

What is Shankh? In English language we can say it conch shell. The Sanskrit word "Shankh" has the etymological meaning of pacifying the inauspicious (Sam, Unaadi-Sootra, 1:104, "Sanyati Shubham").

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
--Shankh represents a number - one hundred zillion (or 100,000,000,000,000,000) also.
--Shankh in Indian mythology is also the name given to one of the nine treasures held by the god of wealth, Kuber.
--There is an attendant of Kuber also called Shankhnidhi, and he is shown as a corpulent dwarf seated in an easy posture holding a conch shell in one of his two hands. His companion is Padmanidhi, who resembles Shankhnidhi in all particulars except that he holds a lotus in his hand instead of a conch shell.
--It is most characteristically associated with Vishnu, and is one of His four "Aayudh" weapon’, but employed in the sense of whatever is held in the hand usually found in his hands; the Discus (Chakra), the Mace (Gadaa) and the Lotus (Padm) being the other three than Shankh. The conch held by Vishnu is named Paanch-janya Shankh, even as the name of the Discus in His hand is Sudarshan and the name of His mace is Kaumodakee.

The Legends of Shankh or Conch Shell
Here are a few texts from Hindu Mythology about Sacredness of conch or Shankh in Hindu religion. Very intimately associated with the Shaalgraam are the sacred conch shells known as Shankh, which are also geological and biological specimens of great antiquity. The Shankh are marine fossil remains of the large gastropods (stomach-footed), especially "strombus gigas". They are shells of bi-valve mollusk (conchifera division of the mollusks). Mollusks are animals of the sea-shore, with soft bodies devoid of any bones but having hard shells.

Shankh and Vishnu
There is a legend which associates the conch shell with Vishnu. The conch shell is supposed to have appeared on earth from the bones of a demon called Shankhchood. Owing to a curse from Raadhaa (in Golok), the chief of Krishn ’s attendants (Paarshad), whose name was Sudaamaa, had to be born on the earth among mortals. He took the form of a mighty monster, who was lustrous and pompous. He, however, performed austerities in the Badaree Van in the Himaalayan ranges, and obtained the boon of an invincible Armor (Kavacha) from Brahmaa. The armor would without fail protect his life, until the armor itself was damaged, and the armor would be damaged only when the chastity of his spouse was violated. It was then that Devtaa requested Vishnu to destroy Shankhchood somehow, and save the worlds from his torments.

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.

The conch-shells are of many kinds, because the bones of Shankhchood’s body were of many shapes. Water in the conch-shell is dear to all gods because the conch-shell has the merit of taking a bath in all sacred streams. In the conch-shell dwells Vishnu, and wherever the conch-shell is, Vishnu too is there and there resides Lakshmee, warding off all evil.

Another Story
We also read in texts like Shaalgraam Moorti and Lakshan Sangraha, that the Shaalgraam, the Dwaarakaa stones, conch shell and Tulasee leaves represent the presence of Vishnu alike. This story, given in Brahma-Vaivart Puraan (Prakriti Khand), brings out the close relationship between the Shaalgraam stones, Tulasee leaves and the conch shell.

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
Shaalgraam are prescribed to be bathed in water or milk from the conch-shell; and Tulasee leaves are placed not only on the Shaalagraam but on the conch shell also. Before the worship of Vishnu begins, the conch shell is also worshipped (Shankhaarchanaa). The conch shell is then waved three times in front of the worshipped icon (Shankh Bhraman) in order to eradicate the ill-effects of the shadow of the icon - "Bimb-chhaayaa Dosh Parihaaram"). The conch-shell is filled with water, and the Dhenu-mudra is assumed by the hands, while the eight-lettered Mantra (Om Namo Naaraayanaaya) is recited. The first waving should be from the feet of the icon to the crown (Padaadi-Mukut-Paryant) , the second from the navel to the crown (Manjauado-Ilita-Paryanta), and the third one from the heart to the crown (Hradayaadi-Mukut-Paryant). The following verse is also uttered to signify that the water in the conch-shell (Shankh Teerth) has now acquired beneficial curative and protective properties.

Shankh as a Means of Announcement
In Indian Mythology, the use of these shells to announce the commencement of an encounter on the battle-field has been mentioned in the great epic Mahaabhaarat. In the Bhagavad Geetaa, the loud roar of the conch shells blown by the Paandav army is said to have unnerved the Kaurav (Geetaa 1:9).

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
The form of the conch-shell is imitated in a particular hand-gesture (Mudraa) employed in classical dance as well as in ritualistic worship. It is known as "Shankh Mudraa", belonging to the "Sanyut" variety (where both the hands are used together).

Many Kinds of Conch Shells
The conch-shell that are worship-worthy are obtained on the sea coasts of Madraas, Puree (Jagannaath Puree), Raameshwaram and Sri Lankaa. Broadly, there are two varieties : (1) those with right-ward convolution (Dakshinaavartee) and (2) those with left-ward convolution (Vaamvartee). The former are said to be rare, and are supposed to occur in two sub-varieties : (1) male (Purush), the conch-shell which have thick and coarse crust, and (2) female (Shankhinee), the conch-shells called in Tamil as "Vallam-puree" and in Kannad "Balamooree", are held exceedingly holy, and are themselves worshipped. Varaah Puraan (the chapter on Prabodhinee Mahaatmya) tells us that water from this conch when sprinkled on one’s head and sipped will eliminate all sins.

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.

Paanchjanya Shankh
Paanchjanya Shankh belongs to Vishnu or Krishn. It is believed that Panchjan Daitya lived in this Shankh and when Krishn killed him, to bring His Guru's dead son back, He brought that Shankh also with Him. He offered that Shankh to His Guru Saandeepan Jee but Saandeepan Jee politely refused to accept it, so He kept it. According to its name (Panch + jan) it may be meaning that it has five ridges which we find only in Vallampuree Lakshmee Shankh, so it may be believed that the Shankh with five ridges was the best Lakshmee Shankh available in those days and if we now get five ridged Vallampuree or higher ridges it is even more fortunate.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 03/29/13