The sound of the Conch Shell or Shankha is synonymous with the beginning of something important in Sanatana Dharma (Hindu Dharma) and Buddhism for it symbolizes luster, brilliance, purity and auspicious beginning. It is considered to be a pious article and is used in all religious rituals.
The Origin of Shankha
It is widely believed that the first use of the Shankha took place during the Samudra Manthan or churning of the ocean. Legends have it that it was used and remained an object of benefaction during Samudra Manthan. Shankha is closely associated with Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. Lord Vishnu is usually portrayed holding a conch shell. It is believed that during the Samudra Manthan, the first conch shell appeared and it was followed by Goddess Lakshmi.
The God of Wealth is Lord Kubera – who is said to be in possession of eight auspicious jewels and one of them was Sankhanidhi.
In the epic era, the sankha remained an integral part of warfare. And wars restricted to daytime only. Thus the blowing of sankha during sunrise meant that war was on and again it used to be blown at dusk signifying retreat to the camps of night rest. It used to signify the victory signal as well.
Importance of Shankha
Hindu socio-religious ethos deeply embeds its importance of Shank. Shankh symbolizes the cosmic space which the attribute is sabda or sound. The resounding musical notes of sacred sankha rent the air when it is blown during the religious ceremonies, and thus the devotee’s emotions get expressed. In religious rituals, Shankh is used to announce the beginning of a prayer or arrival of deity and in some places, sacred water is collected and distributed in it.
While performing Lakshmi Puja, the conch shell is filled with milk and then it is poured over the idol. Water collected in Shankha is offered while worshipping the sun.
Sankha is basically an integral part of Vaishnavite symbology. The most famous Shankha is the Panchajanya of Lord Vishnu. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna and the five Pandavas had a separate Shankha, and it is referred at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita.
Types of Shankha
There are two types of Shankha – left handed conch shell and right-handed conch shell. Valampiri Shankha or Lakshmi Shankha is the right-handed conch shell and is considered auspicious.
Right-handed sankha is kept at home by many people as it is believed to bring wealth and prosperity. It is also associated with Kubera, the god of wealth. Many institutions and organizations employ the conch shell as their symbol.
Shankha is also part of classical Indian musical instruments, and there is also a mudra based on it in classical dance. There are also numerous legends associated with the Shankha in the vast Hindu literature.