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 Samundra 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 Samdura Manthan, first conch shell appeared and it was followed by Goddess Lakshmi
The God of wealth in Hindu mythology is Kuber- who is said to be in possession of eight auspicious jewels and one of them was Sankhanidhi.
In the epic era, the shankh remained an integral part of warfare. And wars restricted to day time only. Thus the blowing of shankh 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 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 shankh rent the air when it is blown during the religious ceremonies, and thus the devotee 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 Shankh is offered while worshipping the sun.
Shankh is basically an integral part of vaishnavite symbology. The most famous Shankha is the Panchajanaya of Lord Vishnu. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna and the five Pandavas had a separate conch shell, and it is referred in the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita.
Types of Shankh
There are two types of Shankh – left handed conch shell and right handed conch shell. Valampiri Shankh or Lakshmi Shankh is the right handed conch shell and is considered auspicious.
Right handed conch shell is kept at home by many people as it is believed to bring wealth and prosperity. It is also associated with Kubera, god of wealth. Many institutions and organizations employ conch shell as their symbol.
Shankh 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 and myths associated with the conch shell in the vast Hindu literature.