Sankh (Conch or Sea Shell) has great importance in Ayurveda.
It was used in warfare too by ancient Indians. Krishna’s Conch Paanchajanya, Arjun’s Conch Devdatt, Bheema’s Paundra , Yudhisthira’s Anantavijaya, Nakula’s Sughosa and Sahadeva’s Manipushpaka were extensively used in Mahabharat’s Kurukshetra war.
Warriors of ancient India used to blow conches to announce commencement of war.
Scientific Name : Turbinella pyrum
Common Name : Conch, Shankh (Hindi), Sangu (Tamil), Shankha (Sanskrit), Sankham (Telugu).
Distribution : Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Khambat, and near the Narmada river mouth.
Conch shell is a major object used in prayer by Hindus and Buddhists. It is used as a trumpet to get rid of negative energy and evil spirits.
is also blown to invoke Siva. The special relation between the conch (sankha ) and Siva is evident from the similarity between the word Sankha and the word Sankara, which is one of Siva’s many names.
The word Sankara could have been derived from Sankha-kara which means conch-blower (hankha = conch, Kara = blower).
The shankha is praised in Hindu scriptures as a giver of fame, longevity and prosperity, the cleanser of sin and the abode of Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu.
It is also used as a container for holy water ( shankha teertham ). The shankha (conch shell) mudra is also used during various tantric rituals and meditation.
The sound of the conch is associated with the sacred syllable AUM, the first sound of creation. Conches that spiral clockwise are said to symbolize the expansion of infinite space. These conches belong to Lord Vishnu, the preserver god. Conches that spiral counterclockwise are said to defy the “laws of nature,” and belong to the destroyer/transformation god, Lord Siva.
A powder made from the shell material is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, primarily as a cure for stomach ailments and for increasing beauty and strength.
Types of Shankha (Conch)
Dakshinavarti Shankha : Dakshinavarta or Dakshinavarti (“right-turned” as viewed with the aperture uppermost): This is the very rare sinistral form of the species, where the shell coils or whorls expand in a counterclockwise spiral if viewed from the apex of the shell.
Lord Kuber (God of wealth) resides in South and so this shankha represents wealth and prosperity. The sizes differ and can be from the size of a wheat grain to as large as a coconut. Dakshinavarti type of shankhas come from deep seas and are very rare. They’re considered as form of Goddess Lakshmi and kept wrapped in a white cloth at any sacred place or the place of worship or the locker in the house. It is believed to bring good fortune to the person and his family.
Vamavarti Shankha : This is the very commonly occurring dextral form of the species, where the shell coils or whorls expand in a clockwise spiral when viewed from the apex of the shell.
The special geometry of a natural shankha creates a positive energy field and so they are used as Yantras.
Astrologers also recommend the types of shankha and the location where these are to be placed to control negative planetary effects.
Blowing of a Vaamavarti shankha removes the ill effects of negative energies and it purifies our surroundings and soul.
There are many more types of conches like Gaumukhi, Ganesha, Kauri, Moti, Heera etc.
The primordial sound of creation, that is the ‘ Omkar‘ or ‘ Pranavanadham‘ , is what emits when a conch is blowed.
Ayurvedic Usage of Shankha (Conch / Sea Shell)
- Store some water in a conch overnight and next morning massage your skin with this water. This cures many skin diseases, rashes, allergies etc. It also cures ‘white spots‘ on skin if process repeated for a month.
- Store water overnight as above and in morning, add ‘rose water‘ to it. Wash your hair with this mixture. Natural color of hair will restored within few days. This can be used to wash eyebrows, moustache and beard too. Hair will become smooth.
- If you suffer from stomach pain, indigestion, laceration in the intestines, drink two spoons of this overnight shankha stored water.
- Take equal amount of overnight shankha stored water and normal water. Mix them and wash your eyes to increase eye sight. Take this water in your palm and dip your open eye into it. Move the eyeball from left to right rapidly for few seconds and remove it. This will cure dry eyes, pus in eyes and many eye related problems.
- Wrinkles on skin can be reduced by rubbing with a Conch on face and neck after bath. Glow of skin will increase naturally.
- Dark Circles under eyes can be cured by gently rubbing with Conch for 5 minutes per day before sleep.
- Shankha Bhasma : is an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from Conch shell and is used in treatment of gastritis, abdominal pain, malabsorption syndrome etc. It is a coolant and improves skin color and complexion.
- A compound pill called Shankavati is also prepared for use in dyspepsia. In this case, the procedure followed is to mix shankha bhasma with tamarind seed ash, five salts (panchlavana), asafoetida, ammonium chloride, pepper, carui, caraway, ginger, long pepper, purified mercury and aconite in specified proportions. It is then triturated in juices of lemon and made into a pill-mass. It is prescribed for vaata (wind/air) and pitta (bile) ailments, as well as for beauty and strength.
Religious Importance of Shankha (Conch)
Shankha has tremendous religious importance among the Bengalis. Conch bangles ( Shankha porana ) made of conch shell are worn by Bengali Hindu women as ornaments at their weddings as a religious rite. During recitation of wedding hymns, the father of the bride gives her a pair of conch bangles. The groom also brings a pair for her. Hindu women wear conch bangles with utmost devotion seeking the well being of their husbands.
Even in Buddhism, the conch shell has been incorporated as one of the eight auspicious symbols, also called Ashtamangala. The right-turning white conch shell (Tibetan: དུང་གྱས་འཁྱིལ, Wylie: dung gyas ‘khyil), represents the elegant, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma, which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others.
Shankha was the Royal State Emblem of Travancore and also figured on the Royal Flag of the Jaffna Kingdom. It is also the election symbol of the Indian political party Biju Janata Dal.