Shankh: Emanates The Sound of Om Which Helps To Purify The Energies And Fills Positive Vibes
Found in the depths of oceans, Shankha also known as conch shell is a natural home of sea snails to protect them from predators. As the creatures grow, they cast it away. But being the natural wonder, shankh is considered auspicious and its sound emanates the sound of Om which helps to purify the energies. The shankha is praised in Hindu scriptures as a giver of fame, longevity and prosperity, the cleanser of sin and the abode of goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of prosperity and consort of Lord Vishnu.
Shankh or shankham in Sanskrit, stands for shum, meaning something good, and kham, meaning water. Shankham literally means ‘the conch which holds the sacred water’. Therefore in religious rituals, a shankh is used at the beginning of prayers or any auspicious beginning. The sound is linked with hope and the removal of obstacles. Water kept in a conch shell is sprinkled while performing pujas to cleanse and purify the space. It's healing and vibrational sound fills the surroundings with positive vibrations.
In Buddhism, shankha is one of the eight auspicious symbols called 'Ashtamangala' and represents the elegant, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of Buddhism. Here the conch symbolizes fearlessness in proclaiming the truth of the dharma, and his call to awaken and work for the benefit of others.
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In Hinduism, the shankha is a sacred emblem of Lord Vishnu and has religious ritual importance. Lord Vishnu's images, either in sitting or standing posture, show him holding the shankha usually in his left upper hand, while Sudarshana Chakra, gada and padma (lotus flower) decorate his upper right, the lower left and lower right hands, respectively. Besides Lord Vishnu, other deities are also pictured holding the shankha that includes Surya-the sun god, Indra-the king of heaven and god of rain, Kartikeya-the war god, the goddess Vaishnavi and the warrior goddess Durga.
In the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the symbol of Shankha is widely adopted. In the Ramayana epic, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna are considered part-incarnations of Sheshanaga, Sudarshana Chakra and Shankha, respectively, while Rama, their eldest brother, is considered one of the ten Avatars of shri Vishnu.
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It is said that Lord Vishnu descended as Sri Krishna in the Mahabharata period, and he had a conch shell called Panchajanya. During the great Mahabharata war, Arjun resounds the Panchajanya to declare war. Panchajanya in Sanskrit means 'having control over the five classes of beings'. All five Pandava brothers are described having their own shankhas. Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva are described to possess shankhas named Ananta-Vijaya, Poundra-Khadga, Devadatta, Sughosha and Mani-pushpaka, respectively.
The shankha is also used to bathe images of deities, especially Lord Vishnu, and for ritual purification. Brahma Vaivarta Purana declares that shankha is the residence of both Lakshmi and Vishnu, bathing by the waters led through a shankha is considered like bathing with all holy waters at once. Sankha Sadma Purana declares that bathing an image of Vishnu with cow milk is as virtuous as performing a million yajnas (fire sacrifices), and bathing Lord Vishnu with Ganges river water frees one from the cycle of births. It further says "while the mere sight of the conch (shankha) dispels all sins.
But conch is not used in the worship of Lord Shiva, he is neither given water from the conch nor is the conch blown in the worship of Shiva. There is a legend about the prohibition of the conch shell in the worship of Shiva, which is mentioned in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. According to. the legends, the deities were disturbed by the atrocities of the demon Shankhachud. Then, at the behest of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva killed him with his trident, after which his body was consumed and the conch shell originated from those ashes. That is why conch shells or their water are not used in the worship of Lord Shiva.
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Besides the spiritual aspects, blowing a shankh has several health benefits. It is a great exercise for the diaphragm, chest, neck muscles as well as the urinary tract and bladder. As you blow the conch, your lung muscles get expanded, improving their aerial capacity. Conch blowing is thus an exercise for strengthening one's thyroid glands and vocal cords. In fact, children with stammering or speech impairment issues are trained to blow the conch in the right way, which helps in correcting speech problems. While blowing conches, you are required to keep the spine erect to ensure a perfect outflow of the air.
Shankha is also used in Ayurveda medicinal formulations to treat many ailments. It is prepared as conch shell ash, known in Sanskrit as shankha bhasma, which is prepared by soaking the shell in lime juice and calcinating in covered crucibles, 10 to 12 times, and finally reducing it to powder ash. Shankha bhasma contains calcium, iron and magnesium and is considered to possess antacid and digestive properties.
Keeping shankh at home attracts peace, prosperity and luck. It is known to keep negative energies at bay and invite positivity. Sprinkle water with a conch shell all over the house to remove negative energies. And regularly blowing the conch nullifies the Vastu doshas.
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Different Shankha Varieties:
Dakshinavarti Shankh: 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. This is believed to be the abode of the prosperity goddess Lakshmi the consort of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha Purana tells that bathing with the Dakshinavarta shankha frees one from sin. Skanda Purana narrates that bathing Lord Vishnu with this shankha grants freedom from sins of seven previous lives.
A Dakshinavarta shankha is considered to be a rare "jewel" and is adorned with great virtues. It is also believed to grant longevity, fame and wealth proportional to its shine, whiteness and largeness. Even if such a shankha has a defect, mounting it in gold is believed to restore the virtues of the shankha. Right-handed or dakshinavarti conch shells should be placed in the puja room designed in the north, the east or the northeast. A swastika should be drawn on this shankh and it should be worshipped with sandalwood, flowers and diya.
Vamavarti Shankh: 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. In Hinduism, a 'dakshinavarta shankha' symbolizes infinite space and is associated with Vishnu. The 'Vamavarta shankha' represents the reversal of the laws of nature and is linked with Lord Shiva. The blowing of a vamavarti shankh removes negative energies and purifies the surroundings. It is regarded as the brother of Goddess Lakshmi and a favourite of Lord Vishnu.
Gaumukhi shankh: Also known as panchmukhi shankh or five face Shankh is also called the cow conch. Keeping gaumukhi shankh in the temple gives the same blessings and benefits as that of keeping a cow. The cow is considered a sacred animal and a symbol of abundance. Keeping this shankh in a temple or pooja room can give you happiness and good luck.
Moti Shankh: This is considered one of the 14 precious gems found along with pearls deep down in the ocean. The pearl shell has a shiny texture and reflects light, believed to bring wealth and good fortune. It is believed that Goddess Saubhagya Lakshmi resides in this shankh.