Shankha:Epicenter of Bharatiya Heritage!

{ The shankha was the royal state emblem of the erstwhile, state of Travancore. Puri, in Orissa, is known as Shakkha-Kshetra. It is also the election symbol of the Indian political party, Biju Janta Dal. }

Shankha comes from the two Sanskrit words “Shum” which means something good and “Kham” meaning water. Hence the meaning of Shankam is conch holding the sacred water. It is also said word Shankara was been derived from Sankha-kara which means conch-blower (shankha means conch and Kara means blower).

Historical aspect ::
The sacred shell or conch is known as shankha in Sanskrit is a sacred and religious object in Hindu dharma, the sound of the shankha symbolizes the divine sound of Om. It derives its name from the demon Shankha asura, whom Bhagwan Vishnu had killed in his matsya avatar or fish incarnation by blowing om into the conch-shaped bone of the asura’s ear.

The Brahma Vaivarta Purana tells us about the creation of conches. Once Bhagwan Vishnu took a trident from BhagwanShiva and flung it at the demons, burning them instantaneously. Their ashes flew over to the Ksheersagar, creating conches. Shankha is also believed to be a brother of Lakshmi as both of them were born from the sea. Due to the association of shankha with water, serpents or nagas are named after it. Nagas mentioned in the Mahabharata, Harivamsha Purana and Bhagavat Purana include names like Shankha, Mahashankha, Shankhapala and Shankhachuda.

Brahma Vaivarta Purana declares the shankha as the abode of both Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. Images of Vishnu, sitting or standing, show the Bhagwan holding the shankha in his upper left hand, denoting dharma or righteousness. This sacred object is closely associated with Vishnu. Vishnu’s avatars, such as the matsya, kurma, varaha and narasimha are depicted holding the shankha along with other symbols of Vishnu.

Regional forms of Vishnu like Bhagwan Jagannath at Puri, in Orissa; Bhagwan Venkatesh at Balaji, in Andhra Pradesh; and Bhagwan Vitthal in Pandharpur, in Maharashtra are also pictured holding a shankha. Sometimes, Vishnu’s shankha is personified as ayudha purush. Similarly, Gaja Lakshmi idols show the goddess holding a shankha in her right hand.

In the Ramayana, Lakshmana, Bharata and are considered part incarnations of Chakra and Shankha, Shatrughna Sheshanaga, Sudarshana respectively.
During the war at Kurukshetra, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, Krishna, as the charioteer of Arjuna, blew his conch, the Panchajanya-which means having control over five classes of beings-to declare the beginning of the epic war. All the Pandava brothers had their own shankhas-Yudhishtira’s was called Ananta Vijaya; Bhima’s was called Poundra Khadga; Arjuna’s was Devadatta; Nakula’s was Sughosha; and Sahadeva’s was Mani Pushpaka.

The shankha has different names in different languages like in Sanskrit, Kannada, Marathi and Hindi, it is called shankha, in Gujarati, it is known as da-sukh, chanku in Tamil, soukham in Telugu and shaankh in Bengali.

Types of Shankhas::
There are mainly two types:

A shankha, in fact, is the shell of a large predatory sea snail-Turbinella pyrum-found in Indian waters. However, in English, the shell of this species is known as the ‘sacred conch’ or the ‘divine chank’.
Like all snail shells, the interior of this shell is hollow and very shiny. Based on the direction of coiling, shankhas have two varieties – the vamavarti and the dakshinavarti. The vamavarti shankha is commonly available and its coils or whorls expand in a c spiral, whereas the dakshinavarti shankha is very rare. clockwise The coils or whorls of this expand counterclockwise. This is a very rarely formed shape and is considered auspicious and a giver of wealth. As per Hindu belief, the dakshinavarti shankha is like a rare jewel or ratna.
In Hindu Dharma, a dakshinavarti shankha symbolizes infinite space. Even if such a shankha has a defect, mounting it with gold restores its merits. The Skanda Purana narrates that bathing Vishnu with a dakshinavarti shankha grants the devotee freedom from the sins of seven previous births. According to another belief, bathing a deity with the waters led through a shankha-preferably the dakshinavarti-is considered equal to bathing it with all the holy water of the seven seas or the seven holy rivers.

In its earliest references, the shankha is mentioned as a trumpet and it is in this form that it became an emblem of Vishnu. Simultaneously, it was used as a votive offering and as a charm to keep away the dangers of the sea. It was the earliest known sound-producing agent.
According to the Vedic scriptures, two separate shankh must be used during a puja. The shankh that is blown before starting any puja should not be used for other pujantuals..
As a trumpet or wind instrument, a hole is drilled near the tip of the apex of the shankha. When air is blown through this hole, it travels through the whorls producing a loud, sharp and shrill sound. This particular quality of sound is the reason why shankha was used as a war trumpet, to summon helpers and friends. The shankha continued to be used in battles for a long time. The war sound it produced was called shankhanad.
In Hindu scriptures, the shankha is praised as a giver of fame, longevity, prosperity and the dispeller of sins. Its is traced to the early days of Indian history when it was blown to drive a demons. away evil spirits and In ancient days, people were properly trained in blowing the conch, as there are different notes for blowing the conch on different occasions. It was blown with a soothing note to welcome an honoured guest; with a high-pitched, shrill note to announce victory; while the note that emitted from the conch during arati was quite different. In Orissa, there is a community whose people can blow two conches at a time.
Ancient India lived mostly in villages. Each village was presided over by a principal temple and several small ones. During the arati of the deity, the conch would invariably be blown, as it is done even today. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch would resound all over the village. Those who could not make it to the temple or were not allowed in, would stop whatever they were doing for a few seconds and mentally bow to the Almighty. Thus, the sound of the conch served to elevate people’s minds to a piety even in the middle of their busy daily routine. In Islam, this is achieved through the azan-the calling of the faithful to prayer.
It is popularly believed that a person who regularly blows a conch never develops any,His to the sound of the conch is said to benefit those who a or who. are dumb or who stammer. By blowing the conch, one throws out the stale air present in the body and replaces it with fresh, revitalizing air.
According to Varaha Puran, the doors of the temple must not be opened before blowing the left handed shankh The frequencies present in the atmosphere are of three types namely sativa, rajas and tamas. The rajas and tamas dominant frequencies in the atmosphere are responsible for generating distressing vibrations Sattva frequencies are pure and divine and gets attracted to vibrations created by puja ntuals but rajas and tamas frequencies hinders its flow Blowing a shankh gets rid of the rajas and tamas frequencies.
The well-known scientist, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, proved that by regularly blowing the conch and ringing bells, the immediate surroundings become pure and peaceful as its sound removes negativity from the area. That is why when we go to traditionally maintained temples, we find them serene and comforting.
Scientifically too, the blowing of conch has benefits. It is an established fact that the sun’s rays obstruct the expansion of sound. For this reason, radio transmissions are less clear during the day than at night. Therefore, the conch is blown at holy places at about sunrise and near sunset. When a man blows the conch in the correct manner, its sound either destroys the bacteria in the atmosphere that is harmful to humans or makes them inactive. Thus, blowing the conch cleanses the surroundings.

Uses of the Shankha or Scientific benefits of blowing the Shankh: Nowadays, the shankha is blown at the time of Puja & festivals in Hindu temples and homes, especially during the arati, when lamp is lighted. The shankha is also used to bathe images of deities, especially Vishnu, and for ritual purification. No hole is drilled into shankhas that are used for bathing purposes or for distributing tirtham or holy water.
After a puja, priests, especially in south India, distribute tirtham to devotees through a conch. The science behind this ritual is that the conch has sulphur, phosphorus and calcium; therefore, the water kept in such a vessel makes it medicinal. The puja enhances its divinity; hence the name of such water is tirtham. Moreover, when the conch water is sprinkled over people and objects, it disinfects them.
The shankha has several other uses. It is used as a material for making bangles, bracelets and other objects. Due to its aquatic origin and resemblance to the vulva, it has become an integral part of tantric rites. In view of this, its symbolism is also to represent female fertility. It is mentioned that in ancient Greece, shells, along with pearls, denoted sexual love and marriage, and also the female energy, adyashakti.

The shankha is also used in Ayurvedic medicinal formulations to treat many ailments. Conch shell ash is known in Sanskrit as shankhabhasma. It is prepared by soaking the shell in lime juice and then calcining in covered crucibles ten to twelve times, and finally reducing it to powder. Shankh Bhasma (also spelled as Shankha Bhasm) is an ayurvedic remedy prepared from conch shell. In ayurveda, Shankh Bhasma is used for treating diarrhea (loose stools), acne, pimples, ver enlargement (hepatomegaly), splenomegaly, abdominal pain, indigestion, loss of appetite, heartburn, acid reflux, abdominal distension and imitable bowel syndrome. It has several other health benefits and medicinal uses. Shankhabhasma contains calcium, iron and magnesium and is considered to possess antacid and digestive properties.
The speech of a stammering child can be rectified if they blow the shankh regularly, water stored overnight in the Shankh can be used to clear the white spots, allergies and rashes on the skin by gently rubbing the water on the affected areas . Drinking two spoons of the water that is stored overnight in the Shankh can help relleve stomach pain, indigestion and laceration in the intestines .It is proved that blowing the Shankh regularly can dissolve the blockages in neart and improve the respiratory system and many more.

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