Vinayakar Chadurthi Valampuri Shankhabishekam

Shankha – its legend and details

“Shankham” comes from the two Sanskrit words “Shum” which means something good and the “Kham” meaning water. Hence the meaning of “Shankam” is “The conch holding the sacred water”.

According to the Vedic scriptures, the Shankha is one of the most auspicious objects that emerged from the sea during the Ksheera Sagara samudra manthan. Hence it is regarded as the brother of Goddess Lakshmi, the ruler of wealth. Most of the Gods and Goddesses hold the Shankha in their hands. Shankh is one auspicious nine objects – Navanidhi – of Kubera who is the Lord of wealth. Blowing the Shankha is regarded as an auspicious sound at the start or end of any ceremony.

According to a legend of Harivamsa Purana, Krishna killed the whale-demon called Pancha-jana in the seas, and the Shankhas were formed out of the bones of this demon (’pancha-jane daitya-visishe bhavah pancha-janyah’;‘pancha-jano nama daityah samudre timira-rupa asit; tad asthi-jatam’). Sometimes, the name Pnacha-janya is given to a rare and freak formation of a conch-shell in which the cavity contains within it another smaller conch-shell attached to it. A specimen preserved in the Chamundesvari temple atop the hill in Mysore contains still another (third) conch-shell.

There are conch-shells with different colors (varna) and the colors are related to the classes (jati) of the people in our society. Accordingly, there is a classification of conch-shells into the Brahmana-variety (which are white in colour, smooth in texture and light), the Kshatriya-variety (red-coloured, or brown-hued, heavy, rough and course), the Vaisya-variety (yellowish in hue, glossy, thick and light) and the Sudra-variety (dull gray or dark brown in color, hard and heavy).

The Skanda-purana tells us where good conch-shells are obtained. The main stretch of the sea coast for this purpose is said to be five yojanas. The text gives names to the conches obtained in different places:Paudra, where the river Kaveri joins the sea.Anantavijaya in the western coast near Somanath.Mani-pushpa in Agni-tirtha to the west of ramesvaram in the South.Su-ghosha in Samkha-tirtha in the region between the Vata a collection of sixteen vata-trees in Vajra-mandala on the banks of the Yamuna and the sea.