Contraction / Expansion
Saturn / Jupiter
Shankha ~ Nada Brahma ~ Primordial Sound
The Sanskrit name for conch is Shankha. Shankh or Shankham means “a conch holding the sacred water”.
According to the Vedic allegories, the Shankha is one of the most auspicious objects that emerged from the sea during the great churning – Ksheera Sagara samudra manthan.
Another layer of its significance has to do with the play between Saturn and Jupiter.
SHAN (or SHAM) is a sound related to Saturn (Shani). KHA(M) is a sound related to Jupiter. The conch indicates the principle of expansion and contraction presided over by Jupiter and Saturn. Every expansion requires consolidation and vice-versa. On the Path to Truth there is the expansion of consciousness, which needs to be consolidated at each step. It is the Law of Alternation, which works in the evolutionary and involutionary processes.
The conch also stands for the sound Nada, the musical notes and all that relates to the sound. The teacher introduces the student to the sound. Basically he commences the work with the students with the Saturnian discipline. The Saturnian discipline forms a good basis for expansion of consciousness, which is bestowed by Jupiter. The teacher thus, plays the role of Saturn initially and of Jupiter subsequently. He brakes the inertia of the disciple and recruits him into works of goodwill. He causes the purification in all the 3 planes according to an order depending upon the quality of the student. He leads the student to that poise in which his inertia and activity find balance. This would in term enable the student to walk into the esoteric side of training.
The shankh or the conch is the most ancient wind instrument known to man. Mythology traces the reference of the conch as far back as the gift from the great ocean-churning. It is considered to be a very sacred symbol and is referenced in all the ancient literature of India.
The spiral form of the conch-shell is symbolic of infinite space that gradually expands in a clock-wise direction. The conch is symbolic of the Human Journey Through Life, Birth, Life, Resurrection, Love, Good Luck. The shell’s hard casing protects life. The pearly luster and its aquatic nature is attributed to qualities of virgin purity. Symbolic with music, the conch shell’s spiral form and the sound of the ocean represents the beginning of existence.
In the battle field of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata, the blowing of the conch in the morning heralded the start of warfare and the close of the day was signaled once more by the blowing of the Shankh. The blowing of the conch purifies the environment from all evil. The sounds from the conch increase positive attributes in the atmosphere such as courage, hope, determination, will-power and optimism. The blowing of the conch is a call to awaken one from ignorance and announce victory of good over evil. The sonorous sound of conch shell honors and salutes the Lord of Creation. It was the primordial sound of creation and the divine sound “Om”.
In Buddhism, blowing of the conch signifies victory over suffering. In Chinese Buddhism, the conch shell signifies a prosperous journey, and in Islam it represents the hearing of the divine word.
In medieval Christianity the scallop shell was the emblem of St. James, the patron of pilgrims, so the shell came to symbolize a pilgrimage. The scallop shell is also associated with the guardian angel Raphael, and the Virgin Mary. In later Christianity, it symbolized resurrection and baptism.
Quetzalcoatl created life with the aid of a conch shell and he is always pictured wearing a conch pectoral.
Triton the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, in ancient Greece is depicted with a trumpet made from a conch which he used to raise or calm storms.
In India in Bengal, every Bengali household, has a conch placed near the deities at the altar. The conch is blown once or several times before ritualistic worship. It is sometimes blown whilst performing ‘aartis’. The conch, placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord symbolizes the primordial sound or the ‘naada brahma’ (truth), the vedas, Om, dharma, victory and auspiciousness. The conch is often used to serve the ‘tirth’ (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest truth. During, weddings the conch is blown loudly to drive away evil spirits.
In the Bhagvat Gita, there is a vivid description of the blowing of the conch by Bhishma who blew his conch-shell—“simhanaadam vinadyochaihi” while Lord Krshna blew his, Paancajanya (name of a special type of conch). Later, Arjuna, Yudhishthira, Bhim, Nakula and Sahadev all blew their own conch shells. There are two types of conches used, right and left handed. Left handed or with an opening on the left if head is towards bearer is the brother of Laxshmi and friend of Vishnu. Right handed has opening on right and is still held in right hand. Vishnu held the right handed conch in right hand at the churning of the ocean of existence. Laxshmi was born from the churning ocean and then Vishnu married her. The right handed conch bestows prosperity.
Some information in this article has been extracted from: