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J. Richard Haefer


Conch horn of the Aztec or Nahua peoples of central Mexico, and other pre-Contact cultures. It was called puuaqua in Tarascan and paatáotocuècheni or paniçatàopáni in Zapotecan. The Aztecs called this the instrument of the ‘Wind God Quetzalcoatl; he who breathes life into a void’. It was usually played in pairs, and the shell was about 15 to 20 cm long.

The tecciztli [tecziztli, tezizcatli] was a similar instrument made from the Strombus gigas shell (about 12 to 18 cm long) though examples of clay or bone have been found. It was a priest’s instrument played ceremonially with the quiquiztli and teponaztli to please the ‘Sun God’. Traditionally it was played at midnight to awaken the priests to prayers.

The quiquiztli, made from the larger Fasciolaria gigantea shell (30 cm long or longer), was used for signalling in battle as well as for priestly functions including the sacrificial flaying of men and before the death of slaves....


Terry E. Miller

[bin bādy]

In Cambodia, the primary classical ensemble played at court ceremonies, some Buddhist festivals, to accompany the large shadow theatre, masked drama, and dance drama. Both the ensemble and its name are closely related to similar ensembles in Thailand (piphat) and Laos (sep nyai/piphat). Ensembles vary in size from minimal (five instruments) to large. A basic ensemble consists of ...


Alastair Dick

[saṅkh, śaṅkha, cankam, caṅku]

Sacred conch horn of India and South Asia. It is the equivalent of the sak of Sri Lanka and the dung of Tibet. The shell is that of the large gastropod Turbinella pyrum, found particularly in the waters of the south (Gulf of Mannar, northern Sri Lanka, Kerala) but also off Kathiawar, Gujarat. The Sanskrit name śaṅkha is a precise Indo-European cognate of the Greek konkhos (the latter denoting different types of shell). It is mentioned from the Atharva-veda (c1000 bce) onwards; it does not occur in the earliest Veda, the Ṛg-veda, but a term occurring there only twice, bakura, was identified by Sachs (1914) as the conch on the grounds that bakora is a conch name in northern Madagascar. From its earliest mention, however, the śaṅkha occurs prominently in Hindu (and Buddhist) culture as a temple instrument (it is one of the emblems of the great god Vishnu, and was one of the blessings produced when gods and demons churned the milk ocean), functioning also as a lustral vessel and as part of the insignia of royalty and the aristocracy (the ...