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date: 13 November 2019

Śaṅkh [saṅkh, śaṅkha, cankam, caṅku]locked

  • 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 ...

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