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Shankha Chakra Gada Padma.... - Significance of Sacred Conch

anuraag - Wed, 15 Jun 2005 21:18:21 +0530
Namaste all. The post from 'Devotional Practices' inspired me to share my message from another board posted two months ago.

During Arati and homage ceremonies at our JKP Ashrams, the
auspicious conchshell (Shankha) is blown melodiously by devotees.
The deep sound waves used to seem very familiar and easily get
absorbed into my meditation, there by causing ecstatic devotional signs
in my body, like tremors, horripilation, cold tears as well as waves of
uncontrollable yawning. wub.gif

Sri Maharaj ji used to notice these signs, as if he knew their
significance, pointing them to other devotees with a smile. blush.gif

Lord Krishna blowing His 'Pancha janya' and Arjuna blowing his
'Deva datta' conchs had been described at the beginning of
Bhagavad Gita along with rest of the Pandavas blowing theirs.

The Shankha and its legend

Shankha pooja is a must in the Vedic poojas.

"Panchajanyaya vidmahe padma garbhaya dheemahi tanno Shankha
prachodayaat" is the Vedic Gayatri mantra of Shankha.

Om Amburajaya Nama
Om Kamburajaya Namah
Om Dhavalaya Namah
Om Panchajanyaya Namah
Om Padmagarbhaya Namah

These are the five names with which the Shankha is worshipped in the
Vedic pooja.

The Shanka verse recited in pooja is:

"Shankham chandrakadaivatwam kukshouvaruna daivatam
prusthe prajapatirdaiva mugre ganga saraswati
Pruthivyam yani teerthani vasudevasyachagyaya
Shankhe tisthanti viprendra tasmat shankham prapoojyayet"

Several deities recide in its different parts: in the front end the
moon, in the hollow sides Varuna, at the back Prajapati and in the
lip the rivers Ganga and Sarasvati. The shankha is one of the four
attributes that Vishnu holds in his hands. Hence the Shankha should
be worshiped.

According to Tantric belief, the shankha keeps away
evil spirits and saves one from calamities.

"Shankham" comes from "Shum" which means something good and
the "Kham" meaning water. Hence the meaning of "Shankam" is "The
conch holding the sacred water".

"Shankha Madyesthitam Thoyam Brahma Hatyadhikam Daheth
Anga Lagnam Manushyanam Mruthyu Samsara Bheshajam"

The water from the Shankha purifies the sinner and can cure all the
ailments which cannot be cured by the other medicines. It is a cure
for the physical ailments in humans, from the the fear of death and
gives liberation from the eternal cycle of birth and death. Shankha
powder is used in several Ayurvedic medicines.

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 cerimony.

The latin name of the true Shankha is Turbinella Pyrum. There are
several similar look-alike species. The real Shankha used in Vedic
pooja has smooth contours and three horizontal lines at the inside
center of the opening. The other look-alike species don't have these

However- since Shank came from the ocean of milk by virtue of Visnu and Sivji's play, and is always held by Sri Visnu, it is sacred.<<

-also- Notice that Narasinga murtis will have shank but no anthro-Laksmi form- the shank is Laksmi. It is listed in the account of the churning as a treasure rising out of the ocean.
Other than that, no idea!
anuraag - Wed, 15 Jun 2005 21:35:50 +0530
The Cosmic Conch

Weapons are usually ugly, literally and figuratively. No one calls a machine
gun beautiful, or a grenade, much less an armoured tank (except perhaps a
terrorist). They have absolutely no redeeming feature to them, being meant
solely for mass destruction, meant only to cause sadness and sorrow
and to take away that precious thing which most of us take for granted-Life. We
thus find that anything that deals out death and destruction and little else,
can never be beautiful in any sense.

Hence if I say that weapons also double as adornments, people would
definitely look at me strangely and would probably construe that I am referring
to terrorists, who constantly tote guns and grenades, considering them
to be adornments to their person. Though none would believe it, it is the
Lord I refer to, who is always armed to His teeth, ready to rush to the
rescue of a devotee in distress-

"sadA panchAyudhee bibhrat sa na: SrIranga

It is a well-chronicled fact that the Lord totes several weapons in His hands
and whenever we picturise Him in our mind's eye, it is as accompanied by
these weapons.

One important difference between the Lord's weapons and others' is
that the former are used for both protecting and preserving devotees on the
one hand and for destroying their detractors. Unlike weapons of human creation,
which are meant solely to cause damage and devastation, the Lord's arsenal is
for a dual purpose, as indicated. Hence it is no wonder that the divine armoury
is extremely beautiful and enticing to look at, serving at once as lethal weapons
and luminous adornments to the Lord's arms.

All are agreed that the Lord's principal weapons are five-The
Shankham, The Chakram, The GadA (Mace), asi (Sword) and the ShArngam (Bow).

Of these five, it is the Chakram or Sudarsanam, which commands primacy and is known as the King of Weapons-"HEti RAja".
As such, SudarsanAzhwan has a lot of stotrams composed on him-the SudarsanAshtakam, the HEti RAja stavam, the Sudarsana Satakam
(poorva and uttara satakams, comprising two hundred slokas in all)
etc. to name a few. At several divyadesams, separate sannidhis have been allotted
to ChakrattAzhwar and devotees delight in circumambulation in his shrine, as could
be seen at Srirangam and other places.

However, there is another worthy, who is no less magnificent, no less
Sudarsanam (good-looking), no less potent and no less dear to the
Lord, who does not attract as much attention and adulation as the Chakram, but
is all the same a strong, silent performer worthy of all our admiration.
Whenever there is an enumeration of the Lord's weapons, it is his name that is
mentioned ahead of others', indicating his primacy in the divine scheme of
things. You may refer to not one but any number of instances, where the Lord's
weapons find mention-in all of them, the Shankham is always mentioned first,
followed by the other AyudhAs. Look at the following for example -

"Shankha chakra gadA pANe! DvArakA nilaya! Achyuta!"

(Draupati's appeal while being disrobed in the Kaurava darbAr)

"Tamasa: paramaO dhAtA Shankha chakra gadAdhara:"

(Mandodari's tribute to Sri Raghava, in Srimad Ramayanam)

"Shankha chakra gadA asi ShArngAdi asankhEya divyAyudha! "

(Sri Ramanuja in Gadyam)

"Sangennum chakkaram ennum tuzhAi ennum-igganE sollum"

"SanginOdum nEmiyOdum tAmarai kaNgalOdum"

"Sangu vil vAL tandu chakkara kaiyyarkku"

"VeLlai suri SangOdu Azhi Endi tAmarai KaNnan"

"Sangodu chakkaram kaNdu ugandadum tAmarai kaNgalukku attru

(Sri Nammazhwar)

All these denote in no uncertain terms the primacy the Shankham
enjoys, among the Lord's weapons. What could be the reason behind this
phenomenon of the Shankham being accorded pride of place, despite the Chakram
being obviously more popular and enjoying greater visibility?

The answer to this puzzle lies in the NAcchiyAr Tirumozhi of Sri Andal.

Perhaps to compensate in advance for the lack of adequate mention by
PoorvAcharyas, Sri Andal devotes all of ten pasurams for the adulation of Sri PAnchajanyam, the glorious shankham adorning the Lord's left hand.

ChakrattAzhvan might be the much- adulated arsenal of the Lord, but
it is the Lord's Shankham that gets to taste the incredibly sweet lips and mouth
of Emperuman. It is therefore to the Shankham we must turn, as Sri Andal does,
if we want to get a true picture of how tasty the Lord's lips are. For, when the
Lord blows the Conch, His coral lips and fragrant mouth come into close contact
with the Shankham, affording it a delectable taste, which is normally
the exclusive preserve of the Divine Consorts.

"Is the Lord's mouth fragrant as scented camphor? Or is it the type
of fragrance exuded by the lovely lotus?" Sri Andal seeks confidential
information (which is known only to Sri Devi and Sri Bhoodevi) from Sri

"Karuppooram nArumO kamala poo nArumO
TiruppavaLa sevvai tAn tittitirukkumO?"

Maruppositta MAdhavan tan vAi suvayum nAttramum
Virupputtru kEtkindrEn sol Azhi veN SangE!"

Since this is a divine secret, Sri Andal places Sri Panchajanyam in the position of an Acharya and seeks upadEsam on the taste and fragrance of the Lord's lips, says Sri Azhagia MaNavALa PerumAL nAyAnAr-

"Karuppooram nArumO! Kamala poo nArumO!..endru dEsikarai kEtkum padiyAna
soundarya sArasyam uLLitta bhOgyataiyai udayOmum nAm allOmO endrA pOlE"

We are able to glean quite a lot of information about the Shankham,
from these ten pasurams of Sri Kodai Nacchiar. For instance, we get to know that
the Shankham, though originally from the unfathomable depths of the ocean, grew
up in the body of an asurA known as "Panchajanan", from which it attained the
name "PAnchajanyam".
It is pure white in colour, symbolising the epitome of Sattva guNam, of unalloyed goodness.

Sri Andal's descriptions of the PAnchajanyam are indeed glorious and
The Lord looks like a huge mountain-"Pacchai mA malai pOl mEni". On
this mountain, the pale wintry moon, the "Sharat Chandran" rises slowly and
beautifully. This is what the Shankham, with its pearly white complexion, looks
like, sitting on the Lord's left arm, resembling the glorious Moon in colour, in
affording immediate bliss at sight, etc.-

"Tada varayin meedE sharat kAla Chandiran
idaiyuvAvil vandu ezhundAl pOl"

The Shankham's resemblance to the Moon is emphasized in the next pasuram-

"Chandira mandilam pOl DAmOdaran kaiyil
antaram ondru indri Eri".

We are told by the PanchAyudha Stotram that the PAnchajanyam
resembles not one, but millions of Moons shining simultaneously-

"Tam PAnchajanyam sashi kOti shubhram Shankham sadAham sharaNam

Sri Andal speaks with envy about the several distinctions the
Shankham has managed to garner.

If we need some favour from the Lord, it is to the Shankham that we
have to apply and not to any other acolyte, for, the PAnchajanyam "has the
Lord's ears", so to say, nestling close to His left ear, as it does. From its
vantage position, it looks as if the Shankham is forever whispering secrets and
sweet nothings into Emperuman's ears, unbeknownst to others and also putting in
a word on behalf of devotees who need the Lord's favours-

"avan seviyil mandiram koLvAyE pOlum valam puriyE!"

We know how difficult and strenuous it is to visit holy places, for
having a spiritually cleansing dip in the various puNya teertthams. Whether it
be the Ganga or the Yamuna, they lie at a great distance, involving a lot of
time, expenditure and physical strain to bathe in them. With absolutely no
effort on its part, the Shankham is able to bathe daily in the holiest of
waters, holier than any of those known to mankind, viz., the sweet juices from
the Lord's mouth-

"SeNkaN Mal tannudaya vAi teerttham pAyndu Ada vallAi ValampuriyE!".

Swami Desikan confirms this in Sri Devanayaka Panchasat-"VamsEna
Shankha patinA cha nishEvitam tE bimbAdharam"

Food and Shelter form the essential requisites for any person. Some
can eat just porridge "Kanji"), while some are able to do justice to a sumptuous
While some reside in humble huts, some are fortunate to have palaces
for their stay. However, more fortunate than any one, as far as food and shelter
are concerned, is the PAnchajanyam, which has the sweet juices of the Lord's
mouth for its staple food and sleeps comfortably in the most exalted of
shelters, viz., the Lord's lotus-like, soft and supple palm.
Can the glory of the Shankham be measured at all, asks Sri Andal-

"Indiranum unnOdu selvatthukku ElAnE", "ShankarayA! Un selvam sAla azhagiyadE".

By monopolising access to the Lord's fragrant lips and mouth, the
Shankham generates immense envy in the minds of the fairer sex, who too would
like their share of the treasure. The Shankham's incalculable good fortune, in
having for its constant consumption liquids sweeter than nectar and holier than
the holiest of sacred waters, make the 16000 and odd Consorts of the Lord green
with envy and livid with fury, says Sri Andal-

"peN padayAr un mEl perum poosal chAttrugindrAr"
"PadinAram ayiravar dEvimAr pArtthiruppa
madhu vAyil kondAl pOl Madhavan tan vAyamudam
poduvAga uNbadanai pukku nee undakkAl
chidayAro! UnnOdu sol Azhi VeNsangE!"

The Shankham is not only the symbol of Shuddha Sattvam, it is also
the embodiment of immeasurable wisdom. It was through a mere touch of the
Shankham that the infant Dhruva, bewildered beyond measure by the sudden
appearance of the Lord before his eyes and unable to find the right words to
praise the Lord, was afforded eternal wisdom, which made him burst into verses
filled with devotion and erudition-

"Shankha prAntEna Govinda: tam pasparsha kritAnjalim
utAnapAdam anagham dvija varya! Jagatpati:" (Sri Vishnupuranam)

However, a major doubt assails us-we have been speaking of the
Shankham as an "Ayudham", a weapon, and all that we have seen so far indicates
only a docile disposition. Is the Shankham really effective as a weapon and if
so, how can it cause harm to the Lord's opponents, not being endowed with a
"cutting edge", like other weapons of distinction like the Chakram and the
Sword? Nor can the PAnchajanyam be used as a "blunt instrument" to cause damage,
like the Mace KoumOdaki!

The Shankham is by far superior to the other components of the Lord's
arsenal, endowed with the power of making foes drop dead due to sheer fear,
shock and trauma, occasioned by its benumbing boom-

"VishnO: mukhOttAnila pooritasya yasya dhvani: danava darpa hantA
tam PAnchajanyam sashi kOti shubhram Shankham sadAham sharaNam

The Shankham does a clean job, with its victims just dropping dead,
unlike the gory and bloody deaths caused by its peers like the Chakram and the
Sword. As proof of the PAnchajanyam's potency, we find that the moment Sri
Krishna and Arjuna blew their conches in the battle field of Kurukshetra, the
Kaurava army practically dropped dead with fear and shock, making Arjuna's job
of disposing them off much easier than it would have been otherwise.
The following Gita slokas attest to this-

"MAdhava: PANdavaschaiva divyou Shankhou pradadhmatu:
PAnchajanyam HrisheekEsa: DEvadattam Dhananjaya:
"sa ghOshO DhArtarAshtrANAm hridayAni vyadArayat"

Expanding on these beautiful verses, Sri Ramanuja says that victory
for the Pandavas was a foregone conclusion, once the deafening and terrifying
boom of these Shankhas tore through the hearts of the Kauravas-

"SarvEsvarEsvara: ParthasArathI rathIcha PANdu tanaya: trailOkya vijayOpakaraNa
bhootE mahati syandanE stitthou trailOkyam kampayantou, Sreemat Panchajanya
DEvadattou divyou shankhou pradadhmatu:". The words "TrailOkyam kampayantou"

appear to be a verbatim translation of the Tiruppavai lines, "GyAlatthai ellAm
nadunga muralvana", testifying to the deep roots that this prabandam had taken
in the mind of the Tiruppavai Jeer.

Sri Periyazhwar performs mangalAsasanam to this Shankham, which
boomed terrifyingly, reducing opposing armies to mere jelly-

"padai pOr pukku muzhangum ap Panchajanyamum pallANdE!"

The normal position of the Shankham is on the left hand of the Lord-
"kooonEru sangam idatthAn". Lest we get the wrong idea that the Shankham's
principal role is destructive, to assure us that it indeed has a supportive,
protective and preservative role too, the Lord sports the same in His right
hand, at Tirukkovilur, says Swami Desikan in Sri DEhalIsa Stuti-

"Chakrasya daitya danujAdishu vAma bhAvam
Shankhasya cha Ashrita janEshu dakshinatvam
Vyaktam pradarsayasi GOpapurAdhirAja!
Vyatyasya noonam anayO: kara samprayOgam".

The strains from the Shankham, while being unbearably terrifying to
opponents' ears, are indeed sweet music to those of devotees. We hence see Sri
Kodai Naachiar wishing the Shankha nAdam to be part of the marriage festivities,
at Her divine wedding with the Lord-

"mattaLam kotta, vari sangam nindru ooda"

Have you seen the Lord holding only the Shankham? You would be
prompted to reply even without thinking that it could not be so, for the Lord is
always seen at all divya desams sporting both the Divine Discus and the Cosmic
However, just to prove you wrong, the Lord does hold only the
PAnchajanyam, at TiruvallikkENi, in His bewitching role as PArthasArathy,
adhering to His promise that He would not touch a weapon during the Kurukshetra
However, little did the ignorant DuryOdhana know that the innocent-looking
Shankham could be as potent a weapon as the dreaded ChakrAyudham.

Compared to the burning and brilliant SudarsanAzhwar ("anal Azhi"),
true to its origins,(the ocean), the Shankham is cool and comforting, and shares
its birthplace with Sri Mahalakshmi, a distinction unavailable to the other
AyudhAs. And being dear to the Divine Consort, the PAnchajanyam automatically
occupies the pride of place in the Divine Household, enjoying the dual advantage
of privity to both the Lord and His Consort.

To cut a long story short, the Shankham is the "coolest" of the
Lord's weapons, incorporating the dual-purpose technology of protectiveness and
pleasurableness to devotees and striking terror in the hearts of others. It has
not only the Lord's ear, but His mouth too, and, due to its vantage position, is
the object of not only "Neighbour's envy" (of Sudarsanam) but also that of the
Divine Consorts.

Srimate SriLakshmINrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri
Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:

dasan, sadagopan


anuraag - Wed, 15 Jun 2005 22:13:47 +0530
user posted image

More sublime verses from Srimad Bhagavatam in relation to
'Cosmic Conch':

Chapter 11: Lord Krishna's Entrance into Dvaraka:

SB 1.11.1: Suta Gosvami said: Upon reaching the border of His most prosperous
metropolis, known as the country of the Anartas [Dvaraka], the Lord sounded His
auspicious conchshell, "heralding His arrival" and apparently "pacifying" the
separation of the inhabitants.

SB 1.11.2: The white and fat-boweled conchshell, being gripped by the reddish
hand of Lord Krishna and sounded by Him,
appeared to be reddened more by the
touch of His transcendental lips.
It seemed that a white swan was playing in the
stems of red lotus flowers.

SB 1.11.3: The citizens of Dvaraka, having heard that sound which threatens fear
personified in the material world, began to run towards Him fast, just to have a
"long desired audience" with the Lord, who is the protector of all His devotees.

"This sound of the Lord is identical with the Lord, as we have tried to explain
by the nondual position of the Lord."


1. poigaiAr, an incarnation of MahAvishNu's panchjanyam (Divine conch, sanghu in Tamil) is also called Adhi kavi. poigaiAr appeared on the ThAmarai mottu (lotus bud) in a pond in tiruve:ka near kancheepuram.

2. bhoodhaththAr appeared in a flower called "kurukkaththi"(?) in a garden at kadalmallai port of pallava rajyam (kingdom) in mahAbalipuram (south of madras). He was an incarnation of Divine mace (called kaumOdaki) of our Lord mahAvishNu.

3. pEyazhwAr, (called pEyar later by people due to being crazy, mad, piththan, pEyar after the Lord and even used to roll down with ecstasy of bhakti- He even says" others look crazy to him for their being crazy after material pursuits; and sensual pleasures), as an incarnation of the sword of mahAvishNu (called nandaki), appeared in sevvalli (Red alli-lily) flower in a well of AdhikEsava perumAL koil at mylapore (in madras). (now, some of us may not be able to digest fully these births (or appearances) on flowers due to the Lord's grace; However, it may please be noticed that whatever you and I can understand and perceive is all transient and not permanent; The very fact that these creations of our Lord in such unique fashion and in such incarnations only goes to prove His ineffable qualities and attributes; They are BEYOND one's comprehension. Do not do research on why the sweet tasty mango is of this shape, this color, and this contour, etc., Let us not waste time anymore and let us go right ahead and taste it for we are blessed with an accessibility to reach the mangoes)

nammazhwAr, (our azhwAr), the greatest azwAr about whom we will see later, has addressed these three azhwArs as "innkavi pAdum parama kavigaL" meaning the greatest poets who sang the loveliest songs or the sweetest songs;

All three azhwArs were blessed with tamizh gnAnam(knowledge) and bhakti uLLam; All of them, though were not known to each other, were singing the glories of the Lord...

The Conch

This is one of the most important emblems of Vishnu. The blowing of
the conch symbolizes the primordial creative voice and Indian
mysticism links it to the sacred sound OM, which is said to be the
breath of Vishnu, pervading all space.

Its convolutions are variously suggested as the rising and setting
sun, hence further cementing Vishnu's solar associations.

The conch has the form of a multiple spiral evolving from one point
into ever-increasing spheres. It thus denotes eternity, since it may
go on forever.


... He has on His lotus lips the conch known as Panchajanyam, whose sound is that
of the holy praNavam symbolizing the essence of the Vedas. ...

- Gopala Vimshati