Wisdom Library Logo

Shankha, aka: Saṅkhā, Saṅkha, Sankha, Śaṅkhā, Śaṅkha; 19 Definition(s)


Shankha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. Check out some of the following descriptions and leave a comment if you want to add your own contribution to this article.

In Hinduism

Śilpaśāstra (iconography)

Śaṅkha is the ordinary chank shell which is almost always found in one of the hands of the images of Viṣṇu, The śaṅkha of Viṣṇu is known by the name of Pāñcajanya, being supposed to have been derived from the body of the asura named Pañcajana. It is declared to have been employed by Viṣṇu in war; by the blowing of this powerful conch-shell, he often struck terror into the hearts of his enemies. The conch, held in the hand with all the five fingers by its open end, or an ornamented one, having its head or spiral-top covered with a decorative meatl cap, surmounted by the head of a mythical lion, and having a cloth tied round it so that portions of it may hang on either side.

There are also tassels of pearls hanging on the sides. Curiously enough a śaṅkha of this description is show so as to be held between the first two fingers, which is indeed a difficult task to perform. In a few instances, attached to the lower end of the śaṅkha, there is a thick jewelled ribbon which is made to serve as a handle. Sometimes this ornamental variety of śaṅkha is shown with jvālās or flames of fire on the top and the sides.

Source: Google Books: Elements of Hindu iconography

about this context:

Śilpaśāstra (शिल्पशास्त्र, shilpa-shastra) represents the ancient Indian science of creative arts such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vāstuśāstra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

Vāstuśāstra (architecture)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख):—The Sanskrit name for a classification of a ‘temple’, according to the Agnipurāṇa, featuring a list of 45 temple types. It is listed under the group named Kailāśa, featuring circular-shaped temples. This list represents the classification of temples in North-India.

Source: Wisdom Library: Vāstu-śāstra

about this context:

Vāstuśāstra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vastu-shastra) refers to the knowledge of architecture. It is a branch of ancient Indian science dealing with topics such architecture, construction, sculpture and their relation with the cosmic universe.

Pāñcarātra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख, “conch”):—One of the nine symbols representing the cosmic principles of the universe, according to the Pāñcarātra literature. These nine weapons and ornaments symbolize the principles which they represent as the presiding deity. The Conch (śaṅkha) represents sāttvic ahaṃkāra (‘virtuous and rightous egoism’).

Source: Wisdom Library: Pāñcarātra

The conch represents the first manifestation of articulate language—AUM—nāda-brahman. This monosyllable contains within itself all language and meaning in a potential state. It is the seed from which speech developed—the nutshell containing the whole of knowledge and wisdom. All matter is light and vibration. All the forms of the universe are effects of the primeval sonic vibration. Thus the conch is the symbol of the origin of exist e nce. Its shape is a spiral, starting at one point and evolving into ever increasing spheres. It comes from water, the first compact element. When blown it produces the sound AUM.

Source: SriMatham: Vaiṣṇava Iconology based on Pañcarātra Āgama

about this context:

Pāñcarātra (पाञ्चरात्र, pancaratra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Nārāyaṇa is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaiṣnavism, the Pāñcarātra literature includes various Āgamas and tantras incorporating many Vaiṣnava philosophies.

Āyurveda (science of life)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख) is a Sanskrit word referring to the animal “conch snail”. The meat of this animal is part of the māṃsavarga (‘group of flesh’), which is used throughout Āyurvedic literature. The animal Śaṅkha is part of the sub-group named Vāriśaya, refering to animals “living in waters”. It was classified by Caraka in his Carakasaṃhitā sūtrasthāna (chapter 27), a classical Āyurvedic work. Caraka defined such groups (vargas) based on the dietic properties of the substance.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख)—Sanskrit word for an animal “conch” (Turbinella sp.). This animal is from the group called Kośastha (conchiferous: ‘those which have a shell’). Kośastha itself is a sub-group of the group of animals known as Ānupa (those that frequent marshy places).

The flesh of animals of the Shankha orders is sweet in taste and digestion, cooling in its potency, demulcent, and beneficial to stool and the Pittam. It destroys the deranged Vāyu and produces Kapham.

Source: archive.org: Sushruta samhita, Volume I

about this context:

Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Hindu science dealing with subjects such as health, medicine, anatomy, etc. and has been in use throughout India since ancient times.

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख, “conchshell”) is a Sanskrit word referring to a musical instrument, to be sounded during the ceremony of “laying the foundation” of the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa), according to the Nāṭyaśāstra 2.35-37.

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

One of the saṃyutta-hastāni (Twenty-four combined Hands).—Śaṅkha (conch) : the thumbs of Śikhara hands are joined, andthe forefinger extended. Usage: conch.

Source: archive.org: The mirror of gesture (abhinaya-darpana)

about this context:

Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


Śaṅkha (शङ्ख, “conch”): a Musical Instrument.—The Ṛgveda does not refer to it; but the Jātakas mention it. In the epic war-scenes use of the śaṅkhas is very common, and we find in the Gītā the śaṅkhas of various warriors mentioned by name. Kauṭilya testifies to the use of śaṅkhas in war. The Vāyu-purāṇa, however, shows its use only in connection with the worship of Śiva by the Bhūtas.

Source: Google Books: Cultural History from the Vāyu Purāna

1a) Śaṅkha (शङ्ख).—A mountain on the base of Meru.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 16. 26.

1b) An eminent Nāga of Pātāla;1 a Kādraveya nāga;2 a thousand-hooded snake.3

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 24. 31; Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 70.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 34.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 6. 39.

1c) To be killed by Kṛṣṇa.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa X. 37. 16.

1d) A mind-born son of Jaigīṣavya and Ekapāṭalā; attained heaven by tapas.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 30. 40; Vāyu-purāṇa 72. 19.

1e) A Yakṣa; a son of Puṇyajanī and Maṇibhadra.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 123.

1f) One of the eight nidhis of Kubera.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 41. 10.

1g) The conch of Viṣṇu;1 in Rāma's abhiṣeka;2 sounded by Kṛṣṇa on the eve of his battle with Indra.3 Was invoked to protect the baby Kṛṣṇa.4 Blowing of it indicated Kṛṣṇa's arrival in Ānarta; was a sign of auspiciousness;5 one of the gifts to please the planet moon;6 war music in the Tārakāmaya war;7 discovered at the confluence of the Tāmraparṇī and the ocean with pearls.8

  • 1) Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 15. 3.
  • 2) Ib. IV. 4. 100.
  • 3) Ib. V. 30. 56.
  • 4) Bhāgavata-purāṇa X. 6. 23.
  • 5) Ib. I. 11. 1 and 18.
  • 6) Matsya-purāṇa 57. 21; 93. 60.
  • 7) Ib. 135. 83; 136. 53; 138. 3; 149. 2; 174. 16; 177. 24; 192. 28.
  • 8) Vāyu-purāṇa 77. 25.

2) Śaṅkhā (शङ्खा).—The city of the second talam.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 50. 21.

3) Saṅkha (सङ्ख).—A son of Maṇibhadra.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 155.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

about this context:

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख).—A son of King Viraṭa. He was killed Droṇa during the Kurukṣetra war; the conchshell held by Lord Viṣṇu.

Source: ISKCON Press: Glossary

Śaṅkha (Conch) - In battle conveys the instruction of the commander to the troops. It represents the diffusion of the Dharma teachings and the proclamation of war upon the negative forces of the mind. Also creation through sound and the Prāṇava — AUM.

Source: Red Zambala: Hindu Icons and Symbols | Introduction

The conch (Śaṅkha) in Viṣṇu’s upper left hand represents the first manifestation of articulate language— AUM— nāda Brāhman. This monosyllable contains within itself all language and meaning in a potential state. It is the seed from which speech developed — the nutshell containing the whole of wisdom.

All the forms of the universe are effects of the primeval sonic vibration. Thus the conch is the symbol of the origin of existence. Its shape is a spiral, starting at one point and evolving into ever increasing spheres. It comes from water, the first compact element. When blown it produces the sound AUM.

Source: Red Zambala: Hindu Icons and Symbols | Trinity

Śankha (शंख): Shankha is the divine Counch or sea shell, which is one of the insignia in the Hindu God Vishnu's hands. The sound emitted from Shankha when blown, is too divine, that is used for regular rituals for Vishnu. Śankha was also the name of one of sons of King Virata who was killed in Mahabharata.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism


Saṅkhā, (f.) & Saṅkhyā (f.) (fr. saṃ+khyā) 1. enumeration, calculation, estimating D. II, 277; M. I, 109; Miln. 59 ‹-› 2. number Dāvs. I, 25.—3. denomination, definition, word, name (cp. on term K. S. I. 321) S. III, 71 sq.; IV, 376 sq.; Nd2 617 (=uddesa gaṇanā paññatti); Dhs. 1306; Miln. 25.—saṅkhaṃ gacchati to be styled, called or defined; to be put into words D. I, 199, 201; Vin. II, 239; M. I, 190, 487; A. I, 68, 244=II. 113; Pug. 42; Nett 66 sq.; Vism. 212, 225, 235, 294 (khy); SnA 167 (khy); DhsA. 11 (khy). saṅkhaṃ gata (cp. saṅkhāta) is called DA. I, 41 (uyyānaṃ Ambalaṭṭhikā t’eva s. g.). saṅkhaṃ na upeti (nopeti) cannot be called by a name, does not count, cannot be defined It. 54; Sn. 209, 749, 911, 1074; Nd1 327; Nd2 617. (Page 664)

— or —

1) Saṅkha, 2 (etym. ?) a water plant (combd with sevāla) Miln. 35. See detail under paṇṇaka 2. (Page 664)

2) Saṅkha, 1 (cp. Vedic śaṅkha; Gr. kόgxos shell, measure of capacity, & kόxlos; Lat. congius a measure) a shell, conch; mother-of-pearl; a chank, commonly used as a trumpet D. I, 79; II, 297=M. I, 58; A. II, 117; IV, 199; Vv 8110; J. I, 72; II, 110; VI, 465, 580; Miln. 21 (dhamma°); DhA. I, 18. Combined with paṇava (small drum) Vism. 408; J. VI, 21; or with bheri (large drum) Miln. 21; Vism. 408.

—ûpama like a shell, i.e. white J. V, 396, cp. VI, 572. —kuṭṭhin a kind of leper; whose body becomes as white as mother-of-pearl DhA. I, 194, 195. —thāla mother of pearl, (shell-) plate Vism. 126 (sudhota°), 255. —dhama a trumpeter D. I, 259=M. II, 19; M. II, 207=S. IV, 322. —dhamaka a conch blower, trumpeter J. I, 284; VI, 7. —nābhi a kind of shell Vin. I, 203; II, 117. —patta motherof-pearl DhA. I, 387. —muṇḍika the shell-tonsure, a kind of torture M. I, 87; A. I, 47; II, 122. —mutta mother-ofpearl J. V, 380 (C expls as “shell-jewel & pearl-jewel”); VI, 211, 230. —likhita polished like mother-of-pearl; bright, perfect D. I, 63, 250; S. II, 219; A. V, 204; Vin. I, 181; Pug. 57; DA. I, 181; DhA. IV, 195. See also under likhita, & cp. Franke, Wiener Zeitschrift 1893, 357. —vaṇṇa pearl-white J. III, 477; M. I, 58=A. III, 324. —sadda the sound of a chank A. II, 186; Vism. 408; Dhs. 621. —silā “shell-stone, ” a precious stone, mother-of-pearl (?) Ud. 54; J. IV, 85; Pv. II, 64. Frequent in BSk. , e.g. AvŚ I. 184, 201, 205; Divy 291. (Page 663)

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

saṅkha : (m.) a chank; a conch shell. || saṅkhā (f.) enumeration; calculation; a number; definition.

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

about this context:

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

General definition (in Buddhism)

One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols

The right turning white conch shell, representing the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma which being appropriate to different natures, predispositions and aspirations of disciples, awakens them from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others;

In Hinduism the Conch is an attribute of Vishnu as is the Wheel. Vaishnavism holds that Shakyamuni Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu.

The conch shell is thought to have been the original horn trumpet; ancient Indian mythical epics relate heroes carrying conch shells. The Indian god Vishnu is also described as having a conch shell as one of his main emblems; his shell bore the name Panchajanya meaning having control over the five classes of beings.

(Sanskrit: Sankha; Wylie: dung gyas kyil)

Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

(also see Saknha Sutta)

1. Sankha. The Bodhisatta, born as a brahmin in Molininagara (Benares). See the Sankha Jataka.

2. Sankha. The Bodhisatta, born as a setthi of Rajagaha. See the Agampadana Jataka.

3. Sankha. A future king, who will be the Cakka vatti of Ketumati at the time of the appearance of Metteyya Buddha in the world. He will raise up again the palace of King Mahapanada and live there. But later he will give it to the Order and become an arahant. D.iii.75f.; Anagat. p. 42 (vs. 10).

According to the Commentary (DA.iii.856), he was one of two cane workers (nalakara), father and son, who made a hut for a Pacceka Buddha. After death, both were born in heaven. The son became Mahapanada, and, later, Bhaddaji. The father is in the deva world and will be reborn as Sankha. Mahapanadas palace still remains un destroyed, ready for his use.

4. Sankha. A Naga king; a previous birth of Rahula. SNA.i.341; but elsewhere (e.g., SA.iii.26) he is called Palita. See Palita.

5. Sankha. One of the treasure troves which arose from the earth for the use of the Bodhisatta in his last lay life. These appeared on the day of his birth. DA.i.284.

6. Sankha. The Bodhisatta born as a brahmin in Takkasila. He was the father of Susima. See the Sankha Jataka (2).

7. Sankha. A general of Kittisirimegha; he lived in Badalatthali. The king entrusted him with the celebrations in connection with the upanayana ceremony of Parakkamabahu (afterwards Parakkamabahu I.). When Parakkamabahu returned to Badalatthali in his tour of preparation, Sankha welcomed him and paid him all honour. But Parakkamabahu proved treacherous and had him slain. Cv.lxiv.8f., 22f.; lxv.13f, 27f.

8. Sankha. A Singhalese general who maintained a stronghold in Gahgadoni in the Manimekhala district, while Magha ruled in the capital. Cv.lxxxi.7f.

Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Śaṅkha (शङ्ख) is the shorter name of  Śaṅkhadvīpa, one of the continents (dvīpa) of the middle-world (madhyaloka) which is encircled by the ocean named Śaṅkhasamudra (or simply Śaṅkha), according to Jain cosmology. The middle-world contains innumerable concentric dvīpas and, as opposed to the upper-world (adhaloka) and the lower-world (ūrdhvaloka), is the only world where humans can be born.

Śaṅkha is recorded in ancient Jaina canonical texts dealing with cosmology and geography of the universe. Examples of such texts are the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapannatti and the Trilokasāra in the Digambara tradition.

Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism

Relevant definitions

Search found 80 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

Śaṅkhadvīpa (शङ्खद्वीप) is one of the continents (dvīpa) of the middle-world (madhyaloka), enci...
Śaṅkhamaṇḍala (शङ्खमण्डल).—A type of sopāna, or, ‘staircase’ of a temple.&...
Śaṅkhasamudra (शङ्खसमुद्र) is the name of the ocean (samudra) surrouding the continent of Śaṅkh...
Śaṅkhakuṇḍala (शङ्खकुण्डल):—One of the five kinds of commonly known ear-ornaments (kuṇ...
Śaṅkhavardhana (शङ्खवर्धन) is a Sanskrit technical term referring to a type of temple (prāsā...
Sankha Sutta
Sankha Sutta: The Buddha, at the Pavarika ambavana, has a discussion with Asibandhakaputta rega...
Maitreya (मैत्रेय) is one of the sixteen bodhisattvas appearing in the Vajradhātu-mahāmaṇḍala, ...
Papañca, (in its P. meaning uncertain whether identical with Sk. prapañca (pra+pañc to spread o...
Bhairava (भैरव).—Kṣemarāja in his Udyota commentary gives a description of the esoteric meaning...
Smṛti (स्मृति, “recollection”) is remembering every condition of happiness and m...
Likhita (लिखित).—A son of Jaigīṣavya and Ekapāṭalā.** Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 10. 21; Vāyu-...
1a) Nārāyaṇa (नारायण).—An avatār with Nara; as the Supreme Being; as Puruṣa and Mahāpuruṣ...
Susīmā (सुसीमा) is the mother of Padmaprabha, the sixth of twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras in Jan...
Paṇṇaka, (paṇṇa+ka) 1. green leaves (collectively), vegetable, greens J. VI, 24 (kāra° vegetabl...
1) Dhama (धम).—A son of Śivadatta.** Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 35. 12.2a) Dhāma (धाम).—...

Relevant text

Search found 218 books containing Shankha, Saṅkhā, Saṅkha, Sankha, Śaṅkhā or Śaṅkha. You can also click to the full overview containing English textual excerpts. Below are direct links for the 20 most relevant articles:

- Was this explanation helpufll? Leave a comment:

Make this page a better place for research and define the term yourself in your own words.

You have to be a member in order to post comments. Click here to login or click here to become a member.