Śankh

Date: 19th century

Geography: Kerala State, India

Culture: Indian

Medium: Shell (Turbinella pyrum), brass, wax

Dimensions: Height: 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm)
Width: 16 3/4 in. (42.5 cm)

Classification: Aerophone-Lip Vibrated-trumpet / trombone

Credit Line: Purchase, The Barrington Foundation Inc. Gift, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.12

Description

In Hinduism the conch shell is usually associated with the god Vishnu, Lord of the Waters, but the brass fittings on this shell indicate a link with Shaivite ritual. The mouthpiece suggests a lotus, while the heavily decorated conical end depicts rows of nagas (serpent divinities) and wreath-bearing kirtimukhas ("Faces of Glory"). A yoni design (symbol of female energy) is interspersed between each naga and kirtimukha. The fitting terminates with the head of a makara (elephant/crocodile monster), atop which strides a yali (elephant/lion monster). Three figures rest at the upper edge of the shell's opening: the lingam/yoni, symbol of Shiva and representation of the unified male/female force; Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva; and Nandi, a milk-white bull who serves as Shiva's vehicle. The opening of the hoofed stand represents a yoni.

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