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Tattoo designs - C >> Conch Shell

Right turning conch shellConch Shell - Buddhist Tattoos - The sacred conch shell - symbol of the fearless proclamation of the Buddha's teachings - is also symbolic of the call to awaken others.

One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols used in Buddhist ritual and ceremony, the conch shell can also be seen as representing Buddha's dharma radiating as from a horn in all directions. It represents 'right speech' and is sometimes inscribed or carved on the throat of Buddha statues, standing for his resonant voice and the sacred sound of OM. The conch also appears on the soles of the statue's feet, and on the palms of the hands, the forehead, and on the breast.

The conch is an edible tropical marine mollusc (genus Stromus) with a brightly-coloured spiral shell with a large outer lip. A conch tattoo would serve a person well who intends to uphold a fearless declaration of 'truth'.

In Buddhist imagery, the conch is usually depicted in a vertical position. The shell that spirals to the right is rare, and is therefore favoured as a sacred artifact in ritual and ceremony. A silk ribbon is often threaded through the lower point, and is held in the left hand, the 'wisdom' hand. The clockwise direction of air spiralling out of the conch represents the 'right hand' or 'true declaring' of the Dharma. In art that depicts Buddha, the whorl of hair at the crown of his head swirls to the right.

Prior to the Buddhist era in Tibet, the indigenous religion was a form of shamanism in which the conch shell was deployed to call upon protective spirits to watch over cattle and crops. Today, it is used in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries to call together the religious assemblies. In Buddhist ceremonies it is used to carry holy water, and when placed in a horizontal position it is also used for perfume and holy oils. In Tibet the conch is even used as a musical instrument. A mouthpiece was formed by sawing off the tip of the conch shell, and it is said that the playing of the conch, together with the cymbal and the drum, 'makes the ghosts panic and the Buddha happy.'

Tibetan Buddhist monk with conch shell

In India, the white conch shell represents deities, royalty, and the Brahmin caste, while the red, yellow and grey conches are symbolic of the other three castes. The sacred texts tell of Vishnu handing over his white conch shell to Buddha in recognition of the sovereignty of the new law - the Buddha Dharma. Buddha was believed to have been one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

Conch battle trumpetThe conch shell is a survivor of the ancient battle horn, emblematic of power, authority, and sovereignty. Its blast banished any lurking evil spirits, it scared away poisonous creatures, and was believed to have the power to avert natural disasters. In Hindu myth, its mighty blast was thought to terrorize the enemy. It is referred to as the 'mighty white conch', carried by heroes in battle, their name inscribed upon it.

More universally, the conch, with its spiralling shape, symbolizes the celestial motion of the sun, moon, stars and planets across the heavens. The Chinese see it as a symbol of good luck in travel, as well as implying a fame that, like the blast from a giant conch shell 'spreads far and wide'.

Buddhist Conch Shell Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!Different species of conch shells are found in Indian, Pacific and Caribbean waters, and often play an important role if the local culture, not the least of them being as a food source. In some parts of Polynesia the conch shell was used as a trumpet to sound an alarm, a call to arms or as a musical instrument.

Get inspired by some great images and photos in our Buddhist Conch Shell Inspiration Gallery

See also: Buddha Tattoos, Religious Tattoo Index, Buddhist TattoosBodhi Tree, Buddhist Knot, Parasol Tattoos, Buddha's Footprint Tattoos, Begging Bowl, The Empty Throne, Three Jewels, Buddhist Victory Banner, Buddhist Tattoo Index

Tattoo designs - C >> Conch Shell

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