183. A Dedicated Conch Shell

Kashmir, 7th century AD
Size: 20 cm long

Download PDF

The Sanskrit inscription is drilled in dots around the upper part of the shell: ‘This is the dear and pious donation of Sri Narayanadasa [‘slave of Vishnu’] who has clasped the feet of Sthulesvara [a local form of Shiva, ‘the thick Lord’]’. A hole drilled in the shell suggests it was intended for suspension in a shrine.

Two other inscribed conch shells are known from excavations in India. A particular characteristic of this one is the powerful sound it emits when competently blown, and it was this quality that was most highly prized in conch trumpets. Intriguingly, Kublai Khan possessed a great conch shell renowned for its sound that he presented to a monastery in Lhasa. It was only blown when seven ounces of silver were donated to the temple. (S.C. Das, Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet, reprinted New Delhi, 1970, p. 242.