The conch shell - nowadays - is used in Tibetan Buddhism in the practice of rituals either to summon religious assemblies, as a musical instrument in ceremonies or as a container of holy water. However, it has had other purposes, thus in the ancient epics of India, it is described how each hero carried to the mythical wars, a white conch, which often had a name being the same one used as a trumpet (function similar to the horn of war from other cultures). It is one of the main emblems of Vishnu whose conch had the name Panchajanya which means “to have control over the five classes of beings.” Aryuna - hero of the Mahabharata - also possessed a conch known as Devadatta whose triumphant sound brought terror to the enemy. It is an emblem of power, authority and sovereignty, its sound was believed to expel evil spirits, prevent natural disasters and drive away poisonous creatures.
In ancient India shells were classified into male and female varieties. The thick-shelled one was believed
It was the male (purusha) and the thin-skinned female (shankhini).
They also gave it a classification taking into account the castes:
- the smooth white conch represents the Brahmin caste