Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shankha

Shankha (conch bangles) made of conch shell are worn by Hindu women as ornaments at their weddings as a religious rite. During recitation of wedding hymns, the father or guardian of the bride gives her a pair of conch bangles. The groom also brings a pair for her. Hindu women wear conch bangles with utmost devotion seeking wellbeing of their husbands. Use of broken or cracked bangles is ominous. Wearing conch bangles on her person is symbolic of the purity of a woman's love for her husband. Common conch shells bear an anti-clockwise bend. A clockwise bend on it makes a shell very precious and is regarded as dakhshinbarta or fortune conch. In religious sense this conch is holy. Lord Vishnu holds such a conch in his hand.
Shapewise, the shells are known as lotus conch (held by Vishnu), blow conch (used for blowing at temples), water conch (used for offerings by devotees), cow-face conch (unfit for religious use) and common conch.
The conch bangle makers of Shankharipatti in various deitricts are traditionally dexterous in this handicraft. In the past, many of them used to make conch ornaments during their idle time. Many are still engaged in the art of engraving conches. Rings of various sizes are made cutting the common and cow-face conches by a special type of saw. The craftsman works with deep attention using a rasp or dao sitting on the ground holding the ring with an easel made of three wood pieces. The rings are made smooth by rubbing against stone and then various designs are engraved on their surfaces. The motifs are the product of traditional beliefs, rites and rituals. The conch bangles are decorated with about 25 types of engravings. Lotus bud, lily petal, buds of wild flowers, sheaf of paddy and shape of jasmine are among the common designs. The joints of the bangles are neatly done and covered with engravings so as to make them invisible.
The designs crafted on the bangles to please the wealthy families are indeed very attractive. Designs of fish, Capricorn, butterfly, pitcher, chillum, lotus bud, paddy sheaf; leaf of marigold, parakeet and bamboo line are crafted on these bangles. According to designs these are called banshrekhi (bamboo-lined), karnishdar (arched), khayesha (desired), bachhadar (select), phultaranga (waving flower), diamond karya (diamond work), makarchehara (Capricorn face), rangeela (colored), Ram-Lakshman (holy brothers), paddy sheaf and padmakali (lotus bud). For the use of common people the low-priced conch bangles are decorated with water flowers. Use of gold wire is also in practice in making more expensive bangles.
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