The Sangu, or sacred conch shell is very auspicious in Hinduism and is used in many rituals. However, There is a rare Valampuri Sangu which is supposedly even more sacred to use. So what is the Valampuri Sangu and how can we identify one?
When performing Aradhanam for Perumal, it is important to use a Sangu or conch shell to bathe the Vigraham. Sangu are also commonly blown at the beginning and end of Arti in Indian practice.
The conch shell to be used comes from a particular species of sea snail known as Turbinella Pyrum, which can be found exclusively in the waters of the Indian Ocean. It is important that one uses the shell from the correct species, much as one should not use the leaves of another plant in place of Tulasi.
You will notice in the picture above that if one were holding the Sangu with the crown facing upwards, the opening would appear on the right side of the shell. This is called a dextral shell. In very rare cases, approximately 1 in every 100,000, the shell will form with the opening on the left side, known as a sinistral shell. These extremely rare shells are known as Valampuri Sangu, and are considered very auspicious to use, as they are sacred to Lakshmi.
False Valampuri Sangu
Given how rare the Valampuri Sangu is, many scam artists will attempt to take advantage of buyers by hoarding Sangu to artificially inflate the price, or by falsely selling the shells of a different species as Valampuri Sangu. As a result, one must be especially careful when purchasing Sangu to ensure that one gets the correct species which can be used in worhsip.
Identifying a True Valampuri Sangu
There are many features which distinguish the correct species Turbinella Pyrum from the Lightning Whelk. By paying attention to these differences, a careful observer can easily identify whether a shell is a true Valampuri Sangu or a fake.
- Columellar plicae: T. Pyrum has 3 to 7 ridges along the inner column at the opening of the shell. The Whelk does not have these ridges and has a smooth inner column.
- Knobs: The Whelk has many knobs, or raised bumps, along the spiral at the crown of the shell. By contrast, T. Pyrum has smooth spirals.
- Crooked siphonal canal: The long end of the Whelk shell will usually (but not always) be slightly crooked. By contrast the long end of T. Pyrum tends to be fairly straight.
A true Valampuri Sangu is generally sold on the weight basis, but at the same times it can also be sold per piece. It is charged in the range of Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 3500/- per gram.