The conch shell has survived as the original horn trumpet since time immemorial. Ancient Indian epics describe how each hero of mythical warfare carried a mighty white conch shell, which often bore a personal name.
The conch shell represents the resonant, melodious, and pervasive sound of the Dharma, awakening disciples from ignorance and guiding them to accomplish the benefit of oneself and all mother beings. The Conch is most commonly used in Buddhist and Hindu rituals.
Today the conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism to call together religious assemblies. During the actual practise of rituals, it is used both as a musical instrument and as a container for holy water.
The conch shell has been incorporated as one of the eight auspicious symbols, also called astamangala. The right-turning white conch shell represents the elegant, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of Buddhism, which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others. The shankha symbolizes the sacred Om sound and the fame of the Buddha’s teachings that spread in all directions like the sound of the conch shell.
Unlike filigree carved conch shell trumpets for tourists today, these simpler conch shells from the last century are real pieces that were used in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.
The shell known as the 'conch shell' is actually not a shell but a snail. It is the shell of the predatory marine snail Turbinella pyrum, which is found in the Indian Ocean.