Dakshinavarti Shankh (Valampuri Sanggu; Sri Lakshmi Shankh), is a sacred Hindu object otherwise known in English as a conch shell. This is the shell of a large sea snail from the Indian Ocean (a shell of the species Turbinella pyrum), but one that has the very rare reverse-turning spiral.
In scientific usage a dextral (Latin: dexter, right) shell has the opening on the right, when viewed with the spire upwards. The opposite is sinistral (Latin: sinister, left). This is consistent with the terms for right-handed screws in engineering and physics. Most species of sea snail are dextral, though some are naturally sinistral. Within a normally-dextral species, rare individuals may develop sinistral coiling.
In religious usage, the shankha (sacred conch shell) is displayed spire downwards. In this orientation, a common dextral shell has its opening on the left (Sanskrit: vamavarti), and rare sinistral shell has the opening on the right (Sanskrit: dakshinavarti).
For Sanskrit shankha, the Hindi pronunciation is usually written in Latin script as shankh. The Tamil equivalent is sanggu.
True vs. fakeEdit
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Other right-turning sea snail shells are often mistakenly sold and worshiped in place of the genuine Shank. One common substitution is the lightning whelk (Sinistrofulgur perversum, previously named Busycon perversum) from the Atlantic coast of North America. The real Shank has 3 to 7 ridges or plaits on its columella, whereas whelk shells do not have such plaits.
The so-called "flower-bud opening test", and the "rice pulling test" (Valampuri said to rise up through a rice heap) are non scientific. The best authenticity test is to take an X-ray image of the Valampuri. Valampuries do show some morphological variation depending on origin, and shells with mixed characters of two adjacent localities are also seen.
In South India, people trust only the Rameshwaram type of Valampuries, and do not trust other varieties from West Coast and Bay of Bengal, though these are also the true Valampuries.
In South India, people specifically worship 'Gauri Valampuri'. This Valampuri shows presence of small dark spots on its body whorl, near the conch cavity. These dots are of conch skin i.e. of periostrachum in the form of small dark coloured pustules firmly attached in very small ditch or cavities, and difficult to remove. In case if such periostrachum pustules are removed,it still shows dark coloured spots on the conch body. The 'Gauri Type ( with periostrachum spots ) of Valampuri is very rare in its occurrence and is much expensive as compared to other types.
Genuine Dakshinavarti Lakshmi Conches are only found in the Indian Ocean, between Myanmar (Burma) all the way to Sri Lanka. There are three main localities of this shankh in India. Shells from all the localities show definite morphological variations. The three localities are the Indian Ocean near Ram Setu, Sri Lanka, Ramishwaram to Tuticorin. Shells from this region are rare in occurrence. The second locality is Arabian Sea or Western India. The third locality is Bay of Bengal. Varieties showing mixed characters have also been observed. The imitation (Lightning Whelks) mostly come from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. This imitation is also known as African Valampuri. Other than busyconid species, few other species showing presence of folds in the cavity are wrongly mentioned as Dakshinavarti. These species though sinistral are different species. Having folds does not mean that they are all species under the genus Turbinella Linn.
There are different varieties of Valampuri shells based on their locality. The three main localities are Rameshwar, Ram Setu, Sri Lanka. The second one is West Coast of India or Arabian Sea and third one is Bay of Bengal. All the three types show variation.
Real Lakshmi Conch (right side spinning) are estimated to occur only one per 100,000 conch shells. The shell of the lightning whelk on the other hand almost always opens on the right (when viewed with the siphonal canal pointing upwards). Valampuries with five plaits or folds in its cavity are known as 'Panchajanya' and are very rare. Most of the Indian Valampuries show presence of orange coloured inner lip. We may also get Valampuries with Orange Brown innerlip. Valampuries with Orange coloured stripes on its main body whorl are also seen. Completely milky-white Valampuries are also very rare and expensive. Gauri Valampuries showing presence of dark brown or black spots near its cavity on main body whorl are also very rare and expensive. Giant Valampuries more than 5 kg are extremely rare in occurrence. Valampuries more than 3 feet in length are reported.
The Lakshmi Conch is said to bring all manner of blessing, but particularly material wealth, upon the owner. Ritual use may include bathing deities, drinking from the conch, or the use of mantras oriented to goddess Lakshmi. It is a wonderful object for Vastu purpose giving high positive energy.
A true Valampuri / Dakshinavarthy shell may be sold on weight basis, but at the same times it can also be sold per piece. The present market cost in India falls in the range of Rs. 18000/- to Rs. 35000/- per gram. However, there have been some reports that pure milky white Ast Laxmi shell with 8 valleys and pink lines, is also sold up to Rs. 35000/- per gram. Based upon a market search, price was average of Indian Valampuri/ Dakshinavarthy depending on size, type, quality and Ignorance of Indian Buyers price can be much higher. Tiny dwarf Valampuries / Dakshinavarthy small enough to wear as a pendant are very rare and price is negotiable when available. Tiny Valampuri / Dakshinavarthy are practically not available and people are often being cheated by selling Sinistral Land Snail in the name of Tiny Valampuri / Dakshinavarthy.
It may be noted certain cartels working in Tamil Nadu and South India are creating an artificial shortage of Valampuri / Dakshinavarti Shells and are fooling common people by charging exorbitant prices, Customers are advised to lodge a complaints against them under MRTPC (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission) Act-1966.
Most of the sellers are also selling Lightning Welk or Busicon Contarium i.e. a shell from Florida and Bahamas, which is readily available in India for Rs. 100/- to Rs. 2000/- per piece in much much higher prices. Complains of forgery can also be initiated against them.
It is observed that many of the so-called dealers do not have the actual Valampuri / Dakshinavarthy pieces in hand. One can see pictures of the same Valampuri / Dakshinavarthy on different websites. Nobody knows, who has the actual piece available.