Conch (/, /) is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized shells. The term generally applies to large snails whose shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal (in other words, the shell comes to a noticeable point at both ends).
The group of conchs that are sometimes referred to as "true conchs" are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus Strombus and other closely related genera. For example, see Lobatus gigas, the queen conch, and Laevistrombus canarium, the dog conch.
Many other species are also often called "conch", but are not at all closely related to the family Strombidae, including Melongena species (family Melongenidae), and the horse conch Triplofusus giganteus (family Fasciolariidae). Species commonly referred to as conchs also include the sacred chank or more correctly shankha shell (Turbinella pyrum) and other Turbinella species in the family Turbinellidae.
The English word conch is attested in Middle English, coming from Latin concha (shellfish, mussel), which in turn comes from Greek konchē (same meaning) ultimately from PIE root *konkho-, cognate with Sanskrit śaṅkha.
Conch is most indigenous to The Bahamas, and is typically served in fritter, salad, and soup forms. In addition to The Bahamas, conch is also eaten in the West Indies (Jamaica in particular); locals in Jamaica eat conch in soups, stews and curries. Restaurants all over the islands serve this particular meat. In the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Haiti, conch is commonly eaten in curries or in a spicy soup. It is locally referred to as lambi. In The Turks and Caicos Islands, the Annual Conch Festival is held in November each year, located at the Three Queen's Bar/Restautant in Blue Hills. Local restaurateurs compete for the best and most original conch dishes, that are then judged by international chefs. Free sampling of the dishes follows the judging; along with those festivities, other competitions, events, and music performances occur well into the evening. In Puerto Rico, conch is served as a ceviche, often called ensalada de carrucho (conch salad), consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, green peppers, and onions. It is also used to fill empanadas.
In Panama, conch is known as cambombia and is often served as a ceviche known as ceviche de cambombia consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, chopped onions, finely chopped habaneros, and often vinegar.
Conch shells can be used as wind instruments. They are prepared by cutting a hole in the spire of the shell near the apex, and then blowing into the shell as if it were a trumpet, as in blowing horn. Sometimes a mouthpiece is used, but some shell trumpets are blown without one. Pitch is adjusted by moving one's hand in and out of the aperture; the deeper the hand, the lower the note.
Various species of large marine gastropod shells can be turned into "blowing shells", but some of the best-known species used are the sacred chank or shankha Turbinella pyrum, the Triton's trumpet Charonia tritonis, and the queen conch Strombus gigas.
Many different kinds of mollusks can produce pearls. Pearls from the queen conch, L. gigas, are rare and have been collectors' items since Victorian times. Conch pearls occur in a range of hues, including white, brown and orange, with many intermediate shades, but pink is the colour most associated with the conch pearl, such that these pearls are sometimes referred to simply as "pink pearls". In some gemological texts, non-nacreous gastropod pearls used to be referred to as "calcareous concretions" because they were "porcellaneous" (shiny and ceramic-like in appearance), rather than "nacreous" (with a pearly lustre), sometimes known as "orient". The GIA and CIBJO now simply use the term "pearl"—or, where appropriate, the more descriptive term "non-nacreous pearl"—when referring to such items, and under Federal Trade Commission rules, various mollusc pearls may be referred to as "pearls" without qualification.
Although non-nacreous, the surface of fine conch pearls has a unique and attractive appearance of its own. The microstructure of conch pearls comprises partly aligned bundles of microcrystalline fibres that create a shimmering, slightly iridescent effect known as "flame structure". The effect is a form of chatoyancy, caused by the interaction of light rays with the microcrystals in the pearl's surface, and it somewhat resembles moiré silk.
A shankha shell (the shell of a Turbinella pyrum, a species in the gastropod family Turbinellidae) is often referred to in the West as a conch shell, or a chank shell. This shell is used as an important ritual object in Hinduism. The shell is used as a ceremonial trumpet, as part of religious practices, for example puja. The chank trumpet is sounded during worship at specific points, accompanied by ceremonial bells and singing. As it is an auspicious instrument, it is often played in a Lakshmi puja in temple or at home.
In the story of Dhruva, the divine conch plays a special part. The warriors of ancient India blew conch shells to announce battle, as is described in the beginning of the war of Kurukshetra, in the Mahabharata, the famous Hindu epic.
The god of preservation, Vishnu, is said to hold a special conch, Panchajanya, that represents life, as it has come out of life-giving waters.There is an interesting story behind the origin of a "the shankha" or conch shell.According to Hindu mythology, Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) once decided to churn the ocean in order to get a special divine nectar. This divine nectar also known as "Amrit" was known to give immortality to whoever drank it. All the Gods were on one side of it and the Demons were on the other end. The Samudra Manthan produced a number of things from the Ocean. One of the first things to come out of it was lethal poison called Halahala.Everyone was terrified as the poison was potent enough to destroy entire creation. So they went to Lord Shiva for protection and he consumed the poison to safeguard the universe. Lord Shiva took the poison in his mouth but did not swallow it. Later some additional objects came out of the ocean like Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity and beauty), Goddess of wine, Moon, divine Nymphs like Rambha- and Menakha, Uchhaishravas the divine seven headed White horse, Kaustubha a jewel, Parijata the celestial tree, Surabhi the cow of plenty, Airavata a white elephant, Dhanus a mighty bow and many more such things were produced. "Shankha" or conch shell also was one of divine objects that was obtained from Samudra manthan.
Also, the sound of the conch is believed to drive away the evil spirits. The blowing of the conch or "the shankha" needs a tremendous power and respiratory capacity. Hence, blowing it daily helps keep the lungs healthy.
A newly wed Bengali bride wears bangles called Shakha Paula, made from coral and conch shell powder. They have been a part of Bengali custom and tradition. It is believed that in ancient era, the Bengali farming community resided near the river. They collected conch shells and powdered to create bangles. They also used red coral for the bangles. They gifted these beautiful bangles to their wives as they could not afford ivory bangles.They were also known as poor man's ivory as they were cheap substitute for ivory bangles.
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