The Shankha, or Conch Shell, was used in ancient times as a war horn. It was believed that the sound would allow those who heard it to overcome fear and evil, but that it would invoke terror in one’s enemies. Later, the conch shell became an instrument commonly used in rituals. In Buddhism, the Shankha represents the voice of Buddha and the truth of his teachings. The symbol may be depicted as right- or left-turning, and the right-turning conch is believed to be the more auspicious.
The Ashtamangala are eight auspicious symbols associated with Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, – though primarily with Buddhism and the teachings of the Buddha. Originally, the symbols were used at important cultural ceremonies, and coronations.
Buddhism originated in ancient between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. The teachings about life, enlightenment and rebirth can be found in the associated symbolic meanings of the Ashtamangala symbols.
Dependent on history and situation, the order and meaning of the Ashtamangala symbols varies. However, it believed across contexts that meditation and contemplation of the symbols and their meanings may bring one closer to the teachings of the Buddha and, from there, to enlightenment.
Though is now widely accepted that there are eight auspicious symbols, in ancient times there were many more. Some of those that have fallen out of favor include a throne, swastika, ewer and a handprint.
The Ashtamangala symbols are said to bring good luck and good fortune, and are often seen embroidered on cloth or painted on objects in India, Tibet, Nepal and, to a lesser extent, China. The symbols are also used in ornamentation that decorates homes, shrines and monasteries.