By Shoba Naidu February 2000 Collecting conch shells has transformed D. Madhava Reddy into a spiritual guru and changed his life’s mission Conch shells occupy pride of place in D. Madhava Reddy’s house in Hyderabad, India. And why not? They have given their collector name and fame—an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records! Row upon row of the 1008 huge, creamy, perfectly shaped shells, neatly numbered, sit daintily on shelves along the walls of several rooms. Result: the entire family has been pushed to one room and a verandah at the back of the house! Moreover, these auspicious Dakshinavrutha Sankhams (right spiraled conch shells), considered a rarity, have totally transformed Reddy. Today this journalist-turned-lawyer is a spiritual guru—Swami Prahalada, who earns his living with shankh puja (worship with shells), astrology and vaastu shastra. Reddy would have been a High Court judge by now had he not taken to the spiritual path. ‘I believe these conch shells possess cosmic vibrations that purify the environment,’ he justifies. ‘My spiritual salvation lies in them.’ Each conch shell has a specific name from the Vishnu Sahasranamam (thousand names of Hindu deity Vishnu). Their vibrations are fixed and are used accordingly in the abhishek, ritual bathing of the deity. The collector intends building a Vishnu temple and perform abhishek with these conch shells. ‘This is my life’s mission,’ he declares. For this purpose, he was gifted 10 acres of land on the outskirts of Hyderabad by a vaastu client. He, however, has no inkling from where the funds for the project will come. Spiritual inspiration led him to create a yantra (mystical geometrical pattern) for vaastu remedy. It was done by using a miniature conch shell, a chakra made of Brazilian crystal and a compass enclosed in a glass case. A picture of Vishnu holding a conch and a Sri Chakra (auspicious yantra) inspired him. The navagraha, nine plants, and ashtadigpalak, eight directions, have been assigned different colors on the glass case. ‘This yantra has helped many industrialists correct the energy imbalance in their factories without indulging in new construction,’ he explains. His passion for these conch shells took its root during his childhood. He had a vision of Kalki (avatar of Vishnu for the Kali Yuga) riding a white horse, carrying a sword and a conch shell. He often wondered at the significance and power of the conch. The first conch shell he acquired was in Varanasi, holy town in India and he was smitten. Reddy devoted 30 years collecting these items using his ancestral wealth. ‘I traveled along the Indian coast looking for perfect specimens,’ Reddy informs. The conch shells, ranging from eight to 12 inches in length, have been obtained from South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh—at times, from global fishing companies at a heavy price. Reddy explains the religious significance of conch shells. ‘According to Hindu mythology, Paanchajanya, the first Dakshinavrutha Sankham, emerged during the churning of the Ksheerasagara(ocean of milk) by the devas (gods) and asuras (demons). As it rose out of the ocean, its tremendous decibel frightened the asuras who appealed to Vishnu to save them. Lord Vishnu obliged, taking charge of the conch shell.’ The primordial sound of creation, that is the Omkar or Pranavanadham, was thereby controlled. Hence forth, it became a part of Vishnu’s five weapons. He adds: ‘In his various avatars, Vishnu has used all weapons to destroy evil forces. Only the conch shell and the sword remain. These, I believe, he will use in the present yuga on donning the Kalki avatar.’ Conch shells have a significant place in Indian mythology. ‘Even in the great epic Mahabharata, these were given a lot of importance. Each conch shell had a specific name. Krishna’s conch shell was known as Paanchajanya, Arjuna’s Devdutta, Bhima’s Paundra, Yudhisthira’s Anantavijaya, Nakula’s Sughosa and Sahadeva’s was known as Manipushpaka.’ Belief in mythology apart, the conch shell’s significance is corroborated by science. Says Reddy: ‘Try holding a conch shell to your ear, the sound of the ocean humming gently can be heard. It is actually the natural vibration or cosmic energy of the earth that gets magnified on entering the conch shell. These unique whorls are directed clockwise in perfect synchronization with universal harmony. That is why a conch shell is blown during sacred rites to get rid of negative energy. The vibrations from these conch shells can dispel evil forces from the earth and also clear environmental pollution including healing the hole in the ozone layer which causes global warming!’ Not a far-fetched idea considering fairly recent newspapers reports that European scientists are using a certain species of oyster to clear oil spills in the North Sea. The significance of the number 1008, his total collection, he believes, is that the aura of each conch shell extends to a certain distance. All of them put together in symbolic rite will extend to the ozone layer of the earth! ‘This is my pollution control plant which is more powerful than an atomic plant,’ he claims. ‘Materialistic goals based on western ways of thinking are the root cause for environmental pollution and unrest in the world. It’s time we purified and energized the earth by going back to nature,’ advises Reddy.
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