Art/ Collection/ Art Object


19th century
Kerala State, India
Shell (Turbinella pyrum), brass, wax
Sankh: 6 × 6 × 16 3/4 in. (15.2 × 15.2 × 42.5 cm)
Stand: 2 1/4 × 4 3/4 × 5 3/4 in. (5.7 × 12.1 × 14.6 cm)
Aerophone-Lip Vibrated-trumpet / trombone
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Barrington Foundation Inc. Gift, 1986
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684
In Hinduism the conch shell is usually associated with the god Vishnu, Lord of the Waters, but the brass fittings on this shell indicate a link with Shaivite ritual. The mouthpiece suggests a lotus, while the heavily decorated conical end depicts rows of nagas (serpent divinities) and wreath-bearing kirtimukhas ("Faces of Glory"). A yoni design (symbol of female energy) is interspersed between each naga and kirtimukha. The fitting terminates with the head of a makara (elephant/crocodile monster), atop which strides a yali (elephant/lion monster). Three figures rest at the upper edge of the shell's opening: the lingam/yoni, symbol of Shiva and representation of the unified male/female force; Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva; and Nandi, a milk-white bull who serves as Shiva's vehicle. The opening of the hoofed stand represents a yoni.
#9305. Sankh
For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
Jayson Kerr Dobney, Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing. @2015 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2015, p. 159, ill.

Written by, Written by Ms. Jackie Menzies, Written by Pratapaditya Pal. Dancing To The Flute: Music and Dance in Indian Art. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Sydney, Australia, 1997, pg. 176-177, fig. 110, ill.

J. Kenneth Moore. "Recent Acquisitions 1985-1986: A Selection: Musical Instruments." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1986), pg. 45, ill.

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