Ashoknagar had been the principal seat of Conch shell industry in Bengal From time immemorial, the ‘Sankharies’ or ‘Shankhabaniks’ have been supplying conch bungles to adorn the hands of married Hindu Ladies, which they used to wear as a mark of good fortune but now they have gone almost out of fashion in urban areas. The religious compulsion traditionally associated with the conch shell products has lost much of its force in modern times.
The artisans are now manufacturing various novelty items like bungles, blowing-conchs with intricate design and figures of gods and goddesses skillfully carved on them, even in miniature forms.
Conch Shell Artifacts
The Conch shell, the thought of it always reminds one of the mornings Puja at temples that begin by blowing the conch. And then the ancient battles that also were announced using it. But in Bishnupur, artists do much more than that with conch shells. They carve them carefully, giving their plain shiny surfaces, the designs that make them look precious, literally. A well-carved conch shell can cost you a lot.
Conch Shell Bangles
Then, there are conch shell bangles that are made by cutting the conch shell and then doing the carvings on them. Sometimes the carvings are done using machines, which make fine designs using clean lines. Sometimes, the artists sit with the bangles and carve them with hand. Like every piece made by hand, there are imperfections. But then like all living things are imperfect but beautiful, these bangles also look enchanting. Bengali women wear them as a sign of being married along with a red bangle.
People of Bengal have an emotional connect with conch shell usage of which is associated with newly-wed women to religious ceremonies and rituals. The craft practiced here for centuries, involves engraving beautiful images on the shell obtained from the ocean bed.
It takes two to three months to engrave a conch shell into a delicately finished work of art. Every artisan has his unique pattern of carving the shell. While some craftsmen carve images of Lord Shiva on the shells, others create entire episode from the Mahabharata on them.
The conch shell crafts of Bengal are not only beautiful and delicate pieces of art, these are also considered to be extremely auspicious. That is why, conch shell bangles have traditionally adorned the married Bengali women.
Historical Importance: Bangles made of conch being used by the Bengali married woman
Materials used: Shell Conch
Usable items: Bangles & decorative items & novelties
Area of production: Ashoknagar-kalyangarh