Shell Crafts of India



Man explore different things to carve out new things and in this way new crafts skills emerge. Seashells fascinated the ancient Indian craftsman, as is amply evident from the discovery of shell products from various sites belonging to the Indus valley civilization.

Blowing of conch shell is considered auspicious amongst the Hindus all over the world, during religious functions and rituals. Hindu mythology refers to blowing of conch shell not only for religious purposes but also during war. In ancient and medieval times cowries were used in place of coins, to carry out business transactions.

Seashells are a gift of nature to man and they are found in a variety of shape, size and color. The colors and textures imparted and imprinted on seashells, by nature cannot be matched even by the best artist. Small seashells are known as cowries.

A variety of utilitarian and decorative items are made from shells in the costal regions of India:

Conch not only has religious connotations attached to it, but in West Bengal, it is blown during traditional weddings to ward off evil and as an auspicious symbol.


West Bengal is the main center for products made from conch and cowrie (small closed shells) shells. Bangles worn by married Bengali women are made from conch and are an integral part of the traditional Bengali jewelry. Shallow carving and etching is done on conch shells, which can be used as decorated pieces. Small shells are used to decorate bags, shawls etc.

Shells cut in different ways make good paperweights and decorative pieces.

Small shells are used in the production of intricately designed chandeliers, hangers and curtains. Utilitarian items such as key chains, fork and spoons, table lamps, ashtrays, jewelry, buttons, pen stands, small boxes are also made from shells. Shell craft also includes engraving, painting and sculpting of seashells.

Decorative shells or shells which are rare and tastefully decorated by nature are also sold as items of decoration.