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Friday, September 2, 2011

Conch Shells : Fossils

Several years ago, I was told by one of my friends that he has inherited a solid (stone like) Conch Shell and that he is keen to let me have a look. Later on When I visited his place, he showed me his antique possessions over a cup of tea. Among other things, the solid Conch Shell was also present. I examined it and realized  that it was a million year old real fossilized Conch Shell. My friend was too happy to learn about it.  He had, however, no clue as to how it was sourced.

Once, when I was travelling in Shahpura area of Mandla District in Madhya Pradesh (India), I was informed that plant and tree fossils are scattered over a very wide area. Now it falls in Dindori District and has been protected as part of the National Fossil Park. The area forms a part of the great Vindhya/Satpura Mountain Ranges which divide India into North and South.

In an another occasion I was  traversing  the same terrain accompanied by a youth from that area. I questioned him if fossils of other living beings are also obtainable thereabout. He got enthused and offered  to take me on a hillock which according to him, had lot of things in store. We parked the vehicle at a convenient place and proceeded to scale the hillock known as “Karpa”. Karpa is also the name of the small town nearby. On the way and particularly on the summit, I was wonderstruck to find many boulders wherein fossilized Conch Shells were embedded. The rocks were fragile enough to be broken to take out the shells they encompassed. It was my GK (though poor) which suggested that the boulder rocks could have been formed  by the lava emitted during some volcanic eruption, millions of years ago. There could have been the Sea or a lake over there and the volcanic eruption created the hillock and brought up the Sea Shells which got deposited on the top of the hill. I collected few of them for my self and some more to serve as give a ways. I also brought along with me a piece of rock wherein the shell was in an embedded form.

According to the Hindu Mythology, when the Vindhya ranges started moving up (gaining height) it was feared that this could cause hindrance for the Sun (God) to move to the South. The assembly of Gods decided to entrust the problem to a Seer (Rishi) named Agastya. Agastya in turn accompanied by his family and disciples went up to the Vindhya Mountain and requested it to scale down its height to provide a passage to the South for his entourage. The mountain, in veneration, bowed down and assured to remain subdued till the return of the Seer from his journey to the South. However, the Seer was not to return and the mountain is keeping its promise.

While I was in service, these fossils served a wonderful purpose. I used to wrap them in a silver foil and present them to high dignitaries duly gift packed with a request to keep it in their prayer rooms. It was being emphasised to them that these fossilized shells will give them peace whenever they are troubled. They used to accept the gift  with great reverence, as Conch Shells, in Hindu faith are objects of that kind.
The story will begin again when somebody inherits them.