IN A heavily ritualistic religious tradition, the devotee needs a number of supportive objects to carry out his procedure of worship in the temple. One of the most important one of these objects is the instrument of sound, besides the lamp and the incense.
Conch, a natural instrument creating invocatory sound is either in its original form or as trumpet, is invariably used in the monasteries and temples of Tibet. It is likely that the use of conch shells introduced in the mountainous regions of Tibet from India where it is available in plenty and is ascribed symbolic significance of purity of primordial sound. The sound of the conch shell trumpet from the roof of a monastery is a call sign for the Lamas.
When used as a trumpet, it is heavily decorated. The conch is attached to the trumpet which has a rectangular metal plate. Often the designs on these are gold plated. The conch shell with the right turned whorls is considered highly auspicious, so much so that one such trumpet was taken by a Tibetan emissary De-bzhin-gshegs-pa to China as an offering to the King Chengzu in 1407 CE.
The trumpet is attached to a shell and has a decorative brass plate soldered to it. In the middle of the brass plate, between the two stylized dragons is a fire and kirtimukha. The guardians on the four sides are depicted on the four corners of the outer border. There is a depiction of human skulls on the side border. The mask or kirtimukha also regarded as an auspicious emblem protects the devotees from evil.
The present trumpet has an inscription on it which says that it was a gift by Nathu Kheyul Rimpocha of Lithang to the great Lhaste at the time of his second reign in Water Snake Year= 1500 CE

Sir Ratan Tata Collection


Himalayan Art

Object Type

Musical Instrument ritual object


Copper and Shell






Dated Water-Snake year=1500 CE




32.2 x 39.6 cms.