By Swami Harshananda
Pāñcajanya literally means ‘the conch’ derived from Pañcajana’.
Pāñcajanya, as a Horn
In the olden days, a śañkha or a conch was as much an appendage for the kṣattriya warriors as it was for the brāhmaṇas in their ritualistic worship. It was used like a horn to blow, signifying a challenge for a fight at the beginning and the end of a battle every day and so on. Famous warriors usually gave special names to their weapons and śaṅkhas. Kṛṣṇa’s śaṅkha was known as Pāñcajanya, Yudhiṣṭhira’s as Anantavijaya, Arjuna’s as Devadatta and Bhīma’s as Pauṇḍra.
Pāñcajanya, a Śaṅkha
Pāñcajan was a fierce demon who lived in a miniscule form inside a śaṅkha at the bottom of the sea. Once he abducted the only son of the sage Sāndīpani and ate him. After completing their education under Sāndīpani, when Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma requested him to accept their gurudakṣiṇā he expressed a desire to get back his lost son.
Coming to know all the details regarding the boy’s disappearance, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma dived into the sea, killed the demon Pañcajana, usurped the śaṅkha in which he was dwelling and later got the boy back from Yamaloka, the world of Yama. Since this śaṅkha was obtained from Pañcajana, it was named Pāñcajanya.
Pāñcajanya, a Mountain
Pāñcajanya was also the name of a forest near the Raivataka mountain.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore