Sangu: Son of the Sea
February 7/2019

Before technology, when the world adapted to industrial machinery or whichever that was available, third world countries used what nature left them. In the Maldives and many parts of South Asia, the Great Triton Shell was used as an alarm. These rare shells are not readily available, making this one of the most expensive items found in the beaches of Maldives.

The Charronidae is a family of sea snails that range from shapes, sizes and colours but share similar features. Charonia Tritonis or the Giant Triton (also Triton’s Trumpet) is one of the largest coral shells reaching up to 2 feet. The Giant Triton is a very rare species and can be found in reefs across the world. Even though these shells may be similarly shaped like its sisters, but it is one of the only shells that can create that loud trumpet sound.

These shells were mostly used in the Maldives and called Sangu in Dhivehi. Even though the bronze age had liberated most countries from these practices, Maldivians used the Sangu even in the late 18th century. The quiet and small island villages allowed the warning trumpet sound of the Sangu to be heard across every home in the town. These warning signs were used to alarm islanders from invaders, or for public gatherings.

Many countries have banned fishing of these Tritons due to its declining population and its importance to the coral reefs. The Crown of Thorns starfish has been destroying coral reefs in the Maldives and also the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Since the main predator of these toxic starfish is the Giant Triton, many countries have banned the fishing of Tritons.

The giant triton or Sangu has been part of the Maldivian cultural evolution since history was ever recorded. It is minted on the Maldivan 2 Rufiyaa Coin since its adaptation as a coin in 1995. The Giant Triton Shells are a rare collectable item amongst the Maldivians even today.