Shaligram: The Most Sacred Stone of Hindus

Shaligram is a ‘Sacred Stone’ to Hindus all over the world especially the Vaishnavs. It is considered as an incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu himself as protector of devotees in Kaliyug; so also called as ‘Narayani Shila’.

Shaligram gets its mention in many sacred Scriptures of Hindus e.g. Agni Puran, Bhagwat Puran, Brahmand Puran, Brahm-Vivart Puran, Garuda Puran, Narsimha Puran, Padma, Puran, Skand Puran, Varaha Puran, etc.; Bhagwan Vishnu as omnipresent in this stone, hence, is very sacred. In Mahabharta Lord Krishna himself had mentioned the beneficial characters of Shaligram to 'Yudhishthir'. Buddhists and Nepalese also consider Shaligrams as very auspicious stones.

These sacred or Divya 'Shaligrams’ occur in nature as fluvial washouts in areas SW of Jomsom in Kali Gandaki River, which has deepest gorge in world, in Nepal and adjoining parts of Tibet. Kali Gandaki is also known as Naryani and Salagrami near Muktinath (Vishnu/ Lokeshwar) temple in Mukti Kshetra (Shakti Peeth/ salvation area) in Mustang district of Nepal. Muktinath temple is visited by Hindus and Buddhists with a belief that Bhagwan Vishnu is reincarnated as Lord Buddha here. Buddhists consider ‘Shaligrams’ to represent Gawo Jogpa, a serpent deity (Sheshnag). Kali Gandaki River is believed to have sprung as perspiration from the cheek of Bhagwan Vishnu. From these areas these Shaligrams are traded to India since ancient past. Kali Gandaki in India is known as Gandaki River which joins holy Ganga near Patna in Bihar State.

Shaligrams are found in various colours, though mostly black, shapes and markings. All the Shaligrams are considered auspicious. Shaligram’s shapes are linked to different incarnations of Bhagwan Vishnu i.e. Ananta, Basukinag, Bhaskar, Damodar, Dwarka, Gadhadhara, Garuda, Gopal, Govardhan, Govinda, Hari, Hayagriva, Hiranya-Garbha, Kalpa-Vriksha, Keshav, Kubera, Lakshmi, Madhav, Madhusudhan, Mukunda, Narayana, Padmanabha, Purshottam, Satvata, Santhan, Sankarshan, Shankha, Shesha, Shridhar, Surya, Vasudev, etc.

It is said that wherever the sacred Shaligram is kept Lord Vishnu lives there along with Goddess Laxmi. An umbrella shaped Shaligram has a power to give kingdom and the one having elliptical shape is for great wealth. It also purifies a person and gives success in all walks of life. The benefits that one get by reading all the Vedas and doing penace (tapasya) is obtained by the person who worships it. The one who does its abhishek with water gets lots of benefits and happiness. It is said that if a dying person is given the water of Shaligram/ Narayani Shila, then he gets purified from all the sins committed by him in life and gets Vishnu Lok or Nirvan. Shaligrams do not require any cleansing and consecration activity, hence, can be worshipped directly.

According to Hindu tradition these sacred 'Shaligrams’ shelter small insects called ‘Vajra-keet’, having a diamond tooth, which cuts through the Shaligram and stays inside. This observation of ancient Hindus looks strange but it is quite true as Shaligrams do contain fossil remains of extinct marine animals.

In technical terms the Shaligrams form ‘fossiliferrous concretions’ displaying a range of awe-inspiring forms inside. In Palaeontology the animal fossil associated with Shaligram is named ‘ammonite’ which belonged to genera Blanfordiceras of Cephalopods of Upper Jurassic (Thithonian: 145 - 210 million years) age, found in Spiti Shales and its Saligram Member. The ammonite in fact belongs to extinct ‘molluscs’ group, the ancestor of present day marine animal ‘chambered nautilus’. Sometimes the reducing environment of formation of black shales converts iron into ‘pyrite’ coatings to ammonites, giving rise to development of golden coloured Shaligrams, which are considered rare ones. These ammonite fossils, thus, serve as non-anthropomorphic symbol of Bhagwan Vishnu, titled as Shaligram.

There is a religious story as how Lord Vishnu became ‘Shaligram stone' by the curse of Vrinda (later called Tulsi/ Holy Basil), wife of Jalandhar (an asur, who was killed by Mahadev Shiv when Bhagwan Vishnu, disguised as Jalandhar, stayed with Vrinda). Lord Vishnu agreed to be with Her (Vrinda/ Tulsi) since then as a ‘Shaligram’. Hindus perform Shaligram-Tulsi marriage also as a festivity. Shaligrams are very sacred, is evident from their presence not only in Hindu homes but also in most Hindu temples in India as well as located abroad.


More by :  Dr. Ashok Grover

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