The Saligramas are found only in the Gandaki River at Mukti Kshetra – also called Muktinath and Damodar Kunda, one of the most sacred pilgrimage places in north-west Nepal. Here the natural elements are displayed in a miraculous form. Flickering blue flames of natural methane gas burn on water, earth and stone – in an offering said to have been first lighted by Brahma, the Hindu Creator. Muktinath’s sanctity goes far back into antiquity. The Indian epic Mahabharat mentions it, calling the place Shaligram. The river Gandaki is a very ancient river; and the geologists say that it existed even before the formation of the Himalayan ranges. It rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal, which is the southern valley of the Himalayas, and India. The situation of the birth of the river is given as North 27 27 and East 83 56’; it courses in the south-western direction, and joins Ganga in a place called Bhavatyapur in Bihar. It is an important tributary of the river Ganga. It is called Salagrami or Narayani in Uttar-pradesh. It was known to the Greek geographers as Kondochetts.
The glossy black fossils called shaligram are found in here. On the outside they look like small rounded rocks, but split open they reveal the imprint of ammonites formed 140 million years ago. Because of its wheel-like shape or chakra, the shaligram is associated with the Hindu god Vishnu. The chakras on the stones are formed by the river worms called Vajra-keeta. Its teeth/nails are said to be harder than granite stone. The Vajra keeta worms drill the stones, get inside and live there. During their stay inside the stones, they cause these chakras. Similarly outside chakras also are caused by the worms only. Saligrama are used as living place by the worms not used as shells. The chakra formation is found both on the outer and inner surface of the saligrama. Sometimes this can be seen through the holes on the Saligrama with the aid of torch light. The holes are termed as vadana or mouth.
What the scriptures say about Saligramas
Salagrama Sila Rupi Yatra Tisthati Kesavah |
Tatra Devasurayaksa Bhuvanani Catur Dasa ||
With Keshava in the form of Salagrama Sila reside all the devatas, asuaras, yaksas and the fourteen worlds.
Lord Shiva further declares that, “My devotees who offer obeisances to the shalagrama even negligently become fearless. Those who adore me while making a distinction between myself and Lord Hari will become free from this offence by offering obeisances to shalagrama. Those who think themselves as my devotees, but who are proud and do not offer obeisances to my Lord Vasudeva, are actually sinful and not my devotees. O my son, I always reside in the shalagrama. Being pleased with my devotion the Lord has given me a residence in His personal abode.
Giving a shalagrama, is the best form of charity, being equal to the result of donating the entire earth together with its forests, mountains, and all.
The Garuda Purana describes the glories of keeping a shalagrama-shila with the auspicious mark of a cakra in one’s house.
Ato’dhisthana Vargesu Suryadisviva Murtisu |
Salagrama Silaiva Syad Adhisthanottamam Hareh ||
The Lord resides in many places in which he may be worshipped, but of all the places Salagrama is the best.
– Haribhakti vilas
Drstva Pranamita Yena Snapita Pujita Tatha |
Yajna Koti Samam Punyam Gavam Koti Phalam Bhavet ||
Lord Siva spoke to Skanda, his son, saying that any person who has seen Salagram Sila, paid obeisances to Him, bathed and worshipped Him, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity.
Pujito’ham Na Tair Martyair Namito’ham Na Tair Narah |
Nakrtam Martya Loke Yaih Salagram Silarcanam ||
(Lord Siva speaks to his son, Skanda) In this mortal world, if anyone does not worship Salagram Sila, I do not at all accept any of their worship and obeisances.
Brahma Purana the Supreme Lord Vishnu states that any shila from the place of shalagramas can never be inauspicious though cracked, chipped, split in two though still in one piece, or even broken asunder.
Lord Shiva also confirms in the Skanda Purana that even if a shila is cracked, split, or broken it will have no harmful effect if it is worshiped with attention and love by a devotee. It further states there that the Supreme Lord Hari, along with His divine consort, Lakshmi, live in the shalagrama that has either the mark of a chakra, a chakra along with the mark of a footprint, or a mark resembling a flower garland.
Gautamiya Tantra States that merely by touching a shalagrama one becomes freed from the sins of millions of births, so what to speak of worshiping Him! By shalagrama puja one gains the association of Lord Hari.
The Mythological story
When Sree Vishnu got 'Satitwa' of "Tulsi" --( wife of the demon Shankhachur to kill him because Lord Shiva gave him the blessing of immortal upto that day whenever his wife will remain 'Sati' in the form of Sankhachur), then Tulsi gave 'shap' to Vishnu that he will remain in the form of black stone. Then Vishnu blessed her and said that her wish will be fulfilled. Vishnu said that her body will remain in the earth as Holy Gandaki River and her hairs will remain as 'Tulsi tree', and assured that the leaves of Tulsi always on his stone form. So without Tulsi leaves worship of Sri Vishnu is not completed till date.
Photographs are taken from the book "Bhagaban Vishnu and Saligram Shila" by Ashoke Roy. Interested persons may read his another book " Shaligram Shilar Sandhane".
More photographs of Shaligram Shila's variety: