On the day of Vaikunta Ekadashi, I got an opportunity to learn more about Shaligrama / Shalagrama / Shaligram / Saligram. Sharing what triggered my interest and the interesting aspects about what I found!
Shaligrama is a black stone. It was due to a curse that Lord Vishnu turned into a stone. A curse so powerful that even the most powerful God, one among the trinity could not do anything but accept it. Lord Vishnu received this curse from one of His most loyal devotee, Vrinda.
Typically, it looks like this
Where is this found?
Most of the Shaligrams in the world are found near Gandaki river in Nepal. Near the shores of the Gandaki river, there are many stones turned fossils are seen. Some of the temples in India have their main idols made with Shaligrams from this Gandaki river.
shaligrams (Fossils) connecting History and science
Dr. Holly Waters, a cultural anthropologist take on how history, religion and science seem to converge was a breathtakingly fresh view into how what we call as Mythology turned into history, the chemicals ammonite connecting it to science and the fact that fossils continue to take shape and are still forming, made me wonder about Dasavathara (10 avatars of Lord Maha Vishnu) in a very fresh way!
The way she describes how she clarified her doubts about the cow-hoof Shaligrama and the response it was still one – but is turning to be something different that is not yet formed was amazing from a cultural standpoint!
decades of study
I learned that there are people living in South India who have dedicated decades of their lives to study the patterns and formations of Shaligrams. They seem to be able to take one look at a stone and confirm the type of Shaligrama and the avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu that it relates to! Koti Koti Namaskarams to them! Some make it a point to go on a pilgrimage to the various temples where Shaligrama puja is conducted, visit Gandaki river, and also have them in their homes performing appropriate rituals.
I was now curious about whether the Shaligramas reflected the various avatars of Lord Maha Vishnu. How did the ammonite and insects know what shapes to carve out exactly over hundreds or thousands of years? How do they actually look like now?
The wheel shape was the most common factor in many of these. However, the variations were significant to differentiate the age and formations – especially by experts!
Hayagriva is known to be the God who recited the Vedas when he heard Lord Brahma saying it out aloud. Hearing it just once, he was able to repeat it without a mistake, making him known for his intelligence and strong memory power.
Although shaped like a tortoise, making it more like Koorma Shaligram, it has a spike on top, making it even more unique. This Shaligram hence gets the name of Muktinath Shaligram!
The grooves are like a Sudarshana chakra on Lord Maha Vishnu’s hand, making it gain the name of Sudarshana Shaligram!
Puja rituals and offering
Found it interesting to read about how a Guru explains the process to his disciple in this article that has been passed across generations and referenced from holy books. The simplicity in the form of true love to speak to the deity appealed to me making it very easy for everyone to relate to! https://anudinam.org/2013/01/31/saligrama-mahimai-%e2%80%93-12-sacred-facts-about-saligrama-12/
Grand Canyon fossils
Remembered seeing similar fossils (I am an amateur – not a fossil professional) in Grand canyon. The lowest layer (basement rock formation) was called as Vishnu schist and was 1,700 million years old. The name had a similarity Vishnu in it. The fossils were also similar to my eye.
It was interesting to observe and learn the connections! Be they names, countries, science (insects and chemicals), rocks and stone formations, names and history behind the same seemed to relate! Would be great to talk to some of the learned ones in this genre to hear about their views – both from a religion and science standpoint!
For today, I am happy that I got the opportunity to read and learn about Lord Maha Vishnu in the Shaligrama form and the various origins, and humbled to be able to write it down and share the same!