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The Shaligrams are specifically described as fossil-stones which have taken shape in the Gandaki-river, and are characterized by the presence of discus marks. Shaligrams are always naturally found in the river Gandaki. These also include the famous Kali-Gandaki River , Muktinath, Damodar Himal, Damodar Kunda, Devghat, etc.
Shaligrams are sacred ‘shilas’ or stones representing the abstract form of Lord Vishnu. His followers, the Hindu Vaishnavas, place these stones in their puja altars for daily worship. Just as the abstract form of Shiva is the stone ‘lingam’ which the Shaivites worship in their temples and homes, so is the ‘shila’ of Lord Vishnu.
According to Hindu tradition, the Shaligram stone is the shelter for a small insect known as the ‘vajra-keeta’ that cuts through this stone and lives inside it. In actuality, however, these stones are the fossils of the common ammonite that lived millions of years ago when the Himalayan mountain range formed the bed of a vast ocean floor.
Shaligrams of different shapes are often associated with the different ‘avtars’ or incarnations of Lord Vishnu such as: Matsaya avtar, Kurma avtar, Narasimha avtar and so on. In the epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna while giving a discourse to Yudhistra refers to the qualities of Shaligrams.
The Vaishnavas believe that a Shaligram is the dwelling place of Lord Vishnu and any one who owns it must worship it daily. He must also adhere to strict rules while handling a Shaligram. He must not touch it without bathing, never place it on the ground, avoid intake of non-Vaishnavite food and should not indulge in bad habits or practices.
All Shaligrams are considered auspicious: some are very sacred, others are considered to bring good luck, good fortune, peace and happiness, spiritual enlightenment and so on. Individual worshippers can choose the Shaligram that will bring them the most beneficial effects based on the positioning of the planets in their horoscopes. Temples can, however, use any kind of Shaligram in their prayers and rituals.
THE VIRTUES OF SHALIGRAM: Wherever Shaligram is kept Lord Vishnu lives there along with Goddess Laxmi. The umbrella shape Shaligram has power to give kingdom and the one having elliptical shape gives lots of wealth. Shaligram 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 a person who worships Shaligram. The one who does Abhishek of Shaligram with water gets lots of benefits and happiness. It is said that if a dying person is given the water of Shaligram then he is purified from all the sins committed by him and goes to Vishnu Lok and get Nirvan.
A sacred Gandaki river stone is a special Avatara of Maha Vishnu.It is always placed with Tulasi (signifying Lakshmi). In some parts of India,Tulasi vivaham with Saligramam is conducted- sort of Kalyanotsavam for Saligrmam and Tulasi.
The sacred Saligrama stones (black ammonite stone), are found only on the bed of river Gandak near Muktinath, Nepal. These naturally formed stones are used by devout Hindus to worship Lord Vishnu.
1. Is Saligrama in the form of black stone only ?
Yes. Mostly black stone only. Reddish black are also there, but they are very rare. Red Saligrama are not worshipped in houses.
2. Is it available at gandaki river in nepal only or else where also ?
In gandaki river only.
3. Is it a naturall formation or impression of any river worm or insect due to passage on the black stone or it used as a shell by the insect ?
It is not a stone-formation by nature. 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 chakra formation is found not only on the outer surface of the Saligrama. There are chakras inside Saligrama also. This can be seen through the hole or holes on the Saligrama with the aid of torch light. The holes are termed as vadana (mouth). Chakras can be seen inside these holes. At the very face of this chakra one can confirm or suspect whether a particular Saligrama is original or duplicate.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 puranic declaration is that the Lord Himself causes these chakras in the guise of worms.
4. He reveals His presence in Saligrama through the Chakras. Because He is already present there by his own choice, We do not perform any pratishta-ritual for Saligrama just as we do for other idols.There are also some normal size, small and very small size Saligramas with no hole and ni chakra. They look like mere black stones. But if you hold it against the lamp and look through the stone, you will be surpraised to find it is transparent. That is, the reddish light will be visible insid the stone. These Saligramas are called Ratna Garbha. They are very rare.
5. Is it a fact that more number of chakras in a Saligrama represnet its significance ?
No such significance. A Saligrama with one or two chakras is as powerful as the one with a dozen chakras. A Saligrama with 7 holes and 14 chakras is known as Ananta Padmanabha Murthy. 2 holes and 4 chakras is Narayana Murthy and so on. All the Murthys are of the same power.
6. Any other mythological background to substantiate the prevalence of such stones deserve worship as the manifestation of Lord Vishnu ?
Of the 18 Puranas, a good number of them, under different contexts, proclaim the mahima of Saligrama as Vishnu pooja. They also proclaim that the White stones ashore at Dwaraka is as powerful as Saligrama. These white stones are called : “CHAKRANIKA”. This is to be kept in pooja along with Saligrama, proclaims the Purana.SALIGRAM SHILA YATRA, YATRA DHVARAVATHI SHILA UBAYO SANKHMO YATRA, YATRA MUKTHRNASAMSHAYAHA
7. Is any size prescribed for the worship in the daily puja by Madhwas?
It is learnt that abnormal sizes should be kept in the Temples/Mutts etc.Yes. The size recommended for the puja in the house is the smaller ones which can be accommodated in the closed fist. Abnormal ones are to be kept in the Temples/Mutts etc.
8. Is it true that Saligrama should not be kept in the house without daily Abusheka ?
The emphasis is only to stress the point that you should not be lazy and miss Saligrama Puja for too long a period on False excuses. It is not to ask you do away with Saligrama on grounds of imaginary problems.
9. Are Saligramas worshipped exclusively by Madhwas or by others also ?Iyengars do Saligrama Puja as also some of the Vadama Iyers who wear Gopichandana.
Types of Saligramas:
Twenty five types of Saligrama are known. These are classified based on shap, size, color, openings (Dwaras), Chakras(natural carvings), lines etc.Some of them are are as follows:
1. Lakshminarayana Saligrama: Light dark in color, one opening, four chakrasand one line.
2. Pradhyumna Saligrama: Small, one chakra on the top, and with crookedopenings.
3. Aniruddah Saligrama: Round, light yellow to yellow color, smooth glasslike appearnace. Brongs peace and happiness to the owner.
4. Vasudeva Saligrama: Equivalent to worshipping Krishna himself. Round,shiny, with one opening surrounded by two chakras. Brings to devotees theirheart’s desires.
5. Sankarshana Saligrama: Two chakras facing each other. Narrow in the frontand wider at the back. For Brahmacharis, it brings knowledge.
6. Narasimha Saligrama: Worshipped with great devotion. Contains two chakrasand shape is varied. The devotee of this Saligrama becomes a sarva sangatyagi (renunciate) and a jitendria.
7. Lakshmi Narasimha Saligrama: Not as ugra as the Narasimha Saligrama. This Saligrama is thus an embodiment of pleasantness.This has a wide opening, has two chakra an also has a garland type of line.This brings to the devotees peace and solace.
8. Hayagriva Saligrama: Horse faced with two chakras. Not so appealing inappearance. Specially for gnanam (education).
9. Sudarshana Saligrama: Has a ordinary form with one Chakra.
10. Gadadhara Saligrama: Very ordinary with one chakra.
11. Madhusudana Saligrama: Dark cloud color and wheel shape. Has the signsimilar to foot print of a calf. Very Holy.
12. Lakshminarayana Saligrama: One opening with a garland like line. color ofdark clouds, four chakras. Very rare and special. Fulfils all desires of Bhaktas.
13. Lakshmijanardhana Saligrama: Same as above (12) but without garland shapeline.
14. Vamana Saligrama: Small in size, lighter shade of black color, twochakras with no opening.
15. Sridhara Saligrama: Same as above(14) but with a garland like line.Brings good luck and progress to the devotees.
16. Raghunatha Saligrama: Two openings, four chakras and a sign similar tofoot print of a calf.
17. Damodara Saligrama: Huge, found commonly in temples. Has two chakras.
18. RaNa Rama Saligrama: Round, moderate size, with two chakras, baby feetsign, bow and arrow signs.
19. Rajarajeshwara Saligrama: Same shape as above (17), but with sevenchakras and the sign of an umbrella(Chatri). Brings Raja Yoga and Raja Sanmanam to the devotees.
20. Anantha Saligrama: Pitch black with 14 chakras. Holiest of the Saligramas. Very rare……..