Saligram / Shaligram is the most sacred stone of worship says Indian traditions. In India, people worship God in every possible form. Some in the form of plants or trees, some in rocks, a few in animals, some as idols, etc. Saligram or Shaligram is one such example that is worshipped in the form of stone. What is its importance, how did it emerge, and why is it so prominent? And many such questions are answered in this article.
What is a Saligram / Shaligram?
Saligram or Shaligram is an abstract form of Lord Vishnu. Many Hindus worship this with intense purity and devotion. It is basically a fossil stone found in the riverbed. These particular stones have the symbols like chakra, conch, lotus, mace, etc on their surface. Since these symbols are associated with Lord Vishnu, people consider them most sacred and believe it is the manifestati on of Vishnu himself.
Where and how did the Saligram emerge?
These stones are also known as shilas or Shaligram shilas. The Saligram shilas are millions of years old and are found in the river Gandaki. As per the geology, this river is older than the Himalayas. River Gandaki also known as Kali Gandaki flows through Nepal and joins the river Ganga in Bihar. The same river is also called Salagrami or Narayani in Uttar Pradesh. The Shaligrama hill on the bank of this river is believed to be the manifestation of Lord Vishnu (mentioned in Mahabharath).
A peculiar type of river worm named Vajra-Keeta is the reason for the symbols on the stones’ surfaces. This worm has teeth as hard as diamonds, it drills the rock or stone and enters inside. In the course of their stay inside the stone, these worms carve the shapes on its surface. The stones so carved by the worms are known as Shaligrams.
Story of Shaligram:
Once Lord Surya (Sun) cursed a king named Vishwadwaja to live through poverty. Years later his grandsons Dharmadhwaja and Kushadhwaja learned about the reason and performed a penance to please Goddess Lakshmi. The goddess appeared before them and blessed them with prosperity, also she promised to take birth to their daughters. As promised, Lakshmi took birth as Vrinda (Tulasi) for Dharmadhwaja and Vedavathi for Kushadhwaja. As years passed Vrinda went to Badrinath to perform penance in order to have Lord Vishnu as her husband. But Lord Brahma told her that, she would marry a demon Shankachuda (Jalandhara) instead of Vishnu in this life. Shankachuda was Sudama, a great devotee of Vishnu, cursed by Radha in his previous life. As said, Vrinda also known as Tulasi married Shakhachuda.
Shankhachuda was also a devotee of Lord Vishnu. He fought with Devas and took over swarga (heaven). Gods prayed to Lord Shiva to rescue them. Then, there was a war between Shankachuda and Ishwara which went on for months unending. Meanwhile, Lord Brahma informed Lord Vishnu that, until Vrinda doesn’t lose her purity (pativratya), no one can kill Shankhachuda. Learning this, Vishnu took the form of Shankhachuda and cohabited with Vrinda. Then after, Ishwara killed Shankhachuda. Later, learning about the cheating, Vrinda cursed Vishnu to turn into grass, tree, and rock. Similarly, Lord Vishnu turned into Dharbe (a divine grass), Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa), and Shaligrama hill. Meanwhile, Vrinda cast off her body. The discarded body thus transformed into the Gandaki river and her hair became Tulasi plant. This is the reason to worship Tulasi plant and Shaligrama shila together.
Why Saligram is available only in bed of Gandaki river:
There is another legend that talks about the river Gandaki and why Saligrama is found only there. Once, there was a prostitute named Gandaki in ancient times. She was so beautiful that, right from beggar to king everyone was fond of her. Even though she was prostitute, she was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, also she had her own set of rules. Gandaki didn’t want a man only for physical intimacy. She said whoever she sees first in the morning at her doorstep, would be accepted as husband for one day. Days passed, one fine day a leprosy patient was standing at her door awaiting her. After thinking for a while, Gandaki accepted him as her husband. Their day began as a couple. Her husband (the patient) wished to sleep on her lap. In mid of the conversation, he died as it is on her lap.
It was the time when Sati system was in practice. That is, when the husband dies, the wife forcefully has to jump into the fire set to burn the husband’s body. Gandaki decided to kill herself by jumping into the fire because that person died when he was her husband. The rituals began as per the custom, the moment when Gandaki was about to throw herself into the fire, it started raining heavily and the fire turned off. Next moment the dead body woke up and turned to his original form as Lord Vishnu who had come to test Gandaki. Lord Vishnu described everything as to why he came there. Then, he asked Gandaki to ask a boon for herself, as he was glad by her principles.
So, Gandaki asked the Lord to stay within her forever as he died on her lap. In reply, Lord Vishnu said, “you will take birth as Gandaki river in your next life and I will emerge as saligrama in you”. As said, the prostitute took birth as river in her next life and Lord Vishnu manifested as Shaligarama hill on its bank. The small stones of that hilly rock turn to Saligrama by the worm Vajra-Keeta.
Benefits of worshipping Saligram:
Worshipping a Saligram has many benefits say the Puranas ad believers. Following are some of the benefits according to Puranas.
- If one worships and prays a Saligram at home, it removes obstacles and negativity from the family.
- Worshiping a Saligram provides good health, wealth, and prosperity.
- It removes hurdles and helps in wish fulfillment.
- It helps in attaining peace of mind.
- Saligram also aids to wash away the sins of past lives.
Whatever the epics tell, nature never fails to astonish us with its miracles. Like the small worm that creates holy stones, there are many such miracles in nature that we can’t even imagine. So, our prime duty is to save nature and lead a blissful life in the cradle of earth.