Salagrama is an iconic in character. However in comparison, the linga may be a natural
object like the bana-linga found in the river Narmada, or carved by man in stone, gems or
clay or any material. But Salagramas are always only those which are naturally found in
the river Gandaki; they are never made by man.
It is interesting to that the great Samkara (632-664 A.D.) mentions in his Vedanata-sutra-bhashya
the worship of no other god other than that of Vishnu, and that too in his Salagrama aspect (1,2,7 ‘yatha
salagrama harih’; 1,2,14 ‘salagrama iva vishnoh’; 1,3,14 ‘yatha salagrame vishnuh sannihitah, tadvat’), and not in
iconic forms. There is a wide-spread belief that the aniconic salagrama must necessarily accompany the iconic
representations; and the worship offered to the salagrama takes precedence in the worship offered at home
or in temples. It is a fact that in the Vishnu shrines, salagramas are invariably placed in close
contact with the ‘mula-murti’, which worship is offered. Even in the celebrated temple of Vengadam
(Tirupati-Tirumalai), the group of salagramas always kept at the feet of the main deity in the sanctum
partakes of the principal worship daily; administrating a ceremonial bath to the salagramas is an important detail.
Salagrama is actually the name of the village on the banks of the river Gandaki, where the holy
stones are picked up. The name is derived from the hut (sala) of the sage Salankayana, who beheld the
form of Vishnu in a tree outside his hut (cf. Varaha-purana). This hut was on the banks of the Gandaki,
and it was in that particular spot that these sacred stones were found in abundance. The stones were
therefore called Salagrama.
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.