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.
Characteristics Of Shaligrams
The marks made by the shell of the ammonite give a Shaligram its characteristic appearance, with the
pattern often resembling and representing the 'Sudarshan Chakra' or the discus with a sharp-toothed edge
which rests on the index finger of Lord Vishnu. Shaligram stones come in dfferent colors such as red, blue,
yellow, green and black. Of these, the yellow, blue and black varieties are considered more sacred. The yellow
and golden-colored Shaligrams are considered most auspicious and are believed to bestow great wealth
and prosperity on its worshippers.
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.
Note: If you are worshiping more than one Shaligram, make sure they are in even numbers.
This means you should have either two, four or six Shaligrams. Place a tulsi mala around
them or offer fresh tulsi leaves every where. It is important to remember that even the water
that has touched the Shaligram becomes 'amrit' (holy water), while you are bathing it, has tremendous
properties. If you drink this water, it can help bring relief from various physical ailments
and poor health so you can lead a more healthy life.