Shaligrams are the stones being found in the River Kali Gandaki near Muktinath temple at a Place called Shaligram. These stones are believed to be the manifestations of the God Vishnu. They are found in different colours such as black, red, white, yellow and green. Each of the colours has its own distinct importance.
They are marked by typical lines like those of The Lord Krishna’s discus – Sudarshan Chakra.
These Shaligrams are considered to be very holy and those who have it have to worship them daily with quite a lot rules and regulations related to bath, satvik food and pure ways of conduct. These are not purchased or sold; they are usually inherited in a family down the generations. However, some believe them to be fossils of an extinct sea animal called ammonoid. Nowadays when original fossils are not available, artificial ones are made available in the market.
There is a legend behind this as well which goes like this:
Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil is closely associated with the origins of Shaligram worship. Once in anger the goddess Sarasvati cursed the goddess Lakshmi. Sarasvati’s curse changed Lakshmi into a tulsi plant and forced her to live on earth forever. Vishnu, however, intervened and modified the curse, saying that Lakshmi would remain on earth as tulsi until the river Gandaki flowed from her body. In the meantime, He would wait by the riverside in the form of a stone to take her back to His abode. This stone was the Shaligram Shila, which thus remained on earth as a representative of Vishnu. The Shila Deities and the tulsi plant are thus always worshipped together as Vishnu and Lakshmi.
The largest and heaviest Shaligrams can be seen at the Jagannath Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, at Puri in Orissa. The main ISKCON temple in Scotland, called ‘Karuna Bhavan’ is famous for housing the largest number of Shaligram Shilas outside of India.
Anywhere in the world, if any temple of the God Vishnu is built, it can’t be complete without Shaligrams. It is the manifestation of The Lord Vishnu just as the Shiv lingam is for The Lord Shiv. Keeping aside the controversy between the religious beliefs and scientific ones, Shaligrams have been an abode of an utter faith for not only Vaishnavas but for all Hindus down the centuries.