The story of salagrama
Why are these stones called Salagrama?
That is due to a story in the Varaha Purana 144-145, which says that once there was a sage by the name Shalankayana, who was performing austerities and devotional meditation in many holy places with the view to gain a great devotee of Lord Vihsnu as his son. He visited the sacred tirtha (holy place) of Muktinatha in present day Northern Nepal, high in the Himalayas, and took his bath in the icy waters of the Kali Gantaki at the back of Annapurna mountain. Extremely tired from his climb in the high altitude, he finally took rest under a sala tree.
Krishna informed that from that day (the dwadasi in the sukla paksa of the month of Vaisaka) He would eternally stay on the area of that mountain in the form of the Salagrama stone. Actually there was no sala tree there at that time - it was a special self-manifesting mercy incarnation of the Lord appearing for His devotee. So in the same way, the Lord continued to tell the sage that in the self-manifesting form of the Salagrama Shila He will reside there, and the devotees can take Him in this form and worship Him, and He will reciprocate their love in that way. This is confirmed in the Mahabharata (Vana Parva Ch 84, 123-125), where it is said the name Salagram is given to Lord Vishnu who resides in the Salagrama at the Salagram Tirtha.
Formation of patterns on the stones
The formation of various patterns and marks on the salagramas is explained as follows:
A worm called vajra-kita (the adamantine worm) was born in these stones. This worm was in fact a form which Vishnu himself assumed. Having entered into the bowels of these stones, the worm, golden coloured, mighty and brilliant like a flash of lightning, making a sweet noise, carves out the marks of numerous kinds and various other marks with ease in the stones. The worm is believed to reside inside these stones for countless years, the presence of Godhead is unbroken here.
Characteristics of the salagrama-stones
The sacred stones may be white, yellow, red, black, green, tawny or ash-coloured; they may contain stains, and they may be multi-coloured. The colours might be excessive or faded; the colours may otherwise be difficult to determine. The stones occur thus in many colours and forms.
The salagrama-stone is described as the field for the presence of Godhead. The differentiation in this regard are dependent on the colours. The Vasudeva-salagrama is white in hue; the Sridhara-salagrama is yellow; Vishnu-salagrama is black stone; Narayana-salagrama is greenish (blue-black) in colour; Narasimha-salagrama is red; Damodara is represented by the blue-coloured stone and Vamana-salagrama is like the atasi flower in colour. Multi-coloured stones indicate Ananta and stones which are bright-white in colour Adhoksaja. The stones which are reddish brown like honey represent Brahma and tawny coloured stone represents Narasimha.
The colours have their own effects and influences.
The ash-coloured salagrama
stone is especially suitable for worship by ascetics. The stones which are stained bring
decay and destruction, the multi-coloured stones are also unfit for worship, unless it be
Ananta-salagrama. Highly coloured stones cause misery; the faded colours destroy the
lineage; the colours which are indistinct and uncertain make for death.
Shape and Size
The salagrama stones also differ with regard to their circumference (parimana), which is measured in terms of the size of the aperture.
The wise one will tie round the middle of the salagrama-stone a thread; and if the aperture is located at the spot which marks one-eight of the threads length, then the stone is of superior variety; it may also be of the middling variety. However, the stone having an opening in the one-third part is to be rejected. (However, Brahmanda-purana has a different prescription: There are different effects in terms of locations of operators. If the aperture is downward, it is terrible; the aperture on top will be useful only in magical rites of driving away the enemy; The apertures being even are especially meritorious, while the aperture on the sides will take away fortune. If the aperture is crooked, it causes disease; if long-mouthed it devours everything (viz. Makes one impoverished). One should carefully examine the stone before ascertaining the deity-specification.
A large salagrama is by definition eight finger-breadths (of the worshipper) in width; larger than that is recognized as very large and is regarded as unsuitable for a householder to worship.
The features of salagrama-stones are deity specific and attributed to the Dasavtar. The basic typology of the Salagrama is in accordance with the chaturvyuha ideology. All the innumerable deity-specific Salagramas branch out initially from the four vyuha-deities: Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha; and these four originate from the Para aspect of Godhead.
The Matsya-murti-salagrama has the form like the head of the fish; a chakra is seen on the face; there are also marks of sri-vatsa, dots and scratches resembling vanamala (garland of wild-flowers)
The Maha-kurma-murti-salagrama is round, shaped like a tortoise, and has marks of vanamala, lotus and discus; its colour is green and it has golden spots.
The Varaha-murti-salagrama is long-mouthed, is blue-black in colour, has an encircling mark of earth, and is distinguished by a shining chakra at the opening.
The Buddha-murti-salagrama has two apertures, and two chakras in the interior. The chakras are upward-inclined at the head, or they are at the sides. The stone may be multi-coloured.
The Narasimha-salagrama has an elongated mouth, tawny-hued, a longish chakra and a big belly (viz. Middle portion). This stone is suitable for worship by ascetics.
The Lakshmi-Narasimha-salagrama has a chakra on its left side, is black in colour and has spots (viz. Dots). Its worship makes for worldly prosperity as well as emancipation.
The Vamana-murti-salagrama is shining blue in hue; it is small in size and perfectly round in shape; it has marks of vana-mala and lotus.
The Parasu-rama-murti-salagrama is distinguished by the line-scratches resembling an axe; it is dark blue-green like the blade of the durva-grass; it is high in stature and is adorned with a chakra at its navel.
The Sri-rama-murti-salagrama is large, elongated and has spots on its body; there are also line-markings resembling bow and arrow; there is a chakra at the navel, and dark stone has many fissures.
The Bala-rama-murti-salagrama has marks of the plough-share, and of the pestle-like weapon on it; it is whitish in colour, and has line-scratches of vana-mala; there are also dots like honey drops. This is the abode of Samkarshana.
The Srighana-murti-salagrama is white in colour and exceedingly smooth to touch. It has a thousand (viz. Many) spots on the surface, and also a chakra.
The Kalki-murti-salagrama is recognized by the line-markings resembling a horse, and the weapon called Kunta (lance). It is white in colour, and has a long mouth.
The Sri-krishna-murti-salagrama has markings of the five weapons (conch called Panchajanya, discus called Sudarsana, mace called Kaumodaki, bow called Sarnga, and sword called Nandaka), vana-mala and lotus; is has a minute chakra.
Sri-gopala-murti-salagrama has the markings of the five holy weapons (mentioned above); it
has no apertures; it is either round in shape or elongated; a vana-mala mark is seen on
The Dadhi-vamana-murti-salagrama has a downward chakra at the top which are spots like honey drops, the stone has a bluish tinge as well as reddish hue.
The Dadhi-gopala-vamana-salagrama has a chakra on top, with spots like honey-drops at its upper end.
Santana-gopala-murti-salagrama has marks of cudgel and horn (which cowherds carry) on its
sides, and at the head position can be seen the mark of a flute. The worship of this stone
The Pradyumna-murti-salagrama is of the colour of a hibiscus flower (viz. Red) and is marked by lines and scratches resembling vana-mala, bow, arrow and lotus. Its worship bestows whatever one longs for.
The Aniruddha-murti-salagrama has the same characteristics as the above (viz. Pradyumna murti), but is recognized be an aperture with a minute chakra, and by marks of golden and silver lines.
The Hayagriva-murti-salagrama has the form of a ripe jambu-fruit (rose apple, Eugenia Jambolana), with a face in the shape of an elephant god; it has also longish spots on its body.
The Sridhari-murti-salagrama shines like fresh green grass, has uneven chakras and there are marks on it resembling vana-mala.
The Lakshmi-narayana-murti-salagrama has a low or depressed look, and is perfectly round, and cold to touch; it has a chakra on its head; there are two apertures and there are four chakras either to the left or to the right.
The Padmanabha-murti-salagrama has a lotus-like chakra at its navel, and is of the colour of a rose apple (Eugenia Jambolana).
The Govinda-murti-salagrama is dark blue like the blade of a fresh durva grass; it has ten apertures and twenty chakras; and there are scratches on its body which look like vana-mala. The worship of this stone secures the fulfillment of all desires.
The Visvarupa-murti-salagrama is known by its twelve apertures and twenty four chakras. Its worship will bring about worldly prosperity as well as final beatitude.
The Ananta-murti-salagrama is always cold to touch, but shines like a blaze of fire; it has an even number of minute chakras, with marks of the classical five weapons of Vishnu (conch, discus, mace, bow and sword), and also of Sri-vatsa-mark on the chest.
The Lakshmi-narayana-murti-salagrama is hard to obtain, and its worship quickly fulfills ones desires. At the entrance to the aperture are lines which resemble the flying bird Garuda (the vehicle of Vishnu).
The Narayana-murti-salagrama is recognized by the shape of the serpents hood that seems to surround it. Its worship secures the fulfillment of whatever one seeks for.
The Damodara-murti-salagrama is longish in shape, and brilliant in appearance; there are marks on its body of conch, discus, mace and vana-mala.
The Trivikrama-murti-salagrama is longish in shape, and brilliant in appearance; there are marks on its body of conch, discus, mace and vanamala.
The Janardana-murti-salagrama is characterized by its blue colour and marks of conch, discus and lotus; it is cold like ice; and has a shape like a spear.
The Vasudeva-murti-salagrama has the appearance of tranquillity, and shines like moon-light; it bears the marks of the five weapons of Vishnu (conch, discus, mace, bow and sword), and has a chakra at its navel.
The Vishnu-murti-salagrama has the dark colour of the Vishnu-kranta flower (Clitoria Ternatea or Evolvulus Alsinoides), the marks of the five weapons of Vishnu (mentioned above), and also of vanamala and lotus.
The Achyuta-murti-salagrama is bluish in hue and large in size; it is smooth and has minute chakras; it has marks of vanamala on its body.
The Upendra-murti-salagrama is also shining blue in colour, with marks of conch, discus and mace on its body. Its worship will cause happiness and good fortune.
The Siva-nabha-murti-salagrama is roundish like an elephants body; and in the central portion thick lines are seen. It is hard to obtain, but its worship secures all desires.
The Hiranya-garbha-murti-salagrama is blue-black in colour and cold to touch; it has no apertures, but it contains gold within (viz. It has spots in golden colour in the middle portion of the stone).
The Madana-gopala-salagrama is partly black in colour and partly reddish; it has a long aperture on its left side; and there are marks of conch, discus, bow and moon.
Janardana-murti-salagrama shines like blue water-lily (utpala, Nymphala caerulea); it is
recognized by the vana-mala mark which goes round the stone.
The Lakshmi-narayana-murti-salagrama has two chakras on top and two chakras at the bottom.
The Sriman-narayana-salagrama has two chakras on each of its sides.
The Sudarsana-murti-salagrama is round in shape or sometimes oval; there is a single chakra seen at the aperture; and there are spots on the body of the stone.
Elsewhere, this is described as equipped with two chakras at the top, and as exceedingly ferocious in aspect, and as such worthy of worship only by ascetics.
The Vanamala-murti-salagrama is of tawny hue, and has an aperture at the sides of which are fang-like structures and inside which are two chakras; the aperture is crooked, and by its side is the vanamala mark.
The Maha-jvala-nrsimha-murti-salagrama is thick in shape, blue-black or tawny in colour, and has a gaping mouth (aperture). This is fit for worship only by mendicants.
The Siva-nabha-murti-salagrama has a linga-like form on top where there is also an aperture; it is perfectly round in shape and cold to touch. It is auspicious and secures all prosperity.
The Buddha-murti-salagrama is muddy coloured and has spots on it; the chakra is there in the aperture, but unseen; the chakra also is dark gray in colour.
The Lakshmi-nrsimha-murti-salagrama is tawny in hue, and inside its aperture is a large chakra within which is another chakra, minute in size.
The Sveta-varaha-murti-salagrama has a long snout, and one tusk; it is whitish in colour and exceedingly clear; there is but a single mark on its body which resembles vanamala.
The Bhu-varaha-salagrama has a raised body with a head shaped like an elephant goad; there is a chakra at the bottom, and near it can be seen a structure like the single tusk. It is an auspicious stone.
The Kurma-murti-salagrama is thick and compact in structure, blue-black in colour, variegated hue, tawny or black; it has chakras.
The Hrshikesa-murti-salagrama is dark blue (or black) in colour, soft to touch; it has five apertures and ten chakras.
The Keshava-murti-salagrama is blue black in colour with minute chakras; it has golden and silver spots, and a mark resembling vanamala.
The Achyuta-murti-salagrama is extremely cold to touch, and has a small aperture; it has a chakra on the surface and two chakras within the aperture.
The Vaikuntha-murti-salagrama is blue-black in colour and soft to touch; there are line marks of eight weapons of Vishnu, and also a mark of vana-mala; there is an aperture like the lotus stalk.
The Vishtara-sravo-murti-salagrama is a large one, elongated in shape and has apertures on both of its sides; there is a chakra, and also the mark of vana-mala going round.
The Hiranya-garbha-salagrama is moon-like in appearance, slippery to touch, and large in size, raised on top. There is a chakra at the entrance of the aperture.
The Tri-murti-salagrama is characterized by the marks resembling conch and discus (emblems of Vishnu), snake and battle axe (emblems of Siva) and lotus and water-pot (emblems of Brahma), and marks of three garlands.
The Kurma-varaha-murti-salagrama has a chakra with two dots or the mark of conch; and there is another minute chakra nearby. This is difficult to procure and its worship will secure the fulfillment of all desires.
The Matsya-murti-salagrama has the shape of a fish, and is spotted; there is the mark of shakti-linga (viz. Trinagle) at the head which is unevenly situated or at the place where the mouth would be located.
The Varaha-murti-salagrama is dark-blue in colour thick, and marked with three lines. Its worship promises the fulfillment of all desires.
The Kapila-narasimha-salagrama has a large chakra at the place where the tusk would be located; the colour of the stone is tawny, and there can be seen on the stone the mark of vana-mala. This must be worshipped only by celibates for worldly prosperity or for salvation.
The Vamana-murti-salagrama is of the colour of flax-flower (Linum usitatissumum) and is endowed with spots on the top; there are scratches resembling ear-rings; and also a spot on the head. The stone is small and round.
The Dadhi-Vamana-murti-salagrama is a small one and perfectly round; it is black in colour and has spots on top. There is a chakra in close proximity to the aperture. This is hard to get, but when worshipped it secures all desires.
There is another variety of this salagrama which is small and has two spots; it is dark in colour and extremely greasy (or smooth); there is on it the mark of vana-mala. It is an auspicious stone, facilitating worldly prosperity as well as salvation.
The Lakshmi-nrsimha-murti-salagrama is black coloured and spotted; on its left side are two chakras. The worship of this stone secures prosperity here and liberation hereafter.
The Rama-murti-salagrama resembles in its colour the kadamba flower (Naulea Cadamba, viz. Orange) and is spotted; there are marks on it of bow, arrow and lotus. It is pleasant in appearance, but difficult to obtain. Its worship is capable of fulfilling all desires.
The Sri-rama-murti-salagrama is like hens egg in shape, and is blue-black in colour; the rear portion is raised; at the back are scratches resembling a bow, the wish-fulfilling tree and royal parasol; and criss-cross lines suggesting a quiver. This is a rare salagrama.
The Sita-rama-murti-salagrama has a shape that resembles a hens egg, and has an opening at the bottom, with marks like ear-rings. At the entrance are evenly situated chakras; and the mark of the wish-fulfilling tree is also there. There are chakras at the front and on the left side and line scratches.
has the shape of a jambu-fruit (rose apple), and is black in colour; there are also spots.
At the rear there is an aperture, and a mark of ear-rings (makara-kundalas); on the
forehead of the stone, slanting to the left are the mark of he arrow and bow, with spots.
This sacred stone is capable of eliminating enemies and fulfilling all desires when
The Brahma-murti-salagrama (Parameshthi) is whitish in hue, and perfectly round; it may also be yellowish. It has a single chakra and mark of a lotus; and at the rear portion is an aperture.
The Vasudeva-murti-salagrama is small and round, very much like an areca-nut; there are two chakras evenly located at the entrance of the aperture. However, there are no chakras in the interior. It is rather whitish in colour and brilliant in appearance. When worshipped, it can help avoid untimely death; and it will secure all desires.
The Maha-vishnu-murti-salagrama is pleasant in appearance, and the spiral mark in lines is seen on its surface. It shines brilliantly, and is black in colour. It is an auspicious stone and will remove all fear of death.
The Narayana-murti-salagrama is blue-black in colour, and has a chakra at the navel, which is also raised. There is long line-marking on its surface and the mark of vanamala in gold.
The Lakshmi-narayana-murti is of yellowish hue, and its left side is rounded; there are four chakras surrounded by a long time. There are markings of pestle, sword, bow, vanamala, conch, discus and mace on the face and at the navel. The stone is suitable for all prescribed rituals; it will cause prosperity, and accomplishment of ones desires.
The Sridhara-murti-salagrama is recognized by the prominent marking of vanamala; the stones colour is very much like the Kadamba flower (Nauclea Cadamba, viz. Orange). Its worship secures all attainments
The Samkarshana-murti-salagrama is characterized by two chakras situated in the same spot, and by the front portion being large. The colour of the stone is reddish, and it is beautiful to look at.
The Pradyumna-murti-salagrama is of bright yellow colour; there is a minute chakra, and there are numerous apertures in the elongated body of the stone.
The Vishnu-murti-salagrama is bluish in colour, round in shape and has a chakra which is large in size. It may otherwise be blue-black in colour. It is a beautiful salagrama.
The Krishna-murti-salagrama is recognized by a long line in the middle, which resembles the mace. The worship of this stone helps one to acquire worldly prosperity and also obtain emancipation.
The Kurma-murti-salagrama is raised on the rear side, and is adorned by white hood-like structure and marked by a hoof (foot mark of horse). It has black spots but otherwise clear. The stone is suitable to be worshipped on all auspicious occasions.
is distinguished by the marking of the serpent hood. The banner-like marking is seen in
the middle, accompanied by a line. The stone is a large one, shaped like a serpent; and
has seven chakras.
The Trivikrama-salagrama is shaped like a hens egg; it has a chakra on the top-position; there are two other chakras and on one side of the stone is larger on the other. There are markings of flag, conch and ploughshare; there are also spots. Its worship helps avoid untimely death.
The Lakshmi-gopala-murti-salagrama is also shaped like a hens egg, but has markings and ear-rings. This stone is an extremely rare one; and its worship assures progeny, prosperity and salvation.
The Sri-hari-murti-salagrama is a large one and its colour is that of copper (or red).
The Balabhadra-murti-salagrama, which is worshipped for obtaining celebrity and cattle wealth is blue-black in colour and its shape is that of a parasol; it is smooth (greasy). It is characterized by animating opening, by a spot and by red lines. Its fore-part is bulky, and its body is soft and shining.
The Gopala-murti-salagrama, which is a very rare one, is worshipped for obtaining progeny, increase of cattle-wealth and emancipation.
The Lakshmi-gopala-murti-salagrama is shaped like parasol, and is extremely unctuous: it has no apertures, but spotted. It is large, heavily and brilliant.
The Varaha-murti-salagrama is dark in colour (blue-black), has the rear part raised, and is adorned by a golden spot at the back. There are two chakras evenly located; and at the bottom is a minute chakra.
The Janardana-murti-salagrama is distinguished by four chakras.
The characteristic features of some salagramas representing deities like Sudarsana are given below:
The Sudarsana-murti-salagrama has but a single chakra, while the Lakshmi-narayana murti has two chakras, the Achyuta-murti three and the Janardana-murti four. Vasudeva-murti has five chakras, while Samkarshana has six, Varaha-murti seven, Purushottama-murti eight, Narasimha-murti nine, Vamana-murti ten, Pradyumna-murti eleven, and Ananta-murti twelve. The supreme spirit abides in other multi-chakra-stones also.
The especial benefits of worshipping these different varieties of salagramas are narrated as under:
The Hiranya-garbha-salagrama brings all good fortune to the worshipper; it is like worshipping a thousand Shiva-nabha salagramas. It assures worldly prosperity.
An even number of salagramas must be worshipped, except when they are only two (in which case, they must not be worshipped); and an odd number of salagramas must never be worshipped unless it is only one salagrama (when it may be worshipped).
How to identify the divine Salagrama?
The details to be examined are the shape and the colour of the stone, the number and location of chakra-marks, the type of filaments that are present in the crevices and fissures and the deity-identity.
Of the large number of deity-specific salagrama-stones, three are held especially sacred: Vishnu-salagrama (identified by the chakra in the shape of a garland, and by the marks of conch, mace and lotus), Lakshmi-narasimha-salagrama (having two chakras on the left side of the opening or vadana, and dots and specks all over the body), Matsya-murti-salagrama (fish shaped flat stone with a single opening and two chakras, one of them inside the opening and the other outside; having dots and specks on the body resembling a foot-print). A salagrama with no openings but having two chakras on the surface is usually considered ferocious (ugra), and is either avoided or worshipped especially elaborately. The Matsya-murti-salagrama is particularly recommended when it has a chakra on the tail portion (viz. Rear).
Authorities like Vrddha-gautama indicate that brahmanas may worship five Salagramas, kshatriyas eight, vaishyas seven and shudras seven; for ascetics four Salagramas are suggested.
However, Puja-prakasa suggests that the Vasudeva-murti-salagrama is suitable for the brahmanas, Samkarshana-salagrama for the kshatriyas, the Pradyumna-salagrama for the vaishyas and the Aniruddha-salagrama for the Sudras. Vishnu-dharmottara has the same prescription, and adds that the brahmanas may worship four salagrama-stones, the kshatriyas three, the vaishyas two, and the shudras one.
Which stones to be avoided?
According to Brahmanda purana, the stones which have chakra-markings across (tiryak-chakra), which have bound chakras (baddha-chakras, meaning thereby the chakra markings showing constraint), which are deformed (kurupa), which have rough openings (nishthurasya), which have a terrific aspect (karala), which look ferocious (vikarala), which are tawny-coloured (kapila), which have uneven spirals (vishamavarta), which have openings too wide (vyalasya), which are hollow inside (kotara), which do not stand steadily (asana chalana), which are broken (bhanga), which are very large (maha-sthula), which have a crevice in the bottom joined with a single chakra (asane sushiram yasyas chakrenaikena samyuta), which are cracked (dardara), which have a large number of chakras (bahu-chakra); which has chakras that are broken (bhagna-chakra), which has an opening below (adhomukhi), which has a hole or fissure (sa-chhidra), which is very red in colour (su-rakta), which has a wide, spreading chakra (brhacchakra), which is criss-crossed by numerous lines (bahu-rekha-samyukta), which is an elongated chakra (dirgha-chakra), which has chakras in a row (pankti-chakra), which has been put in a fire (pradagdhika), which has no mark whatsoever (achihna), which has fang-like projections (krura-damshtra-samayukta) or which has swellings like water-bubbles (sphota-budbuda-samyuta) to be avoided.
The triangular, uneven shaped and crescent-shaped stones must not be worshipped. The salagrama-stones which have irregular angles, which are burst, burnt, stained, or warm to touch must be avoided, as also those without chakras, or those which have been embrocated (rubbed and frayed), or which have crooked apertures. Likewise the stones with numerous chakras, crooked chakras and chakras at the bottom, must be avoided. The stones with many arrow-like lines, or with chakras which cannot be deciphered at all; the stones which are shaped like unripe bread-fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia) or like the deep-brown vegetable (Caculus melanoleucus). The stones which are fettered (clasped or joined) or obstructed, the stones which have a cruel, terrible and awesome aspect, and the stones which have crooked snouts must be avoided. The stones which are broken or burst open, the stones which are burnt, and the stones which are triangular in shape must be avoided, as also those which have internally split, and damaged; and the stones which have many scratches and fissures must also be avoided.
The salagramas must, therefore, be carefully examined with regard to their worthiness for worship.