Shaligram: Aniconic Representation of The Divine | Know It All
Updated: May 31
A Shaligrama – which has the marks of a shankha, Chakra, gada and padma arranged in a particular order – is worshiped as Keshava. Shaligramas are mostly black coloured stones with marks, and are the fossilized remains of now extinct sea dwelling ammonites.
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Shaligram refers to a fossilized shell used in South Asia as an iconic symbol and reminder of the God Vishnu as the universal principle by some Hindus. Shaligrams are usually collected from river-beds or banks such as the Gandaki river in Nepal. They are considered easy to carry and popular in certain traditions of Vaishnavism, as an aniconic representation of the divine life as we know it which existed from 400 to 66 million years ago.
Although Hinduism has many anthropomorphic murtis (images) of gods, aniconism is also represented with such abstract symbols of God as the Salagrama and Shiva lingam. Historically, the use of Shaligrama (or Salagrama) Shilas in worship can be traced to the time of Adi Shankara through the latter's works. Specifically, his commentary to the verse 1.6.1 in Taittiriya Upanishad and his commentary to the verse 1.3.14 of the Brahma Sutras suggest that the use of Saligrama in the worship of Vishnu has been a well-known Hindu practice.
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The largest and heaviest Shaligrama 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.
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