(typed up by Kirtida Sundari - thanx)
Details of Shaalagraama
page 107 - 136.
The Shalagram-stones that are worshipped are only those which are picked up from the Himalayan stream Gandaki. The expression Shaalagraama, which is of the Puranic celebrity, refers to a particular site in the course of this stream, where the sacred stones were found in profusion. The site was once a village, which was distinguished by the Shaala-trees, or by the one grand specimen of the species (as the story told hereafter suggests); hence the name 'Shaala-graama'. The name of the village is spelt variously as 'Shaala-graama' (with the initial phoneme being palatal, 'talavyaadi'), 'Shaali-graama', Saala-graama (with the initial phenome being dental, 'dantvyaadi') and 'Shali-graama'. Of these forms 'Saala-graama' is the correct one, because 'Shala' is the proper Sanskrit word for the Himalayan tree now known as Shorea robusta (commonly, however, called, Saala, Saakhu and Sukhuaa). The word 'Saala' is derived from the root 'shala gatau' (meaning "to move") (anikriti shaalas siddhyati'), and signifies any tree (which is moved by wind 'shalati vayunaa chalatiiti'), but refers principally to the tree mentioned above (cf. the lexicon Visva, which says 'shaalo haale nripa matsya-prabhede sarja-paadape'). Ancient and medieval treatises on Indian medicinal plants give the name of a group of large trees as 'shaalaadi-varga' (dipterocarpeae), which includes not only the Shaala-trees (Shorea robusta), but also Sarja (Vateria indica0, Garjana (Dipterocarpus alatus) and Bhimasena-karpuura (Dryobalanops aromatica or what is commonly called Sumaatra camphor). The Shala-trees grow in the Himalayan foothills, and prevail from Kangraa valley to Assam.
It must, however, be mentioned that the commentary on the tantrik text, Paaraananada-sutra, provides a different explanation for the idea of shaalagraama and insists that 'Shaligraama' is the correct form. The expression 'Shaali' ('Shaalayah' in the plural number) according to this text, signifies lords or masters, and the word 'graama' means a collection or group thereof (samuuha-vaachii shabdah) Shaaligraama therefore, represents a collection of gods in one place. Shaali-graama may otherwise mean a stone (graava) which is collected of particles of divinity.
It may be mentioned that the word Shaalagraama is more popularly used in North India, while in the Southern states, 'shaligraama' (dental) is the form that prevails among the people. But the puranic accounts, make a clear preference for the form 'Shaalagraama'.
There is a puranic story (Varaaha purana) which explains how the village on the banks of the Gandaki-river got the name 'Shaala-graama'. Shaalankaayana, son of Vishvaamaitra, was a sage of great repute. He looked for a place to perform severe austerities to obtain a vision of the god Vishnu. He se;ected a site on the banks of the river Gandaki. This site was distinguished by a single Shaala-tree, 'which was large, wide-spreading, unbroken and blossoming' , and a pleasent mountain overlooking it. The sage did penance for some days in the open with single minded devotion, and, becoming extremely fatigued by the severe summer sun, moved to the shade of this tree.
He sat to the east of the tree with his head turned in the western direction. Vishnu, who had appeared on the eastern side of that tree to bless him, was thus not seen by the sage. It was on the twelfth day of the Vaishaakha month that the sage did behold Vishnu, under the Shala-tree.
The excited and joyous sage praised Vishnu with Vedik hymns. When Vishnu asked him to choose some boon, the sage said, "I performed the penance only to have a vision of your glorious form; and now I have it. I want no other boon!" Vishnu later explained that the Shaal-tree, in the sade of which the sage was refreshing himself, was verily his own form; and that he would abide in it. The yonder mountain, which was extraordinary, was also his form.
Having said so, Vishnu disappeared. And the sage went round the tree in deep devotion, and returned to his hut, looking earnestly at the mountains. Since that time, the village became a sacred spot, and was called 'Shaalagraama-tiirtha; and the rock in its vicinity became 'Shaalagraama-giri.'
Vishnu Purana also speaks of the mountain on the banks of the river. However, the sacred stones are what are found in the river, and not what are taken out of the rock on its banks. Varaha Purana makes this clear (SK page 110)
The particular site in the course of the river where the stones become sacred is known as Chakra-Tirtha (chakra-tirthaavachchhinna-gandaki-nadyutpanna-shilaasu shaalagraama-pada-vaachyaa) The sanctity of this site, however, extends to three yojanas (24 miles) allround.
There is also a river called Chakra-nadi (now called Kagbeni), which flows towards Gandaki and joins it at the site mentioned above. This river is described in Garuda-purana as created by Brahma; and the great peak to the north of the river is said to contain the presence of Vishnu. All the stones found in the river as well as in the mountain are believed to bear the marks of Vishnu. The entire area (including streams and the mountainside to the north of Muktinatha) covers as many as twelve yojanas (96 miles), according to the Puranic account. Among the Shalagram stones, some are from the waters (jalaja) and some are from the mountainside (sthalaja). This classification is found in Varaha purana (SK page 111).
Although the Shalagram stones are forms of Vishnu and thus are equally adorable, there is an elaborate attempt to identify the individual forms. The Shalagram stones are generally associated with Vishnu and are regarded as representations (pratika) of Vishnu; but there are also Shalagram stones representing some forms of Shiva, some forms of Shakti, Surya, and Ganesh. The entire panchayatana worship, an account of which has been given, could be carried out by having the Shalagram stones signifying the five deities. We read in Brahmaanda purana:
The need to identify the Shalagram with reference to the deities they represent and to ascertain their worship worthy character has resulted in a number of manuals in Sanskrit.
Besides the accounts found in several puranas (like Brahma-vaivarta, Agni, Padma, Garuda, Nrsimha, Skanda, Brahma and Brahmanda) there are works like Shalagram-mahatmya included in Gautamiya-tantra, Shalagram-pariksha in Magh-mahatmya section of the Padma purana, Puja-prayog, Haribhaktivilas of Gopal Bhatta, Shalagramarchana-chandrika, Puja-pankaja-bhaskara, Shalagram-mimamsa of Somanatha-vyasa, Shalagram-lakshana-panjika, Shalagram-parikshaa of Anup-simha, Shalagram-mula-lakshana-paddhati, Shalagram-sila-parikshana-paddhati and an entire section in the Vaishnavaidhi chapter of Sri-tattva-nidhi of Maharaj Krishnaraj Wodeyar III of Mysore.
Most of these works provide some basis for the identification of a particular Salagrama as representing a specific form of Visnu. And the independent works mentioned above are in large measure found to depend upon the Puranic accounts, which are in fact readily acknowledged; there are relevant citations from the Puranic texts. In fact all these later works purporting to help in the examination of Salagrama-stones are in the nature of complications of puranic passages. But the puranic descriptions of salagrama-stones are not always uniform. There is thus quite some uncertainty regarding the identification of these sacred stones.
All the sacred stones called Salagramas are alike in external form, and for an untrained and uninformed eye little difference could be indeed be perceived among the several stones. But inspected closely, the stones reveal characteristics differences. The marks of identification are many, like the number, location and shape of the chakras present in them, the colours and hues of the stones, the source of the stones, the scratches and lines on the surface of the stone representing the ayudhas of Visnu. The devotee needs to be acquainted with the form of the deity which Salagrama-stone symbolizes, before he proceeds to worship it.
While there is a general belief that the salagrama-stone of whatever form or representation is worthy of worship, and although it stands to reason, there is a Salagrama-lore, probably dating from the middle ages, which attaches positive and negative values to individual stones.
We have it on the authority of Padma-samhita (Kriya-pada, 32, 8-11) that all the stones marked with Vishnu’s emblems from the river Chakra-tirtha (viz. Gandaki) are suitable for worship, irrespective of their forms and details; worship of these stones would not without doubt lead to a worldly welfare and salvation.
Likewise, Vishnu-tilaka-samhita (7,500-501) says that any Salagrama, however damaged. But with the mark of discus left intact, must be worshipped for prosperity and emancipation. Neither the rituals of invocation and consecration, nor those of pacification and expiation are indicated in the worship of Salagrama-stone. Bathing the stone in milk would suffice in case of defilement by touch etc.
While worshipping the salagrama-stone of whatever form or deity, even if there be lapses and improprieties in the worship-rituals, they are all readily condoned and the purpose of worship would be fulfilled. So says Sandilya-samhita (3,40).
This view, found uniformly in the Samhitas appears to have been given up in the later puranic manuals.
Some are said to confer benefits, and some are said to portend misfortune. Some are prescribed for householders, some others for the ascetics, and yet some others for strict celibates. All stones are not suitable for all devotees: the devotees are advised what would profit them and are warned that would harm them. It is no doubt difficult to accept the proposition that the worship of some Salagramas will result in loss, death and catastrophe; any worship, for that matter, must bring about only a favourable change and accomplish the welfare of the worshipper. But the manuals that we have do indicate that some salagrama-stones must be avoided by householders.
Ancient references, however, do not make distinctions among salagrama stones; any Salagrama-stone is taken as a visible representation of Vishnu. The salagrama-lore that seeks to identify the different stones and ascertain their worship-worthiness is obviously a part of the later puranic culture.
There is also discussion in some of these manuals whether the worship of salagrama is an obligatory rite (nitya-karma) or an optional one (kamya). The difference between these two varieties of rites consist in the absence of specific desires and lack of material motivations in the former, and the role of desires and motivation in the latter. The Sandhya ritual, for instance, is an obligatory rite: it must be performed because there is the canonical prescription: “ahar ahas sandhyam upasita”. By performing this ritual, one does not expect to obtain any merit which will usher in benefits. It must be done dispassionately, without motives, and with a sense of duty. Not performing this rite, however, will result in the sin of omission (pratyavaya); it means a neglect of duty. On the other hand, a sacrifice like the Jyotishtoma is prescribed to be performed only by one who desires supreme material happiness (the canonical injunction: “svarga-kamo jyotishtomena yajeta”); is not therefore be done by one who has no desires in this sense; it is then not obligatory, but optional.
With regard to the worship of salagrama, there are some puranas (like
Skanda) which take such worship as an obligatory rite.
Hemadri, the medieval authority on Smrti also says..
Gotama, whose authority he quotes, prescribes expiation for one who neglects to perform the salagrama-worship (“tad akarane prayaschittam uktavan”), thus strengthening the argument that it belongs to the nitya-variety of rituals. An expiatory rite is prescribed to overcome a sin that accrues otherwise ( “papa – visnuddhyartham prayaschittam udahrtam”).
If the worship of salagrama is neglected for a day, the expiation known as ‘brahma-krchchhra’ (sustaining ones body for twenty days by drinking only pancha-gavya and living in a temple or in a cow-pen, contemplating on Vishnu during the whole day, and sleeping near an icon of Vishnu in the night). If the neglect of worship of Salagrama has been for a month, then the expiatory rite would take the form of ‘purna-krchchhra’ (living only by the intake of a decoction of leaves); and if the neglect has been for a year, the prescribed rite is ‘audumbara’ (sustaining oneself by drinking the decoction of only the leaves from the udumbara tree, ficus religiosa).
But most puranas eulogize the worship of Salagramas as capable of producing material benefits. The Salagrama-lore is replete with indications of what benefits are to be expected from the worship of specific salagrama-stones: wealth, progeny, success, long life, cattle, celebrity, health and so on (cf. “aputro labhate putram salagrama-pujanat”). This makes the worship a “kamya” ones; optional, or conditional to the desires and expectations one has. One who has no desires then need not worship.
However, the manuals (like Salagrama-pariksha of Anupa-simha) treat the worship of Salagrama as both obligatory and optional (nitya-kamya), and mention that this is the traditional view (“sa cha salagrama-puja nityetibahava, kamyeti kechit; nityakamyeti sampradayikah”). This position is justified by the Mimamsa maxim ‘ekasya tubhayatva samyoga-prthaktvat’.
The worship of Salagrama belongs to the pratika-type of ‘upasana’. The expression ‘upasana’ signifies devoted attention to an object close at hand. The essential aspect of ‘upasana’ is the mental effort: uninterrupted flow of thoughts directed towards a single object of adoration. Pratika is an image or symbol, which directs our attention, and monitors our thoughts in the direction of that object. Salagrama is described as the ‘adhishthana’ or the base of upasana, Vishnu being the ‘aropya’ or projected divinity upon it. Vishnu dwells in salagrama; salagrama is the outward image or symbol (pratika) of Vishnu. Salagrama is itself not the form of Vishnu, nor is it identical with the godhead. But Vishnu can be worshipped in this stone as his visible representative. Godhead could be visualized, according to Indian thought, in water (viz. Ritual water in kalasa), in fire (viz. Ritual fire which is sacramental), in ones own heart, in the sun, on a prepared seat or platform, or in an image.
Salagrama stone is a variant of the image (pratima). If images are man-made, in accordance with the canonical injunctions, and consecrated, again in accordance with scriptural injunctions, the salagrama-stone is self-made (swayambhu), a self-manifest image or symbol. It has numerous marks of identification, especially in the form of discus (chakra) which is imprinted on it. The devotee must visualize these characteristic features and attend to them with devotion.
Among the general features of a salagrama stone which helps the identification of the form of the deity that it represents and which helps the ascertainment of the stone’s spiritual value and benefits, seven are regarded as important.
1) Mudra (seal, sign, impression). The Salagramas bear certain marks or impressions which help in the identification of the forms of Vishnu. Among the large number of ‘mudras’ that the religious texts are acquainted with, nineteen relate to Vishnu’s image: conch, discus, mace, lotus, flute, the Sri-vatsa gem, kaustubha, garland of forest flowers (vana-mala) and so on.
In the case of the salagrama, the expression ‘mudra’ refers not only to these marks or impressions (recalling the divine weapons or ornaments) but also to the physical shapes of the salagrama stones. Of course, the shapes that can be distinctive or characteristic of deity are but few.
The Matsya-murti salagrama will have a physical form that will recall the fish; the Hayagriva-murti-salagrama will be like a horse’s head; the Varaha-murti-salagrama will have a snout like protuberance; Narasimha-murti-salagrama will have a gaping mouth with sharp teeth-like structures.
Besides such exterior and readily perceivable forms (called akrti or rupa), the salagrama-stones will also bear characteristic marks (lanchhana) which will help in the ascertainment of the deities that the represent. For instance, the Hayagriva-Salagrama will have marks of rosary, lotus and book, besides having the appearance of a horse’s head.
2) Kshetra (field, class, ground, enclosed area). In the examination of the salagrama-stone, this detail has a three-fold significance: the class or group the deity (murti), the colour of the stone (varna), and the mixed characteristics. The class-concept refers to a natural affiliation that obtains between the forms of the deities: as between the Vamana-stones and the Achyuta-stones, between the Hayagriva-stones and the Varaha-stones, and between the Varaha-stones and the Sridhara-stones. Such correspondence is worked out on the basis of the Vaishnava-ideology, as explained in a previous chapter.
As regards the colours, Salagramas occur in various colours although most of them are shades of black and blue. All salagrama-stones are smooth and lustrous, but colours vary. The forms of Vishnu are associated with characteristic colours: as Kapila tawny, Vamana and Narasimha black, Damodara and Aniruddha blue, Narayana dark blue, Achyuta and Shankarshana red, and Ananta multi-coloured.
3) Parimana (circumference, length, breadth, measure, size etc). The Salagramas occur in different shapes and sizes. Some sizes are said to be suitable for worship and others not. A test that is used is to wind a thread around the salagrama-stone that is under examination, and to see where the openings (vaktra, vadana, randhra, vivara) in the stone lies along this thread. If the opening in the stone is in the eighth part of the thread that goes around the stone, the stone is of the superior order; if in the fourth part of the thread, the stone is of average quality; and if in the third part, the stone is to be rejected as inferior.
4) Asana (seat, base). The salagrama stones are in several shapes, as said earlier: some are perfectly round, some oval, some triangular, some odd-shaped. But when the stone is placed on the ground, it could be steadily poised (sthira) or unsteady (chala). The former variety is to be preferred, for its worship makes for the prosperity, while the worship of the other variety may lead to the worshipper’s change of residence. The stone may rest on its sides (parsvaka), and the worship of such a one will generate anxiety. Or the stone may be uneven and wobble, and the worship of this stone will cause sorrow. This account occurs in Skanda-purana.
5) Murti-bheda (deity-distinction). The salagrama-stones are classified
into three groups:
i) jalaja (water-born). The stones of this group, owing to their contact with water and mountain, will be very smooth, and possess lustre. They are regarded as of superior merit.
ii) Sthalaja (land-born). The stones of this group are in contact with only mountain, and therefore are rough, and lack lustre. They are of average merit.
iii) Matha (cell-born). These stones are fossilized ammonites which are said to be ‘eaten out by insects’, (kitaka). These are of inferior value. They are gain in two subgroups:
a) matha-proper, when the stones are eaten out hastily by insects, and without relish; these stones said to be devoid of juices. The Salagramas of this type have chakras, which are very rough.
b) kesara, when stones are eaten out gently and slowly by the insects, which also enjoy the juices which are present in the stone. The chakras which are produced by the insects will be distinguished by numerous filaments (kesara).
6) Sthula-sukshma-sila (the size being large or small). The salagrama-stones occur in a large number of sizes, ranging from extremely small, less than the size of a small marble, to a fair-sized rock. The texts, however, say that a small-sized salagrama stone (the size of an Amalaki or emblica-fruit) is most meritorious; large stones are not to be worshipped by householders. The small stones bring about the fulfillment of all three values in like (dharma, artha and kama).
7) Chakra-lakshana (characteristics of the spiral marks known as chakras). This detail includes not only the discus marks, but all other marks on the stone resembling the weapons and ornaments of Vishnu. In fact, the manuals of Salagrama-examination mainly deal with these characteristic marks. Some Salagramas resemble in shape a conch; some have linga-marks on them, some are shaped like tortoise, some like a boar, some like a fish. These are in fact identified as the forms of Vishnu, based on the characteristic marks which they have. Considered by the characteristics, the Matsya-salagrama gives long life and prosperity, the Kurma-salagrama provides progeny and wealth, Varaha-salagrama secures suzerainty, Vamana-salagrama burns up all sins, and Narasimha-salagrama wards off fears and anxieties. These characteristic marks are formed of lines, scratches or spots.
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).
There are some curious Salagramas. The Jvala-narasimha-salagrama shows flames, when held against the light. The Ratna-garbha-salagrama is translucent but assumes bright blue colour when seen in the sun. it is believed that one can recognize the forms of the ten incarnatory forms (dasavartar) in this stone, on the respective ‘jayanti’ days. The Lajavarta-salagrama acquires an ochre colour when held to the sun. the Dakshina-murti-salagrama has the shape of a conch, but is black in colour. The Hiranya-garbha-salagrama is round at its rear portion and has two small dots which shine like gold. The Vasudeva-murti-salagrama in its chakra-dhara variety exudes water-drops constantly; it has a hollow portion for the opening (vadana), having a pair of chakras on top as well as the bottom, the two pairs being exact copies of each other.
The popular belief is that smooth, small and dark coloured Salagramas are to be preferred to the rough-surfaced, large and multiple coloured ones. There are, however, textual variations with regard to the acceptability of a salagrama. One of the texts, for instance says…
Skanda-purana tells us that a smooth and shining salagrama is
to be worshipped by one who wishes to accomplish a mantra (mantra-siddhi),
a black one by one who wants celebrity (yasas), a pale coloured stone by
one who desires freedom from sins (papa-hara), a yellow stone by one who
desires progeny (santana), and a stone which is blue in colour by one who
aspires for worldly prosperity (abhyudaya). The stones which are red in
colour will only cause illness when worshipped; worshipping a rough stone
will result in anxiety; the salagrama with a single opening may end up
in poverty for its worshipper; worshipping a very large salagrama
will cut down the span of life (ayurhani). The tawny-coloured stones, stones
with variegated colour (karbura), broken ones, stones having many chakras
are to be avoided.
Another text recommends a moderate-sized salagrama, neither too small nor too large.
It is prescribed that when one worships a salagrama, he must contemplate upon the iconographic form of that deity which the stone represents, while placing his hand on the sacred stone.
The Vaikhanasa-samhita provides a fairly elaborate account of characteristics in a salagrama-stone which make it acceptable or otherwise. The text also indicates the benefits which one may expect by worshipping the salagrama of a particular type.
About the mudras, we have the following account…
What follows is the excerpt from Prayoga-parijata, regarding the colours of the stones and their effects…
We have a slightly different version in Padma-purana….
Padma-purana has the following verses concerning the location of chakras, shape of the openings and asanas…
The following verses taken from Agni-purana tell us about the other characteristics of the stones (like size, shape and colour).
Narasimha-purana indicates that a stone shaped like an umbrella will, when worshipped, cause sovereignty, a circular stone will bring great wealth; the flat stone will produce great sorrow, while the stone shaped like a spear will cause certain death; if the stone has an elongated spout, poverty is indicated; if there are yellow spots like eyes, loss; if the chakras are overlapping, disease will result; and if the opening is yawning wide, death.
It was mentioned earlier that in the Vaishnava tradition, the worship of the Dvararvati-stone (obtained from the Gomati river in Dvaraka) along with the salagrama-stone is considered meritorious, for the latter variety of stones are special forms assumed by Krishna himself. However, the worship of the Dvaravati-sila is not as widespread as the Salagrama-sila, nor has it ever had a popular appeal. It appears that its celebrity is confined to the Vaishnava cults in Saurashtra, Bengal and Maharashtra; the Madhva sect in Karnataka has accorded some importance to it. The Dvaravati-stone is not as frequently seen as the salagrama-stones in temples or households. These stones are white in colour (the hue-variations), small in size and have markings on them resembling the chakra (in a rather distant way). The openings in them are not characteristic features, and are not important even when they are found. We read in several Vaishnava texts that the worship of these stones must be conjoined with that of the Salagramas.
The chakra-mark is the most distinguishing feature of the Dvarvati stones, and hence they are called ‘chakrankita-sila’.
The Skanda-purana has this eulogy…
According to Garuda-purana, there are twelve varieties of this stone, owing to the number of chakras, colours and forms (‘dasadha cha prabhinnas ta varnakrti-vibhedatah’). When there is only one chakra, the stone is called Devesa; when there are two chakras, it is Sudarshana; three chakras represent the deity Ananta. When there are four chakras, the stone is Janardana. Vasudeva is represented by the stone having five chakras, Pradyumna by six chakras, Bala-bhadra by seven, Purushottama by eight, Nava-vyuha by nine, Dasavatara by ten, Aniruddha by eleven and Dvadastma by twelve. Nava-vyuha represents the collection of nine forms of Vishnu: Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Narayana, Hayagriva, Vishnu, Nrsimha and Varaha. The first four forms are well known as ‘chatur-vyuha’. The twelve major forms of Vishnu are derived from these nine forms, according to the Tantra-siddhanta division of Pancharatra.
The twelve forms of Vishnu are called ‘vyuhantara’: Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudana, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrshikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara.
The Dasavatara-murti is the collective representation of the ten incarnatory forms, which are also called ‘prahurbhava-gana’ (matsya, kurma etc).
The text also indicates the specific rewards for worshipping each of these twelve varieties of Dvaravati-silas: 1) and 2) salvation; 3) freedom from the fear of births and deaths 4) fulfillment of desires; 5) obtainment of prosperity and elimination of enemies; 6) wealth and lustre; 7) continuation of progeny and celebrity; 8) satisfaction of all that one aspires for; 9) rewards which are difficult even for the gods to obtain; 10) sovereignty and prosperity; 11) lordship; and 12) final emancipation. The stones having more chakras fulfill whatever one longs for, when worshipped.
Prahlada-samhita, quoted in Salagrama-pariksha (by Anupasimha) gives
the first few names differently. The Dvaravati-sila with only one chakra
is called Sudarsana, with two chakras Lakshmi-narayana and with three Trivikrama.
The rest of the names are the same as given above. The name Ananta is given
to stones have more than twelve chakras. The name for Dasavatara in the
above list is given here as Dasamurti.
When the chakras are more than twelve, only even numbered chakras are to be preferred, according to Galava-smrtir.
The Dvaravati-sila also occurs in different colours, but white stones are considered most suitable for worship. The dark (blue-black) stones forebode death, the tawny ones cause anxiety, the multi-coloured ones bring about disease and sorrow, the yellow ones take away wealth, the smoke coloured ones produce loss of wealth, and the blue stones will bring about obstacles to any undertaking. Only the white coloured stones will make for a worldly prosperity in all aspects and spiritual welfare (Skanda-purana).
Garuda-purana gives a slightly different account, but white is the preferred colour.
According to Galava-smrti, the Dvaravati-stones are auspicious if they are round in shape or square; but not so if they are triangular or uneven in shape. The stone which is split or broken must not be worshipped, nor the stone which is crescent in shape. Such stones when worshipped do not bring any rewards.
As in the case of prohibited Salagramas, the Dvaravati-stones also have ill-effects, when improperly selected and thoughtlessly worshipped. A crooked stone will kill the progeny, a broken one will ruin any undertaking; the stone with many fissures or holes will produce poverty and misery. The triangular, uneven shaped and crescent-shaped stones must not be worshipped (Garuda-purana).
The texts also give us detailed information about what salagrama stones are to be avoided (varjya, agrahya). 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).
The salagrama stone which is unpleasant in appearance, crooked, unattractive and repulsive, or always moist, is not suitable for worship. The salagrama-stone which is rough and crude is likewise unsuitable. If the sandal paste applied on the stone quickly dries up, that stone will not bring luck to its worshipper. The salagrama-stone must be cool, and not warm.
As said earlier, the salagrama-stone which has an opening at the one-fourth
point of the circumference of the stone, when a tread is wound round it,
is a good one, and it assures fortune. If the location of the opening is
beyond this length, then the stone is not suitable for worship. The stone
which has an opening in the one-third part of the circumference is terrible
The above prescription is sometimes interpreted as referring to the width of the opening itself; if the opening is wide in excess of the one-fourth part of the thread, it is described as ‘gaping’ or ‘yawning wide’ (karala). If, however the opening is narrow, enveloped or covered, with a large hollow inside, that stone is also unsuitable.
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.
Another text prohibits the worship of a salagrama-stone which has an opening underneath, a chakra at the base, or an opening on top; the stone having a chakra which extends horizontally is likewise to be avoided, for its worship will cause ceaseless wandering for the worshipper.
The salagrama stone selected for worship must not be too small or too
large, not too emaciated or too corpulent; it must not have very minute
chakras, nor very large ones. We read in Skanda-purana several restrictions:
rough, crude, very black, gaping wide, crooked spout, distorted chakra,
a chakra within a chakra (chhakra-chakraka), rough chakra, chakras in a
row, burst within, depression on top, containing water within, wobbling,
holes at the base, swellings, and colours like ashy gray, bright red, tawny,
soiled and honey-brown.
But it must be noted that all the restrictions mentioned above are relevant only for those who worship the salagrama-stones with specific desires in mind (Kamya), but for those who worship without motives and as duty of the ‘nitya’ kind, all Salagramas are worship-worthy, regardless of all the restrictions mentioned above.
The textual prescriptions include the types and numbers of Salagrama-stones that may be worshipped by the householders of the four ‘varna’ groupings and by the ascetics. 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.
Similar prescription occurs in Brahmanda-purana…..
It is obvious from the above that the basic typology of the Salagramas
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. All the known and possible divisions of mankind
are ultimately grouped in the four ‘varnas’; and they in turn ramify from
However, authorities like Vrddha-gautama indicate that brahmanas may worship five Salagramas, kshatriyas eight, vaishyas seven and shudras seven; for ascetics four Salagramas are suggested.
1) For brahmanas: i) Lakshmi-narayana; ii) Ananta, iii) Hiranya garbha; iv) Purushottama; and v) Chaturbhuja.
2) For kshatriyas: i) Lakshmi-narayana; ii) Ananta; iii) Krishna; iv) Aniruddha; v) Garuda-dhvaja; vi) Gopala; vii) Rama; and viii) Sridhara.
3) For vaishyas: i) Lakshmi-narayana; ii) Vasudeva; iii) Pradhyumna; iv) Damodara; v) Pitambara; vi) Hari; and vii) Gadadhara.
4) For shudras: i) Lakshmi-narayana; ii) Madhava; iii) Krishna; iv) Achyuta; v) Aniruddha; vi) Kesava; vii) Pitambara.
5) For ascetics: i) Nrsimha; ii) Hayagriva; iii) Mukunda; and iv) Maha-nila.
Thus Ends Chapter Four:
Chapter One - What are Salagrams 1-26.
Chapter Three - Vishnu and His Forms
Chapter Four - Details of Shaalagraama page 107 - 136.
Chapter Five - Identification of Shaalagraama pages 137 - 174.