Most of the Hindu brahmin families have a puja box and couple of shaligrama in it but many are worshiping them without knowing the form of Lord. This site is conceived to share the available information on shaligrama shilas, to help identify the specific type and sub types of shaligrama. The purana quotes are mentioned along with sample shaligrama pictures of that type where ever available. I have collected photographs of the shaligramas listed here from many sources for the purpose of explanation.
Shaligrama shilas (stones) are the highest holy object for Hindus, especially the vaishnavite group of hindus. They revere these shilas as the symbol of God. Shaligramas are mentioned in all the 18 purnas and some of them give description of various types, sub types and the merit in worshiping etc. The culture of worshiping them is very ancient, at least from treta or dvapara yuga. In the olden days, they were never sold or purchased, for, doing so was considered sin.
These holy stones are found only in the Kali Gandaki river in Nepal. The Kings used to gift the saints and knowledgeable brahmins (pundits) who visit the kingdom with shaligramas and they used to distribute among the worthy. They were passed down to their generations and hence they were rare commodities. People valued its possession to the highest degree. They are found only in the gorges of river Kali Gandaki and its upper regions of Damodar Kund. Access to these places are still not very easy but some of them are making their living by collecting shilas in these places. Those collected are distributed across the country and beyond for a price. The recent transport and communication developments has led people to travel all over the country for selling them. The internet has helped to buy them from the comfort of home. The once so hard to get is made so easy now.
About idol and Shaligrama worship
Lord vishnu is present everywhere. He is present in a smallest particle of dust and also in the biggest mountains. He is present in anything and everything we see and not see. He is present in the living and non living beings. He is present in the stones as well. However there is a subtle difference between His presence in the ordinary stones and Shaligramas. In ordinary stones he is present like he is present every where. But in case of shaligrams He has manifested Himself in the form of stone. For the ordinary mortals Shaligramas appear as mere stones but whereas the learned look at them as a living being (chetanatmaka rUpa). Ordinary stones are not worship worthy when they are not carved and consecrated with a specific form of Lord. However Shaligrama stones are very sacred by nature and they don’t require carving or consecration ceremony. God is present in it always, watches and accepts the oblations by the worshiper.
God has many forms, infinite forms and so does His Shaligrama manifestations. Shaligrama stones are only found in the Kali Gandaki river in Nepal. Other similar looking stones found elsewhere are not Shaligramas and are not worship worthy. Shaligramas are integral part of our culture. Their worship is mandatory in all ceremonies right from child birth to the funeral. Any form of ceremony or idol worship is complete only when done along with Shaligramas.