Thursday 13 December 2012

Saligrama in a Madhwa household

Perhaps the most sacred possession in a pooja room, the Saligrama occupies an important place in the religious and daily life of a Vaishanava household. This is so as a Saligrama is associated with Vishnu.
The Saligrama is found near Muktinath or Saligrama in Mustang district in the Gandaki or Narayani river in Nepal. It is considered to be special avatar of  Maha Vishnu. Geologically, the Saligrama is a naturally formed stone, mostly in black. They are fossil ammoniate.
Muktinath is situated between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain ranges and the Gandaki flows through the village of Saligrama and Ashrama of  Pulaha. In ancient times, this areas was called Salagiris due to the forests of Sala (sal) trees. The stones found in this region are therefore called Saligrama or Silas
There are generally believed to be 25 types of Saligrama and they are categorised as per the colour, shape, opening and chakras.  
Another stone that is as powerful as the Saligrama and as religiously significant is the Chakranika, a White stone found only in Dwaraka.
The Saligrama is found in other colors too such as reddish black but such Saligramas are not worshiped in houses.
Therefore, the Saligrama is always placed in a sanctified box with Tulasi (Lakshmi).
The sacred Saligrama stones (black ammonite stone), are found only on the bed of river Gandak near Muktinath, Nepal. These naturally formed stones are used by devout Hindus to worship Lord Vishnu.
The indentations (Chakra) on the Saligramas are made by a certain type of worms called Vajra Keeta-adamanita worms . The tooth of these insects are said to hard and they can easily cut through stones.
These insects drill very minute holes in the Saligrama and they are called Vandana or mouth. If you can see through these holes, you can come across round like formations within the Saligrama and these are called Chakras. These markings are either circular or spiral.
Legends says it is Vishnu himself who resides in these Saligramas, taking the shape of the worm.  
Saligramas that emit a red light are called Ranta Garbha. There can be any number of chakras in a Saligrama and such stones with seven or fourteen chakras are called Ananta Padmanabha Murthi
A Saligrama with two holes and four chakras is known as Narayana Murti.
If the Chakranika and Saligrama are kept together in a pooja room, the household will always be under the grace and benevolent vision of  Vishnu.
If you want to pray to a Saligrama at home, go for a smaller stone.
If the Saligrama fits your closed fist, it means it is suitable for home. Otherwise, it is better to give it to a temple or matha.
There are twenty four main types of Saligrama and they are worshipped as per the marks of a shankha, Chakra, gada and padma arranged in a particular order.
The various orders and names for the twenty four permutations are as follows:
Shanka, chakra, gada and padma - Keshava
Padma, gada, chakra, shanka - Narayana
Chakra, shanka, padma and gada - Madhava
Gada, Padma, Shanka and Chakra - Govinda
Padma, shanka, chakra and gada – Vishnu
Shanka, padma, gada, chakra – Madusudhana
Gada, chakra, shanka and padma – Trivikrama
Chakra, gada, padma, shanka - Vamana
Chakra, padma, shanka, gada - Shridhara
Padma, gada, shanka, charka - Hrishikesh
Padma, chakra,gada, shanka - Padmanabha
Shanka, chakra, gada, padma - Damodara
Chakra, shanka, gada, padma - Sankarshana
Shanka, chakra, padma, gada - Pradyumna
Gada, shanka, padma, charka - Aniruddha
Padma, shanka, gada, chakra - Purushottama
Gadha, shanka, chakra, padma - Adhokshaja
Padma, gada, shanka, charka - Narasimha
Padma, chakra, shanka, gada – Achyuta
Shanka, chakra, padma, gada - Janardana
Gada, padma, shanka, chakra - Upendra
Chakra, padma, gada and shanka – Hari
Gada, padma, chakra and shanka - Krishna
Shanka, charka, padma, gada – Vasudeva
Another classification based on the name is as follows:
Narasimha-This is the most powerful Saligrama and also the most difficult to maintain in a house as it requires Madi of the highest order. It contains two chakras.  
Lakshminarayana Saligrama is light dark in color and it has one opening. This stone has four chakras and one line.
The Pradhyumna Saligrama is small and it has one chakra on the top. It has irregular openings.
The Aniruddah Saligrama is almost round, light yellow to yellow in colour. It has a fine and silky appearence.
Among the most popular Saligramas is the Krishna or Vasudeva Saligrama. The Puranas say if we keeo this Saligrama at hiome, it is equivalent to worshipping Krishna. Just as the Anirudha, this too is round and it has one opening surrounded by two chakras.
The Sankarshana Saligrama is a unique one as it has two chakras facing each other. It is narrow in the front and wider at the back. The Lakshmi Narasimha Saligrama has a wide opening, two chakra an also has a garland type of line.
Hayagriva Saligrama is a horse faced stone with two chakras and the Sudarshana Saligrama  has only one chakra as is the Gadadhara Saligrama.
Madhusudana Saligrama is dark cloudy in colour and is in the shape of a wheel.
Another Saligrama is the Lakshminarayana with one opening and  a garland like line. It has four chakras and it is considered to be a rare form of stone.
The Lakshmi Janardana Saligrama has four chakras, the Vamana Saligrama is small in size, lighter in shade of black and has  two chakras with no opening.
The Sridhara Saligrama is also small in size and light black in colour and the Raghunatha Saligrama has two openings and four chakras.
Damodara Saligrama is big in size and it is this that is generally present in temples. It has two chakras. The Rama Saligrama is round in size and it has two chakras. It is not as big as the Damodara.
There are seven chakras in the Rajarajeshwara Saligrama and the
Anantha Saligrama is pitch black with 14 chakras. This is considered to be the holiest of the Saligramas.It is also very rare.
The Saligramas in Gandaki cane be found on the river bed extending to 24 miles. The place where the Saligrama is found is known as Chakra-Tirtha.
The Saligrama, fossil ammonite, found in the Himalayas, is upper Jurasic geologically aged  between 145 to 210 million years old.
The Saligrama Silas are in fact fossils of a marine animal called Ammonite which is one of a large extinct group of mollusks.
The worship of the Saligrama is very elaborate and it makes no difference which Saligrama a person has.
The Panchayatana worship (Vaishnava agama) has sixteen stages in the worship of a Saligrama. They are (1) Avahana (invocation); (2) Asana (offering a seat for the gods to sit down); (3) Padya (offering of water for washing the feet); (4) Arghya (offering of rice, etc.); (5) Achamane (offering of water for sipping); (6) Snana (offering of milk and honey for the gods to bathe in); (7) Vastra (offering of clothes represented by Tulsi leaves); (8) Upavastra (offering of upper garments and ornaments, represented by more Tulsi leaves); (9) Gandha or Chandana (offering of perfumes and sandal paste); (10) Pushpa (offering of flowers); (11) Dhupa (offering of incense); (12) Deepa (illumination); (13) Naivedya (offering of food); (14) Pradikshana (reverential circumbulation); (15) Mantrapushpa (offering flowers with recitation of texts); and (16) Namashkara (final adoration).
 During each of these sixteen acts, the worshipper repeats one of the sixteen verses of the Purusha sukta (hymn) of the Rig Veda.
The biggest Saligrama found so far is in on the banks of Gandaki in Palpa district adjoining Syangja in Nepal.
This huge Saligrama is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

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