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Fossilized seashell stones are called salagrama, and serves as non-anthropomorphic symbol of Vishnu.
Lakshmi-Narasimha Shaligram Shila

Salagrama or 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.[1] Shaligrams are usually collected from river-beds or banks such as the Gandaki river in Nepal.[2] They are considered easy to carry and popular in certain traditions of Vaishnavism, as an aniconic representation of the divine. They are typically in the form of spherical, black-coloured Ammonoid fossils of the Devonian-Cretaceous period 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.[1]


Shaligramas are mostly black coloured stones with marks, and are the fossilized remains of now extinct sea dwelling ammonites. Hence they are found in river beds and other regions that were once underwater, the most popular being the Himalayas and Nepal. 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 [3][4] and his commentary to the verse 1.3.14 of the Brahma Sutras [5] suggest that the use of Saligrama in the worship of Vishnu has been a well-known Hindu practice. A good number of false shaligrams too remain in circulation. Since they were underwater, the belief that these creatures only ate tulsi leaves is a myth.

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.[citation needed]


A Shaligrama – which has the marks of a shankha, Chakra, gada and padma arranged in a particular order – is worshiped as Keshava. With the change in the order of the four symbols, the name of the Shaligrama stone is also different and the images of such deities also have similar setting of the four symbols. The various orders and names are given for the twenty four permutations. These are well known names, which are the different names by which Lord Vishnu is known in the Hindu pantheon. The various versions of the Saligrama Shilas or stones vis-a-vis the order of the four symbols are:[6][7]

  1. Shanka, chakra, gada and padma – Keshava
  2. Padma, gada, chakra, shanka – Narayana
  3. Chakra, shanka, padma and gada – Madhava
  4. Gada, padma, shanka and chakra – Govinda
  5. Padma, shanka, chakra and gada – Vishnu
  6. Shanka, padma, gada, chakra – Madusudhana
  7. Gada, chakra, shanka and padma – Trivikrama
  8. Chakra, gada, padma, shanka – Vamana
  9. Chakra, padma, shanka, gada – Shridhara
  10. Padma, gada, shanka, charka – Hrishikesh
  11. Padma, chakra, gada, shanka – Padmanabha
  12. Shanka, chakra, gada, padma – Damodara
  13. Chakra, shanka, gada, padma – Sankarshana
  14. Shanka, chakra, padma, gada – Pradyumna
  15. Gada, shanka, padma, charka – Aniruddha
  16. Padma, shanka, gada, chakra – Purushottama
  17. Gadha, shanka, chakra, padma – Adokshaja
  18. Padma, gada, shanka, chakra – Narasimha
  19. Padma, chakra, shanka, gada – Achyuta
  20. Shanka, chakra, padma, gada – Janardana
  21. Gada, padma, shanka, chakra – Upendra
  22. Chakra, padma, gada and shanka – Hari
  23. Gada, padma, chakra and shanka – Krishna
  24. Shanka, chakra, padma, gada – Vasudeva

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Jeanne Fowler, pp. 42–43, at Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices, by M. K. V. Narayan at pp. 84–85 at Flipside of Hindu Symbolism
  2. ^ "Taking the Lo road in Mustang, Nepal, The National". Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  3. ^ A. Mahadeva Sastri. Taittiriya Upanishad: with the commentaries of Sankaracharya, Suresvaracharya, and Sayana (Vidyaranya), pp. 80 (free download at:
  4. ^ "Taittiriya Upanishad", Chapter 1, Section 6, Verse 1 in The Taittiriya Upanishad, With the Commentaries of Śaṅkarāchārya (url:
  5. ^ George Thibaut. The Vedanta-Sutras with the Commentary by Sankaracarya: Sacred Books of the East, Volume 1, pp. 178 (url:
  6. ^ Debroy, Bibek; Dipavali Debroy. The Garuda Purana. Shalagrama. p. 42. ISBN 0-9793051-1-X. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2011-01-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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