The Shaligram holds the highest sanctity among Vaishnavas, serving as a sacred stone for Vishnu's worship. According to scripture, Shree Shaligram is venerated for six facets of life: virtuous living, wealth, protection, robust health, joy, and spiritual blessings.
As per the Gautamiya Tantra, "In the region of the Kali-Gandaki river, the grand Saligram stone is worshipped, That stone's essence is called the Saligram."
Near the Kali-Gandaki river lies a place named Dhamoder Kunda. The stones found there are known as Shalagram Shilas. In Hindu tradition, this stone shelters a tiny insect named "Vajra-Keeta" with a diamond tooth that pierces the Shaligram and resides within. These stones date back to the time when the Himalayas were an ocean floor, millions of years ago. The unique marks on the Shaligram represent Lord Vishnu's discus. They come primarily in black and are associated with various incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Vaishnavas regard the Shaligram as the "abode of Lord Vishnu," requiring daily worship by its keeper. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna himself describes Shaligram's qualities to 'Yudhishtir.' All Shaligrams are deemed auspicious.
From a scientific perspective, Shaligrams are fossil stones distinguished by discus imprints. The black stones containing fossil ammonites are most renowned. Their worship dates back to ancient times and transcends temples, monasteries, and homes worldwide. They symbolize Vishnu naturally and visibly. They're venerated in various rituals such as housewarming, pacification ceremonies, marriages, and more.
According to legend, for the betterment of mankind in Kali Yuga, Lord Vishnu manifests in the form of Shaligram and the tulsi plant. Similar to the aniconic worship of Shiva in the form of a Linga, Shaligram's worship is also aniconic.
Shaligram worship doesn't necessitate initiation, specialized rituals, or qualified priests. Regular bathing of Shaligram stones in curds, ghee, milk, or water brings abundant merits and blessings.
These Saligram stones are found exclusively in the Gandaki River, known historically as Narayani, Saligrami, and Hiranyavati. The Mahabharata and Puranas extol its sanctity. Gazing at it relieves mental stress, touching it absolves physical sins, and consuming its water dispels verbal demerits. Contact with this sacred water liberates individuals from the cycle of births and deaths.
Damodar Kunda, situated at the source of Kali-Gandaki, and lower Gandaki known as Mukti-Natha-Kshetra or Saligrama-Kshetra, are pilgrimage sites. These Saligram-stone areas are located within Nepal.
Regardless of true devotion, worshipping a Shaligram-stone sincerely leads to liberation from the cycle of existence. Daily service to the Shaligram-stone eradicates the fear of death and traverses the stream of births and deaths.
In the Devi Bhagwata and other texts, to defeat the demon Jalandhar, Lord Vishnu had to break Jalandhar's wife Brindha's sati dharma. As a result, Sati Brindha cursed Lord Vishnu to become stone, grass, tree, and plant. To undo this curse, Lord Vishnu incarnated as the stone (Sri Saligram), grass (Kush), tree (Pipal), and plant (Tulsi). Since then, Saligrams are regarded as profoundly auspicious. According to the Skanda Purana, a single Shaligram surpasses all worldly riches in value.
As per the Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, and other epics, worshippers of Shree Shaligram receive blessings for worldly comforts, a harmonious environment, protection, health, wealth, and spiritual liberation. Worshipping Shaligram aids meditation and attaining spiritual emancipation.
Beyond various Puranas like Brahma-vaivarta, Padma, Garuda, Narasimha, and Skanda, other texts such as Haribhaktivilas by Gopal Bhatta, Shalagram-mimamsa by Somanatha-vyasa, emphasize Shaligram's worship and its material benefits.
"Donation is given to cover transportation costs paid to impoverished villagers who collect these precious Shaligrams. These villagers risk their lives under harsh climatic conditions in the Kali Gandaki river region, situated around 5000 meters above sea level, to provide us with these auspicious Shaligrams."