“Salagrama sila toyam yah pivet vinduna samam, matuh stanyam punar naivasapivet bhakthi bhang narah”
(Any person, if he has even taken one drop of water which has washed Salagram Shila, he will not have mother’s milk again)
You must have noticed that Lord Vishnu is often worshipped in many places in the form of a black stone. During the time of Satya Narayan puja in any Hindu household, the priest carries this stone along with him and places it near the idol and then starts reciting the mantras. This black stone is known as Shaligram stone.
It was due to a curse that Lord Vishnu turned into a stone. A curse so powerful that even the most powerful God, one among the trinity could not do anything but accept it. Lord Vishnu received this curse from one of His most loyal devotee, Vrinda.
The curse turned Lord Vishnu into a stone which is popularly known as Shalimar. It is found near the banks of the Gandaki river only. It is usually black, red or mixed in colour and is kept in a box. Anyone who keeps a Shalimar stone at home has to follow strict rules of cleanliness and worship.
The tale of the Shaligram stone is interesting and sad at the same time. It is a story of arrogance, devotion, love and betrayal. The God tricked His most loyal devotee and earned a curse for Himself in return. Read on to find out the whole story of the Shalimar stone and why Lord Vishnu was cursed.
Jalandhar: A Part Of Shiva
There was once a demon king named Jalandhar. He was born out of the flames which emanated from Lord Shiva’s third eye. That is why he was an extremely powerful warrior. He was married to the demon princess named Vrinda. Vrinda loved Jalandhar very dearly and was a devoted wife. Her devotion, loyalty and chastity made Jalandhar invinsible.
Jalandhar Faces Shiva
Jalandhar was against the demi Gods and chased them out of the heaven. He established his own kingdom. The demi Gods went praying to Lord Vishnu and Shiva for help. Shiva knew that He could never defeat Jalandhar because he was a part of Shiva Himself. Yet, Lord Shiva went on to fight with Jalandhar. The battle continued for years but Lord Shiva could not defeat Jalandhar because of the protection which was provided by Vrinda’s chastity and devotion for her husband.
Vrinda: The Greatest Devotee Of Vishnu
In spite of being the demon princess and wife of the demon king, Vrinda worshipped Lord Vishnu. She was a dedicated and staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu and prayed to Him with all her faith.
When the demi Gods saw that even Lord Shiva could not defeat Jalandhar, they turned to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu could not do anything other than playing a trick to malign Vrinda’s chastity. He disguised Himself as Jalandhar and stood in front of Vrinda. Vrinda could not recognise Lord Vishnu and thought Jalandhar had returned. She ran into his arms and soon realised that it was not Jalandhar. Her chastity was maligned and the protection of Jalandhar was destroyed. As a result Lord Shiva killed Jalandhar in no time.
Realizing her mistake, Vrinda asked Lord Vishnu to show His real form. She was shattered to see that she was tricked by her own Lord. Seeing Lord Vishnu disguising as Jalandhar and tricking her to break her chastity, Vrinda cursed Lord Vishnu. She gave the curse that Lord Vishnu would turn into a stone. Lord Vishnu accepted the curse and He turned into the Shaligram stone. Vrinda was also heart broken and decided to end her life.
Lord Vishnu accepted the curse as He felt guilty of betraying His greatest devotee. So, He gave Vrinda a boon that from her ashes the plant of Tulsi would be born and the plant would get married to the Shaligram stone. This way her chastity would not be maligned and she would stay with Lord Vishnu forever. Vishnu also said that he would never accept food without Tulsi and therefore Vishnu’s prasadam is always offered with a leaf of Tulsi in it.
Shaligram’s Marriage With Tulsi
It is considered extremely auspicious for couples if they marry the Tulsi plant with the Shalimar stone on the day of Dev Parbodhini Ekadashi. It brings happiness and prosperity in their marriage.
In the Skanda Purana there is a statement praising the Tulsi tree as follows: ‘Let me offer my respectful obeisance unto the Tulsi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases.
Srimati Tulsi Devi is one of the most exalted devotees of the Sri Krishna. Tulsi is Vrinda Devi, who eternally resides in Goloka, the most brilliant planet in Vaikunta. She performed intense penance to marry Lord Vishnu.
It is through the fruits of her penance that she became Tulsi. The Hari-Bhakti Vilasa states: ‘Sri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers merely a tulsi leaf and a palmful of water.’
Salagrama is the most sacred stone worshipped by Vaishnava sect. It is believed that Salagrama is an abstract/aniconic form of Lord Vishnu. Salagrama is used to worship Lord Vishnu in Vaishanavites similar to Siva Lingam which is used to worship
Shiva in Shaivites. This sila is found in the Gandaki River near Muktinath, Nepal. This stone gives shelter to an insect named “Vajra – Keeta”, with diamond tooth, that can cut through this sila and stays inside it. These Salagrama Silas are said to be millions of years old, formed when the Himalayas were in the form of an Ocean floor. The pattern resembles that of Sudarsana chakra, the Discus of Lord Vishnu. These Silas come in different colours like black, blue, yellow and green. Out of which, the yellow and golden colour Silas are considered most auspicious which bestows immense wealth and prosperity to the devotee. The Salagramas of different shapes are associated with the different incarnations of Lord Vishnu. (Mathsya, Kurma, Varaha etc)
According to Vaishnavites, the Salagrama is the dwelling place of Lord Vishnu and anyone who has it in their house, must perform puja daily. One must observe strict rules like one should not touch the salagrama sila without taking bath, should not keep salagrama sila on the floor, should consume satvic food, etc. Sipping water in which these Salagrama Silas are kept is a daily ritual in pious Hindu families as a part of old traditions. Salagrama Sila can be worshipped by ascetics and households as well. These are worshipped in temples, monasteries and households all over the country. The presence of these Silas is indispensable while performing daily and occasional ceremonies and festivals of a religious nature. Salagrama is worshipped to attain six values in life: Righteous living, Wealth, Protection, Good health, Pleasures and Spiritual knowledge.
According to mythology, Vrinda Devi is an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. She performed intense penance to marry Lord Krishna. Lord Brahma pleased with her penance told her that she will have to marry the demon Shankachuda before she marries Vishnu. Sudama, a part-incarnation of Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu) was born on earth as the demon due to a curse. Shankhachuda, who also pleased Brahma with his penance, was granted the Vishnu Kavacha (armour of Vishnu) and blessed that until his wife’s chastity was retained and Vishnu-Kavacha was on his body, no one could slay him. Shankhachuda and Tulsi were soon married. Shankhachuda was filled with pride and terrorized the beings of the universe. To rescue the universe, Shiva challenged Shankhachuda to war, while Vishnu went to Tulsi to break her chastity. Vishnu assumed the form of Shankhachuda and now Vrinda was no longer a chaste woman, this caused Jalandhra to lose his powers who was in war with Lord Shiva and he dies. Vrinda cursed Vishnu to become a stone, turning him the Salagrama Sila in the Gandaki River. Vrinda immolated herself in her husband’s funeral pyre as per Hindu custom Sati. But Vishnu ensured that she got incarnated in the form of tulsi plant on the earth. Tulsi’s mortal remains decayed and became the River Gandaki, while her hair transformed into the sacred Tulsi plant.