Salagramas are celebrated as visible symbols of the supreme god Vishnu, and are worshipped all over the country by devout Hindus. It is therefore rather strange that till now there has been no comprehensive publication on the subject either in English or in any of the Indian languages. The Salagrama kosha has been written in two volumes. The first volume deals with the Salagrama lore in its entirety, while the second volume focuses attention on other details of formal worship like Bana-linga (for Siva), Sona-sila (for Ganesha), and Dhatu-patra and Yantra (for Devi). It also contains a detailed - description of necessary accessories of worship like Ghanta (Bell), Sankha (Conch), Arati (waving of light), rosaries of Rudraksha and Tulasi, Pedestals (Pitha-asana), etc. These publications made extensive use of manuscripts, most of which were in the personal library of the author. These books can be therefore be considered as original contributions to Indology, being based on material that has not yet been published or translated.
Vidyalankara, Sastra-Chudamini, Sangita-Kalaratna, Professor Saligrama Krishna Ramachandra Rae, - was a well- known scholar who had combined traditional learning with modern research. Well versed in Sanskrit, Pali, Ardhmagadhi and several modem Indian languages and acquainted with Tibetan and some European languages, he had written extensively on Vedanta, Buddhism, Janism, Indian Culture, Art and Literature.
He had written more than Sixty Books in Kannada, a Play in Sanskrit, and a Pall Commentary on a Buddhist classic. One of his books on Iconography in Kannada has won the State Sahitya Academy Award, as also another of his Book on the Tirupati Temple.
Some of the books he had authored are- Encyclopaedia of Indian Iconography, Agama Encyclopaedia, Lalita Kosha, Sri Vidya Kosha, Tantric Practices in Sri Vidya, Sri Cakras, Yantra.
Salagramas constitute an important detail of religious life in our country. The worship of these natural and sacred stones, picked up from the river Gap4aki in Nepal and India, goes back to a distant past; and there are several Sanskrit texts dealing with the examination, description and identification of these sacred stones. Unfortunately however, these Sanskrit texts are mostly in manuscript form, and the few (not more than four to my knowledge) texts that have appeared in print are far from satisfactory.
While there is a long-standing and wide-spread lore regarding the Salagramas, no attempt has been made to document the details of this lore. A work of this sort was a long-felt need. I am grateful to Sri Daivajna K.N. Somayaji, Director of the Kalpatharu Research Academy for having taken up this Research Project, providing me with an opportunity to prepare this work.
The need for some informative and authoritative literature on the subject has frequently been voiced, especially as many disturbing beliefs have gained ground among the credulous people. For instance, it is widely believed that women should not touch or worship Salagrama-Stones. While this is not supported either by ancient texts or by reason, a puranic legend has been responsible for this erroneous idea. It is also believed that Sutras must not worship Salagrama-Stones, this is an entirely false notion, for even the puranic texts and other manuals prescribe specific Salagrama worship for the Sudras, as for Vaisyas, Katriyas and Brahmanas. Another belief is that the worship of Salagramas must be very elaborate, correct in all details and undertaken in strict purity. The texts, on the other hand, do not indicate any worship ritual meant only for Salagramas, nor do they insist on elaborate worship. They uniformly say that it is sufficient to merely look at a Salagrama, touch it, sip water in which it is bathed, or place leaves of Tulasi on it. Detailed worship of Salagrama is of course meritorious, but it is not indispensable or obligatory. The texts also mention that there can be no possible error when Salagrama-worship is undertaken; any lapse or defect is immediately or automatically condoned.
Many are such beliefs, mostly originating in ignorance. An attempt has in this Volume been made to present the traditional Salagrama lore both with regard to its examination and identification. A section in the celebrated Sri-tattva-nidhi (of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III Maharajah of Mysore) deals with Salagramas, and I have taken this text as the springboard. A manuscript copy of Sri-tattva-nidhi in Kannada characters is in my possession, and I have reproduced the section on Salagramas from this work. This copy was commissioned by the then Maharajah of Mysore (Krishnaraja Wodeyar III), and is one of the three copies prepared at that time. I have given the text in Devanagari characters, and have also appended an English translation for each of the verses.
When the preparation of this Volume was completed, and the matter was in the press, I was lucky to meet Allan Aaron Shapiro of Columbia University, through the kind courtesy of my friend Shri M. Ramachandran. Shapiro (now Krishna Dasa, residing in Brndavana) had undertaken to translate Anupa-Simha’s Salagratna-Pariksa into English. He has travelled extensively in Nepal and Himalayas and visited the spots along the Gandaki river, where Salagramas are available. It was my good fortune to have met this saintly scholar and to have had long talks with him. He also showed me his translation of Salagrama-pariksa, along with the text that he had procured in Nepal.
I found in this text a methodical treatment of the subject-matter. I sought permission from Shapiro to reproduce the third chapter of the book Salagrama-pariksa (Anupa-Simha’s), which he kindly granted. This chapter is a much better treatment of the subject-matter, and more orderly, than the section of Sri-tattva-nidhi, which I had taken as my basic text. I am grateful to Shapiro for not only bringing this valuable work to my notice but to have allowed me to have a chapter of this work appear as an appendix to my Salagrama-Kosa. I hope that Shapiro’s excellent English translation (with copious annotations) of Anupa-Simha’s work will soon be published.
I have also given as appendices to other Sanskrit manuscripts on Salagrama, which were in my own collection. The first of them had many leaves missing, while the second one was brief and haphazard in its treatment. I have acquired three more manuscripts on the subject after the first Volume of Salagrama-Kosa had been printed already, and I shall include these texts in the second volume.
The texts on worship prescribe that when the aniconic a1agramas are worshipped, the iconographical details (murti-laksaia) of the specific forms f Visnu must be recalled and visualized. In order to facilitate this, I have included in this volume the paintings and sculptures of the Vishnu-forms, answering to the varieties of Salagramas. The paintings and sketches were done by artists attached to the court of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, and the paintings are now in the collection of Karnataka Chitrakala-Parishat, Bangalore. I am grateful to Shri. M.S. Nanjunda Rao, Secretary of the Chitrakala-Parishat for allowing me to get these paintings photographed and included in this Volume.
I acknowledge the kindness of my young friend Sheshadri of Payonidhi Printers, who photographed the collection of Salagramas in my own household for inclusion in this volume. I appreciate the promptness with which the printing of this work has been executed.
Salagramas are celebrated as visible symbols of the supreme god Vishnu, and are worshipped all over the country by devout Hindus. It is therefore rather strange that till now there has been no comprehensive publication on the subject either in English or in any of the Indian languages.
The Salagrama kosha has been written in two volumes. The first volume deals with the Salagrama lore in its entirety, while the second volume focuses attention on other details of formal worship like Bana-linga (for Siva), Sona-sila (for Ganesha), and Dhatu-patra and Yantra (for Devi). It also contains a detailed description of necessary accessories of worship like Ghanta (Bell), Sankha (Conch), Arati (waving of light), rosaries of Rudraksha and Tulasi, Pedestals (Pitha-asana), etc.
These publications made extensive use of manuscripts, most of which were in the personal library of the author. These books can be therefore be considered as original contributions to Indology, being based on material that has not yet been published or translated.
The family members of Prof S. K. Ramachandra Rao have formed a trust after his demise with the main intention of reprinting his works that are out of print. On behalf of the Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao Memorial Trust, I thank Shri Sunil Gupta of the Indian Books Centre for reprinting this book so well. Dr. (Smt) S. R. Leela, the Sanskrit scholar has kindly arranged for the proofreading of the texts, especially the Sanskrit portions. I thank her for her efforts.
The first volume of a1agrama-kosha introduced the interesting subject of the sacred stones in their iconic aspects; utilizing some hitherto unpublished manuscripts, including the Salagrama section of ‘Sri-tattva-nidhi’ compiled by the late Maharajah of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. Subsequently, I was fortunate in acquiring three more valuable manuscripts from Tanjore and Kerala by the kind assistance of my friend Shri M. Ramachadran of Bangalore and my cousin Shri. K.R. Raghavendra Rao. They have been included in this volume: and I am grateful to these gentlemen for having made this possible.
Further, Vidwan Prof. Vyasanakere Prabhanjanacharya of Bangalore has helped me with copies of some of the manuscripts on Salagrama that were in his possession. I acknowledge his kind cooperation. Some of the photographs in the section on Samkhas have been reproduced with permission from the book Temple Treasures, Vol. I, issued by the Crafts Council of Karnataka; and the two photographs forming the frontispiece were due to the kind courtesy of Dr. (Smt.) Chudamani Nandagopal, one of the authors of the book on Temple Treasures (Vol. I, Ritual Utensils, 1995).
Salagramas are geologically nautilus (mollusc) ammonite fossils, evolutionary relics of more than sixty-five million years, and the remarkable thing about them is that they have not changed at all during this great passage of time. Having about three thousand species, the molluscs appeared to have all perished in the mass extinction that also wiped out dinosaurs. Despite this large scale extinction, a few specimens of this group of chambered nautilus continue to exist in the Indo-pacific waters, according to the palaeontologist W. Bruce Saunders.
In any ease, the Salagramas are not only sacred objects for the Hindus, but geological marvels. The spiral formations in them and the arrangements of chambers follow mathematical precision even in their complexity and variety. I trust these two volumes will open a new inquiry into the significance of Salagrama stones.
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