Shaligrams, the sacred fossils worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists for over 2,000 years, are becoming rarer because of climate change

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Religion

(The Conversation) — For more than 2,000 years, Hinduism, Buddhism and the shamanic Himalayan religion of Bon have venerated Shaligrams – ancient fossils of ammonites, a class of extinct sea creatures related to modern squids.Originating from a single remote region in northern Nepal – the Kali Gandaki River Valley of Mustang – Shaligram stones are viewed primarily as manifestations of the Hindu god Vishnu. Because they are not human-made, but created by the landscape, they are believed to have an intrinsic consciousness of their own. As a result, Shaligrams are kept in homes and in temples, where they are treated as both living gods and active community members.
I went on my first Shaligram pilgrimage in 2015. After arriving at the village of Jomsom in Mustang, I, along with a group of Indian and Nepali pilgrims, started the five-day trek northeast from there to the temple of Muktinath, where the journey culminates.
Making our way through the winding river passage, between 26,000-foot (8,000-meter) mountain peaks, we carefully looked for Shaligrams in the fast-moving water and gathered up any we could reach.
Since then, as an anthropologist, I have documented a wide variety of Shaligram practices while working with devotees in Nepal and in India. In 2020 I wrote the first ethnographic account, “Shaligram Pilgrimage in the Nepal Himalayas,” which demonstrates how popular and important the pilgrimage is among South Asian and the wider global Hindu diasporas.
However, my ongoing work focuses more on how climate chan …

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