Local weather change threatens shaligrams, sacred fossils worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists for greater than 2,000 years

A shaligram on high of a mattress of small rocks. Credit score: Holly Walters, CC BY-SA

For over 2,000 years, shaligrams have been revered by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Bon, the shamanic faith of the Himalayas. Shaligrams are historical fossils of ammonites, that are extinct sea creatures associated to trendy squids. They originate from the Kali Gandaki River Valley of Mustang in northern Nepal and are thought of manifestations of the Hindu god Vishnu. In contrast to human-made objects, shaligrams are believed to own their very own intrinsic consciousness as they’re shaped naturally by the panorama. Because of this, they’re handled as dwelling gods and energetic neighborhood members in houses and temples.

In 2015, I launched into my first shaligram pilgrimage with a gaggle of Indian and Nepali pilgrims. Ranging from Jomsom in Mustang, we trekked for 5 days in the direction of the temple of Muktinath, the final word vacation spot of the pilgrimage. Alongside the way in which, we looked for shaligrams within the fast-moving water of the winding river passage and picked up any we may discover. As an anthropologist, I’ve since documented varied shaligram practices whereas working with devotees in Nepal and India. In 2020, I printed an ethnographic account titled “Shaligram Pilgrimage within the Nepal Himalayas,” highlighting the recognition and significance of the pilgrimage amongst South Asian and world Hindu diasporas. Presently, my analysis focuses on how local weather change and gravel mining are affecting the Kali Gandaki River, posing a menace to the provision of shaligrams.

The mythology of shaligrams is related to two legends. In response to the primary legend present in Hindu scriptures, Vishnu, the supreme creator, is cursed by the goddess Tulsi (also referred to as Brinda) for deceiving her and compromising her chastity. In response, Tulsi transforms herself into the Kali Gandaki River, whereas Vishnu turns into a shaligram stone. Vishnu repeatedly takes the shape of a kid born from Tulsi as a reimbursement for killing her husband and making her a widow. This legend explains why shaligrams manifest within the waters of the Kali Gandaki, symbolizing the our bodies of Tulsi and Vishnu. The second legend, described within the Skanda Purana, attributes the bodily formation of shaligrams to a celestial worm known as the vajra-kita. This worm carves out the distinctive holes and coiled spiral formations discovered on shaligram stones. Thus, each legends contribute to the beliefs surrounding the legendary origin of shaligrams.

The shaligram pilgrimage happens within the excessive Himalayas, sometimes between April-June and late August-November to keep away from excessive climate circumstances. Mustang is split into higher and decrease areas, with Higher Mustang nonetheless restricted attributable to political causes. Due to this fact, the present pilgrimage route excludes Damodar Kund, a glacial lake recognized for producing shaligrams from high-altitude fossil beds. Kagbeni, located on the Kali Gandaki riverbank, serves as an important cease on the pilgrimage route. Pilgrims can discover a vital variety of shaligrams by wading by way of the river and observing the sand for black spirals. The ultimate vacation spot of the pilgrimage is the temple web site of Muktinath, positioned at an altitude of roughly 13,000 toes (4,000 meters). Muktinath is a sacred place for Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of Bon. It homes a central shrine to Vishnu and 108 water spouts, the place pilgrims go to purify themselves. Being a Bon sanctuary, Muktinath hosts the “Jwala Mai” or the mom flame, together with the excessive winds and shaligrams, representing the weather of air and stone, respectively. Buddhists revere the icon worshipped as Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Moreover, Muktinath is house to Nepal’s largest Buddha statue, erected in 2016.

Sadly, shaligrams have gotten more and more scarce attributable to local weather change, accelerated glacial melting, and gravel mining within the Kali Gandaki River. Because the glacier disappears and the river shrinks, shaligrams are much less incessantly discovered. Regardless of this, pilgrims can nonetheless uncover a number of shaligrams throughout their journey to Mustang, although it’s turning into more difficult. As soon as the brand new shaligrams are welcomed and worshipped at Muktinath, the pilgrims put together to depart Mustang and return house. It’s a bittersweet second, signifying the introduction of recent family deities and bidding farewell to the breathtaking great thing about the excessive Himalayas, the sacred realm the place deities descend to Earth. Nevertheless, all of the pilgrims, myself included, eagerly await the chance to stroll the pilgrimage paths once more, hoping that shaligrams will proceed to grace their presence.

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Learn the unique article: https://phys.org/information/2023-08-climate-threatens-shaligrams-sacred-fossils.html
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