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

Key details:

For more than 2,000 years, Hinduism, Buddhism and the shamanic Himalayan religion of Bon have venerated Shaligrams.

What are Shaligrams?

  • These are ancient fossils of ammonites, a class of extinct sea creatures related to modern squids.
  • It is collected from the riverbed or banks of the Kali Gandaki, a tributary of the Gandaki River in Nepal.
  • It is also considered a form of Vishnu within Hinduism.
  • Shaligrams are kept in homes and in temples, where they are treated as both living gods and active community members.


  • Historically, the use of shaligrama shilas in worship can be traced to the time of Adi Shankara through the latter’s works.
  • The statue of Vishnu in the Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram and Badrinath Temple of Garhwal region, and that of Krishna in Krishna Matha of Udupi and Radha Raman Temple of Vrindavana are also believed to be made from shaligrama shilas.
  • Shaligram pilgrimage takes place high in the Himalayas 

Impact of Climate change:

  • Climate change, faster glacial melting, and gravel mining in the Kali Gandaki are changing the course of the river, which means fewer Shaligrams are appearing each year.
  • This is mainly because the Kali Gandaki is fed by meltwater from the Southern Tibetan Plateau.
  • But with the glacier disappearing, the river is becoming smaller and shifting away from the fossil beds that contain the ammonites needed to become Shaligrams.


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