16. Shalagrama

16. Shalagrama
Ammonite fossil
Length: 5.5 cm
Catalogue number 16.
Accession number 88.329.

This aniconic black stone is worshipped as a form of Vishnu, the god who preserves the cosmic order. These stones are considered highly potent because they are naturally occuring manifestations of god. They are one of the few forms of divinity that cannot be approached directly by women. Brahmin priests usually possess the stones, which they carry to the houses of their clients. They perform the ceremony there and take the stone away with them. During such rituals, the priest's stone is placed on a stand owned by the host family (see no. 17). The stone is then treated just as are the metal images of the god: it is bathed, garlanded, and offered food.

This stone was found in a group with other similar stones and a Pala-period Vishnu image.

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