Ancient Fossils with Divine Significance Face Threat from Climate Change

  • 08 Aug 2023

According to a recent study, climate change, rapid glacial melting, and gravel mining in the Kali Gandaki River are altering its course and reducing the appearance of Shaligrams, endangering the pilgrimage.

Key Points:

  • Sacred Significance: Shaligrams, ancient ammonite fossils, are venerated in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Himalayan Bon religion. Primarily manifestations of the Hindu god Vishnu, they are not human-made but believed to possess inherent consciousness.
  • Spiritual Practices: Shaligrams are revered as both living deities and active community members. Pilgrims undertake journeys to find Shaligrams in the Kali Gandaki River Valley, and the pilgrimage culminates at the Muktinath temple.
  • Legends and Myths: Two legends are associated with Shaligrams. One links them to the goddess Tulsi's transformation into a river, and Vishnu's embodiment as a Shaligram stone, while the other involves celestial worms creating the stones with unique shapes and spirals.
  • Pilgrimage Route: The Shaligram pilgrimage occurs in the Himalayas, avoiding monsoons and snow. Mustang, a region in Nepal, is a significant stop where pilgrims find Shaligrams in the Kali Gandaki River bed.
  • Restricted Access: Upper Mustang remains restricted due to historical and geopolitical factors, limiting the pilgrimage route. Pilgrims are unable to visit Damodar Kund, the source of Shaligrams.
  • Spiritual Convergence: Muktinath temple, the final destination, serves as a Hindu, Buddhist, and Bon sanctuary. The temple's water spouts, representing essential elements, provide a symbolic purification process for pilgrims and Shaligrams.
  • Challenges and Hope: Climate change is threatening the Shaligram pilgrimage by altering river courses and reducing fossil appearances.