About this Blog

Shaligram Ethnography:
This blog is comprised of my thoughts and commentary regarding the interpretive traditions and ritual practices of the sacred ammonite fossils called Shaligram. Since 2012, I have been working with and learning from the wonderful Hindu, Buddhist, and Bonpo Shaligram practitioners of India, Nepal, and among the South Asian Diaspora in the US and the UK. While I continue my ethnographic fieldwork on the topic of Shaligrams, I invite any and all interested in the subject of Shaligrams to read, discuss, and participate here. I certainly do not claim to know everything but I am happy to share what I have learned so far!

My name is Dr. Holly Walters. My undergraduate degree in Anthropology/Archaeology is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (my focus was religious and linguistic anthropology/Medieval history) where I also participated in an archaeological dig in northern Belize (Lowland Maya). I received both my Masters and my PhD in Cultural Anthropology (focusing on religion, language, gender, and South Asia) at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA and am currently a visiting professor of anthropology at Wellesley College. I have previously conducted fieldwork on Hindu ritual practice and temple deity care in West Bengal, northern India and spent two years in Nepal after beginning my current project on Shaligrams. My ethnographic work therefore focuses on ritual practice, religious hybridity, Shaligram pilgrimage, fossil folklores, and community identity in Mustang, Nepal (in both the Kali Gandaki regions as well as the temple site of Muktinath). Aside from that, I am personally interested in myth and ritual, religious anthropology, semiotics and media, ethnography, and linguistics.

If you have additional comments or questions about anything you read here, I encourage you to contact me at prolegomenon@gmail.com.

19 thoughts on “About this Blog

  1. I am varaprasad K, aged about 72 years.
    I have strong desire of go on shaligram pilgrimage. I can only plan for May 2020.
    My general health condition is good.
    I request to advise me if I can go on shaligram pilgrimage, and also request to enrich me with your valuable pilgrimage guidelines and your experience.

  2. Namaste! You can, of course, go on Shaligram pilgrimage! With some planning and preparation, reaching the Kali Gandaki and Muktinath is possible for people of all ages. I’ve posted “The Guide to Getting There” as a general list of things to think about before you go, but I am happy to answer any specific questions you might have.

  3. Madama Walters, You must have been in Damodar Kunda. I am very curious to now if there indeed was release of karma. With that i dont like to ask you personal questions. But was tehre release of difficulties after you took bath. Krisna told it must be a deep dive, so completly under water it means in my opinion. Can you tell about that? Less difficulies with labour, or maybey familie tensions, or maybey better in monetary affairs? More general luck? Or better health, what ever. You dont have to answer. Have you heard from effects of a deep dive up there from others maybey? Thank you very much.


  4. I have not actually visited Damodar Kund, as much as I would have liked to. My time was primarily spent at Muktinath and in the Kali Gandaki.

    One of my recent posts features a pilgrim who took the trek to Damodar, however. His post would probably be more useful to you in that regard. Hope that helps!

  5. Madame, have you heard about karmic release from people who have taken en deep dive in damodar kunda? Or maybey yourself? There was release of difficulties ?


  6. I have, and many pilgrims talk about it. There are similar benefits from visiting the 108 water spouts of Muktinath. Usually it is described as a kind of release of burdens and worries, and that after returning home, life is calmer and without as much stress or trouble.

  7. Goodday madame Walters, It is said on your blog here that one can hardly find a more special sila in Kagbeni or below. Because the villigers have taken them out to sell in Kathmanu. Is that true? A rare and beautiful sila can only come on land more up the river? But the sila is transported by the water and can also come on land on the plains before Kagbeni or Tiri isnt it ? If the story is true it looks the rare silas with open vadana f.i. only come on land above Kagbeni. But that is a bit strange isnt it ?

    kindly regards from Stein

  8. In my experience, I’ve rarely had trouble finding Shaligrams, very good Shaligrams, around Kagbeni or even south of the village. New Shaligrams are constantly coming down the river and often appear in the water and on the riverbanks. I’ve even found large shilas just north of Jomsom, for example. So, in short, I’d have to say that it is possible to find high quality Shaligrams throughout the Kali Gandaki.

  9. Madame Holly, one more qustion please. It is said on your blog one should not take out silas wich are from the water, Only take the ones who are already on land. In the old scriptures it is never said that. In the shaligram stotram itis said the silas should be smooth. Thats all as far as i know. It looks logical. When you take them from water it is said they are babys, so, wothout power. What do you think of that ?

    kindly, Stein

  10. Madame, can one get permission to go into Upper Mustang in Kagbeni? Or Jomson? Or can it be taken in Kagbeni also ? And pay the tax there ?


  11. Hare krishna and good day.
    Many thanks for the very interesting report and the informatinon.
    I have only one question and would be very happy to get an answer! unfortunately i am not able to go to nepal and wanted to buy a shaligram online. what do you think of this site http://www.shaligram.com? I have read that it would be a sin to buy it sell a shaligram. nevertheless i would like to worship vishnu in this form at home. can I get one there without a bad conscience? what do you think of it? Think a lot
    Best regards Bartlomiej

  12. The reality is, that many people are not able to undertake pilgrimage to Nepal and, therefore, a Shaligram seller is the only way to acquire a shila available to them. It is true that the vast majority of Vaishnava teachers will discourage this, as placing a monetary value on a Shaligram is a karmic sin. However, many sellers will calculate their prices to compensate their time and travel rather than asking for money for the Shaligram specifically. It really depends on the seller, in my experience.

    Unfortunately, I can’t recommend or dis-recommend any particular Shaligram seller site, since I do not, myself, work with sellers. I would say, however, that if you can contact the seller directly and ask them questions about where their Shaligrams come from and how the price is set, you can move forward with a good conscience.

    Hopefully that helps! – HW

  13. I want to know what saligrama I hold , can you please help, let me know what you require or what observation to carry if you can help. This will be good help

  14. If you have some good quality photos of the shila, you can email me at prolegomenon(at)gmail.com. If it is just one Shaligram, it shouldn’t take me long to identify it.

  15. Can you please append a picture of a krishna gokula shaligram? I have one and do not know whether it is the same one you are talking of..

  16. Gokula would likely just be another name for the Krishna Govinda Shaligram. They are round, black, shilas with a white “cow hoof” marking somewhere on their body.

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