Welcome back to #FolkloreThursday! Let's talk about one of my favorites, the Surya Shaligram.

Commonly mistaken for the similarly shaped Sudarshan Shaligram, this popular shila is, however, quite the find.
Surya means the Sun in Nepal and in India. Synonyms of Surya in ancient Indian literatures include Aditya, Arka, Bhanu, Savitr, Pushan, Ravi, Martanda, Mitra, and Vivasvan; names which are occasionally imparted onto the Surya Shaligram depending on the religious tradition.
Surya is also the name of the solar deity in Hinduism, particularly in the Saura tradition found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Surya is also one of the five deities considered to be an equivalent aspect and means to realizing the Brahman in the Smarta Tradition. His iconography is often that of a shining man depicted riding a chariot harnessed by seven horses,
...which represent the seven colors of the rainbow. In medieval Hinduism, Surya is also an epithet for Shiva and Vishnu (what is now more commonly called Harihara).
In some ancient texts and in the arts, Surya is presented syncretically with Indra, Ganesha or other regional deities. Lastly, Surya is also highly revered in the arts and literature of both Buddhism and Jainism.
The Surya Shaligram typically comes in one of two variations. The first, and most common, is that of a complete round or half ammonite cast where the majority of the central chakra-spiral is visible. The lines and ridges of the chakra-spiral then radiate outwards in a shape...
...reminiscent of the rays of the sun or in a series of half-chakras in the appearance of the rising sun. The second variation is similar to a Sudarshan Shaligram, but contains such extensive iron pyrite infiltrates that the entire Shaligram is golden in color.
In both cases, however, the central portion of the spiral is obscured by a rounded or flat nodule. Lastly, one of the rarest variations of this Shaligram is the Red Surya, formed by the incomplete oxidization of the iron deposits in the shale,
...giving the śila a red or orange-red color overtop the black coloration beneath. Depending on the interpretive tradition, there can occasionally be some confusion between Surya Shaligrams and “cast” Sudarshan Shaligrams...
...the former however, generally being identified by the more significant wear to the central spiral, resulting in clearer radiated lines which appear as deeply embedded in the surrounding stone.
Veneration of the Surya Shaligram is said to be good for removing illnesses, particularly those of the eyes, heart, or stomach. The “illumination” of this Shaligram is also said to allay worry, guilt, and fear and to be beneficial to those who suffer from mental illness.
The formation of Surya Shaligrams is most commonly that of a full ammonite cast with significant wear to the single chakra-spiral. Variations of this Shaligram are often shown as a round stone with radiating lines extending from a central point or as a triangular shale piece...
...with clearly visible lines extending from a central nodule all the way to the edge of the Shaligram.
References: Praanatoshani Tantra pg. 361

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