Devotion to God is not the forte of men alone. Animals are known to be endowed with keen sense of emotions and faith and devotion are the greatest among these. Tales of pachyderm devotees are common in Kerala and are retold to children to inculcate a religious inclination from a very young age. Gajendra Moksham and Guruvayoor Keshavan are two famous legends of the land. Gajendra and Guruvayoor Keshavan are examples of illustrious devotee elephants whose devotion and reverence to the Lord outdo the human veneration.
Gajendra Moksham is the take of a celebrated elephant whose cries for help brought down the Lord Vishnu from his celestial abode. Although the story is set in the Tamil Nadu temple of Kapisthalam, the episode is the theme of many famed Kerala mural paintings and hence is popular in the households of the state. The most famous among these is the mural at the Krishnapuram Palace, on the way from Alleppey to Kollam, at a place known as at Kayamkulam. This is a spectacular, huge mural belonging to the 18th century and is the oldest in the region.
The Pandya King Indradyumnan is believed to have worshiped Lord Narayana or Vishnu with a fervor that far supersedes ordinary men. Unfortunately, for some reason the king earned the displeasure of Sage Druvasa. The Maharishi cursed the king to be born into the class of animals. Upon hearing this monarch was reduced to tears and beseeched the sage to revoke his curse because as an animal his daily prayers to the lord Vishnu would remain unfulfilled. The king held his prayers and offerings to his deity dearer than his own life. Moved by such piety, the sage blessed King Indradyumnan with life as an elephant and promised that his devotion would remain in such an animal incarnation too. He also promised that the king would receive deliverance through the blessings of the Lord himself.
A demi-god, Huhu, similarly invited the wrath of Maha rishi Devalar and was cursed to be reborn as a crocodile. It is believed that the sages of ancient India were extremely benevolent. Having cursed another human being, their wrath would immediately be replaced by regret of having given way to the sin of anger. Rishi Devalar too repaired this curse soon by assuring Huhu that he would be liberated from his cursed life as a crocodile by Lord Vishnu’s grace.
Indradyumnan was reborn as the elephant Gajendra and yet did not lose his devotion. Every morning he would pluck a lotus from a water tank and offer it to the lord. Gajendra was a benevolent elephant king and his herd accompanied him every morning in this ritual. One such dawn as Gajendra entered the sacred tank to bathe and pick a pink blossom that would be his day’s offering to his deity, a crocodile gripped his foot and slowly Gajendra was dragged into the waters. The herd joined in their efforts to extricate their king from the peril at hand but the crocodile proved to be too powerful for them all. It is believed that the crocodile with such virile strength was none other than Huhu reborn.
After a long and enfeebling struggle, Gajendra’s strength ebbed and faced with impending death he sought his favorite god’s aid. “Adi Moolam”, Gajendra is said to have cried. This call refers to the Lord as the ancient, beginning less source of the universe. To respond to his ardent devotees cries, Lord Vishnu mounted his vehicle, the mighty Garuda and approached the site. The wicked crocodile was slain by the Lord’s discus (chakra) and the lord blessed Gajendra back into his human form. Thus both the prophecies of Gajendra’s liberation (Gajendra Moksha) and Huhu’s redemption came true.
The famous Hindu epic Srimad Bhagavatham also narrates this episode and holds Gajendra to have composed verses in the Lord’s praise in his moments of crisis. It is believed that all those who narrate this episode of the Bhagavatham and pray to the God are liberated of sufferings and sins just as Gajendra was relieved of his woes. The moral of the legend lies in the powers of faith and devotion towards the Lord. At a very young age such awe and trust in the Divine is ingrained into the child’s mind.
The prayer recited by the Elephant king before attaining salvation is so called as the Gajendra Moksha Sthotra…
1.Om namo bhagawathe thasmai yathayetha chidhathmakam,
Purushaa yaadhi bheejaaya paresayaabhi dheemahi.
Salutations to the all powerful divine God denoted by “OM”,
Due to whom the body and mind are made conscious,
And he also exists within them in the form of the seed for the spirit.
2.Yasmin idham yatha schedham tyenedham ya idham swayam,
Yoasmath parasamacha parastham prapadhye swayambhuvam.
I surrender to that God in whom this universe
Was born, exists in essence and was made in to thedivine,
Who becomes all the world that we see,
And who is different from it in his physical and spiritual form.
3.Ya swathmaneedham nija mayayaa arpitham,
Kwachid vibhatham kwa cha thath thirohitham,
Aviddha druk saksha yubhayam thadheekshathe sa,
Aathma moolo avathu maam parathpara.
May I be protected by the God who revealed himself,
Who reveals himself as the universe at times of creation,
Who keeps the universe as an illusion at the times of deluge,
Thus revealing himself sometimes and hiding himself at other times,
And who sees them as a witness in both these states.
4.Kaalena panchathwamitheshu kruthsnasao,
Lokeshu paleshu cha sarva hethushu,
Thamas thadha aaseed gahanam gabheeram,
Yasthasya parebhi virajathe Vibhu.
5.Na yasya devaa rishaya padam vidhu,
Janthu puna ko arhathi ganthu meerithum,
Yadhaa natasya aakruthibhir vicheshtatho,
Durathya anukramana sa maavathu.
Over time when all the worlds and their guardians,
Are reduced to the five elements and all their causes,
Only Impenetrable and fathomless darkness , remains,
Coming out of that darkness , the divine Lord shines from within that.
And his form thus exhibited is not understood even by the devas and sages,
Like the actual form of the actor in a drama is not known to the spectator,
And definitely the ordinary beings is at a loss to describe it,
Thus making his actions unfathomable and let that God protect me.
6.Dhidrukshavo yasya padam su mangalam,
Vimuktha sanghaa munaya susaadhava,
Charanthya loka Vrutha mavranam vane,
Bhoothama bhoothaa shrudh sa may gathi.
He whose auspicious feet is desired even by,
The great sages who are bereft of any attachments ,
Who have benevolent feeling towards all beings,
And observe penance and sacred vows in the forest,
Is the divine one who is in all beings ,
And is my only source of support.
7.Na vidhyathe yasya cha janma karma vaa,
Na naama roope guna dosha yeva vaa,
Thadhapi lokaapya ya sambhavaya ya,
Swa mayaya thaanyunukala mruchathi.
He does not have either birth or Karmas,
He does not have any name or properties,
And he does not have any faults as he is beyond nature,
And in spite of that he assumes several forms,
At different times to carry out the creation and upkeep of the world.
8.Thasmai nama paresaaya Brahmane anatha shakthaye,
Aroopyo roopaya nama aascharya karmane.
Salutations to him who does wonderful acts,
Who is beyond birth and death and theBrahman,
The one without endless power and one who ,
Neither has a form or is formless.
9.Nama aathma pradheepaya sakshine paramathmane,
Namo giraam vidhooraya maanasa schethasam api.
My salutations to him who shines within himself,
Who is the witness for all, who is the divine soul,
My salutations to him who is far, far away,
From the activities of the mind and its faculties.
10.Sathvena prathi labhyaya naishkarmyena vipaschitha,
Nama kaivalya nadhaya nirvana sukha samvidhe.
Salutations to him who gives us Kaivalya ,
And who makes us realize the infinite joy of salvation,
And one who can be seen by the real sages with purity of mind,
By the constant practice of detached activity .
11.Nama santhaya ghoraya , moodaaya guna dharmine,
Nirviseshaya samyaya namo Jnana ganaya cha.
Salutations to the one who appears to be serene , ferocious and foolish ,
But really the one who is devoid of any qualities and is always alike.
Salutations to the great treasure of wisdom.
12.Kshethragnaya namasthubhyam Sarvadhyakshaya sakshine ,
Purushaa yaathma moolaya moola prakruthaye nama.
Salutations to one who knows the form ,
Who is lord and witness of everything,
Who is the Purusha and who is the seed of every being,
And salutations to the basic nature which exists.
13.Sarvendrye guna drushte sarva prathyaya hethave ,
Asathaa cchaya yokthaya sadaa basaaya they nama.
Salutations to one who watches the health of all senses,
And also the objectives of all such senses,
And to him who is the one who activates,
The immobile nature that follows you like a shadow.
14.Namol namasthe akhila kaaranaya nish kaaranaaya adbhutha kaaranaya,
Sarvaa gamaamnaya maharnavaya namo apavargaya parayanaya.
Salutations fo him who is the cause of everything,
To him who is not caused by anything and also,
The wonderful cause which does not become what it causes,
Salutations to him who is the ocean of Thanthras,
To the personification of saintliness and refuge of the great.
15.Gunarani cchanna chidooshmapaaya,
Thathkshobha visphoorjitha manasaya,
Naishkarmya bhavena vivarjithagama,
Swayam prakasaya namaskaromi.
Salutations to him who hides similar to the fire of consciousness,
That is hid in a piece of wood of qualities and characters ,
Whose creative mind is aroused when the characters are disturbed,
Who comes shining before those who do detached actions.
16. Madruk prapanna pasu pasa vimokshanaya,
Mukthaaya bhoori karunaya namo aalayaaya,
Swaamsena sarva thanu brun manasi pratheetha,
Prathyag druse bhagwathe bruhathe namasthe.
Salutations to the God of boundless compassion,
Who frees those ignorant beings from the ties of this world,
As soon as they surrender to him though ,
He himself is ever free and is endowed to the great mercy,
And he also shines in the minds of all as their own soul,
Though he himself is the limitless Para Brahman.
17.Athma athmajaaptha Gruha vitha janeshu saakthai,
Dush praapaanaaya guna sanghaa vivarjithaaya,
Nukthaathmabhi swahrudaye pari bhavithaya,
Jnanathmane bhagwathe nama Ishwaraya.
Salutations to that God ,who is not attainable to those,
Who are attached to themselves, their sons, house , wealth and friends,
Who himself is completely free of all attachments to senses,
And who is brought in to their own hearts by his devotees,
18. Yam dharma kama artha vimukthi kaama,
Bhajantha ishtaam gathi mapnuvanthi,
Kim thwaasisho rathyapi deha mavyayam,
Karothu may adha brudhayo vimokshanam.
Whosoever prays you for Dharma,
Desire , wealth or salvation,
They get their desires fulfilled,
And even when your devotees ,
Do not ask anything from you,
You give them an imperishable body ,
And I request from you salvation for me.
19.Yekanthino yasya na kanchanarrdhaa,
Vanchasnthi ye vai Bhagawat prapanna,
Athyadbhutham thaccharitham sumangalam,
Gayantha AAnanda samudhra magnaa.
Those devotees who in lonliness , pray you ,
Without wanting gold or similar things,
And are not even desirous of salvation,
And sing your wonderful story,
Drown themselves in the ocean of bliss.
20.Thamaksharam brahma param paresam,
Avyaktha madhyathmika yoga gamyam,
Athheendriyam sookshma mivathi dhooram,
Anantha maadhyam paripoorna meede.
I sauté that complete God who never dies,
Who is the divine God much beyond Lord Brahma,
Who is not clear and is available for spiritual seekers,
Who is beyond senses like the very micro things,
And who does not have an end and is primeval.
21.Yasya Brahmadayo deva loka scharachara,
Nama roopa vibheedheena phalgvyaa cha kalaya krutha.
I salute him from whose very micro form are created.
Brahma and others, devas, all worlds , all moving and stable beings,
Assuming very different names and bear fruit.
22.Yadharchisho agne savithur gabhasthayo,
Niryanthi samyaanthya sakruth swarochisha,
Thadhaa yathoyam guna sampravaho,
Budhir mana kaani sareera sargaa.
Similar to the heat generating from the fire,
And rays generating from Sun ,ultimately ,
Merges in to the form from where they came ,
Wisdom, mind , senses and the body,
Originate from you and merge in you.
23.Sa vain a devaa asura marthaya thiryang,
Na Sthree na shando na puman na janthu,
Naayam guna karma na sanna na chasath,
Nishedha sesho jayathad asesha.
He is not god , asura or man or animal,
He is not woman, eunuch or man or animal,
He is not characteristic, nor mobile or immobile,
And he is what is remaining after all these negations.
24.Jeejee vishe naaha mihaamuyaa kim, Anthar bahi schavrutha ye bhayonyaa,
Icchami kalena na yasya viplava, Thasya aathma loka varanasya moksham.
I do not desire to survive for what I have to do here,
As an elephant enveloped inside out , by ignorance,
I do desire that this veil of ignorance is lifted,
And I get salvation from this world as an elephant.
25.Soham viswa srujam visamam aviswam Viswa vedhasam ,
Vishwathamanam ajam Brahma pranathosmi param padam.
I salute that God who created the universe ,
Who is the universe but is different from it,
Who knows the universe, who is the soul of the universe,
Who is devoid of birth and is the divine Brahmam.
26.Yoga randhitha karmaano , Hrudhi yoga Vibhavithe,
Yogino yam prapasyanthi, Yogesam tham nathosyam aham
I worship that God of Yoga,
Whom only the Yogis who have burnt their Karma,
Can visualize by their heart,
And see him by the practice of yoga.
27.Namo namasthubhyam asahya veda Shakthi thrayaya akhiladhi gunaaya,
Prapanna paalaya durantha shakthaye kadheendriyaanamana vapya vaathmane.
Salutations to him whose three fold power is unstoppable ,
Who has all the characteristics , Who protects those who surrender to him,
And who cannot be attained by those who have not won over their senses.
28.Nayam Veda swamaathmaanam yacchakthyaa hamdhiyaa hatham,
Tham durathyaya maahatmyam bhagawantha mitho asmyaham.
I am searching that God, whose power can never be surpassed,
And due to the illusion of ego created by him , people think that ,
Their body is their soul and are not able to understand their real soul.